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David LeFebvre's Pan-Mass Challenge

2011 Ride Report
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2011 How to top this?

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The 2011 Pan Mass Challenge is in the books. After 9 years, the PMC has become part reunion, part adventure. Even though I am quite familiar with the route, that doesn't diminish the emotional impact or the enormity of it all. The water stop with the long driveway lined with posters of cancer patients is just as powerful now as the first time it choked me up -maybe even more so because because now I know when it is coming. The bag-pipers at the top of the climbs still get my heart pumping, and the kids cheering at "Da Hedge" are just as inspiring. 


Jack, the boy who beat cancer that is usually at the Nickerson water stop on day 2 with the “I am X years old thanks to you” sign, is 15 now and rode the PMC (with a broken foot!!!). I have pictures of me standing with him from every year. It was great seeing him ON A BIKE! The volunteers are incredible, the crowds super, and the people involved at all levels are just great.


By far the most memorable part of PMC 2011 was that I rode the entire first day with Senator John Kerry and LANCE ARMSTONG

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That experience is something I will never forget.  A few miles after the start, I was just riding along enjoying the day and hoping to see Lance Armstrong. Then he rolled up beside me and I immediately latched onto the "Lance Train" along with about 50 others. A friend of his, Paul Levine (http://www.signaturecycles.com/), was acting as the 'bad cop' to keep Lance safe. There were lots of people riding at the edge of their physical and bike-handling skills to stay with Lance that were trying to take cell phone pictures (not safe!) and just say something to Lance.  Lance was gracious, but kept his responses to one word or less -sometimes just a smile. Paul would physically put himself between Lance and the more questionable riders. These folks would ride up to Lance full of enthusiasm and say things like "Uh... Nice peloton right Lance! Look at that breakaway Lance!" and he'd just smile and say "Uh, yup...".  


I give Lance a lot credit, because even I was getting annoyed with some of the overly zealous riders, so I can only imagine how he must have felt. After all, he has to deal with that every time he goes out for a ride. He never lost his cool. (My favorite was when some guy rode up alongside him and said "Those wheels you have say 'Bontrager' but actually they are made by Hed. I can't believe you still ride Sram after what happened to Andy Schleck." Lance just smiled and said "Man, I just ride what they give me.")


I rode next to him for a bit doing my share of work at the front before I said anything. I just said "Hey. Thanks for doing this, it means a lot to a lot of people. All these guys are going to tell everyone they know that they got to ride with you." He said "Yeah, I know. I should be more friendly, but it is so freaking early!" Immediately I said "Oh, are you tired of being tired?" (poking fun of his endorsement of http://www.frs.com


He laughed and said "Ok, nice one. You got me!"  I said "No worries. There is coffee at the next water stop...". 


Then we talked about coffee. We talked about how delicious it tastes after a ride and how we both prefer Peets over Starbucks. 

A few miles after the lunch stop, the "Lance Train" was getting a bit unwieldy -probably close to 200 people- and actually a bit scary with too many riders lacking the skill and fitness to stick with Lance and Senator Kerry (who is surprisingly fast). Lance and Paul Levine turned around and said to Senator Kerry and me that "We should let some of the others take a pull" (wink wink..). So we let some others come to the front and eventually let ourselves get spit out the back of the group. Then Lance said "Senator, don't you think this is a great spot for a photo op?" (wink wink) and we stopped and let the group go down the road a bit while Kerry's support vehicle (his family) pulled over and gave us some water and energy bars. For the rest of the day it was just the four of us. We skipped the last two water stops (we had a fully stocked SAG wagon after all) and rolled in to the finish line at Massachusetts Maritime Academy at about 10:45am. I have never had food and drinks handed to me while riding my bike before -just like the pros! Lance even got a bottle and gave it to me. 


That's right, Lance Armstong was my domestique!


It was a lot of fun seeing all the people cheering on the side of the road, then doing a double take when they realized who just rode by. 


As we were pulling into the MMA, Kerry pulled even with Lance, they grasped hands and raised them in a sort of victory salute. I was right behind them and once everyone realized just who was rolling in to the finish, we were quickly swarmed by dozens of volunteers, TV cameras, reporters, press, fans, etc. Paul and I were left ignored and shoved out of the way by some of the more enthusiastic cameras. I even said "Hey guys, I just did it too!" and got a laugh out of the folks around me. It was like at the end of a stage in the Tour when Lance was immediately surrounded by press and can barely move. 


Lance warmed up quite a bit and was downright chatty towards the end. For the last 40 or so miles,  we talked about all sorts of things, which made it feel like just an ordinary ride with pals. But when we arrived at MMA and were absolutely engulfed with people, the magnitude of just who I was riding with hit home. Like I said earlier, I was just hoping to see Lance and Kerry, or just get a glimpse of them. Instead, I ended up spending 5 hours with them. They talked to the press and then made a quick getaway aboard Kerry's boat back to the Kerry's house on Nantucket. 


I was very impressed with how fast Senator Kerry rode. Even though we had to slow down a few times so as not to drop him on the climbs, he did finish with us and did his fair share of work at the front. He is 67 years old! When we rolled in, the volunteers told us there were only 5 other riders ahead of us. 


Senator Kerry is always so reserved, and careful with his words that I was surprised with how flashy his bike is. He rides a Cervelo with a custom almost-neon-orange and yellow paint job complete with flames on the head tube. Very flamboyant.


Sunday started out on a slight down note thanks to the weather. It was raining when we got started making everything a little uncomfortable, chilly and itchy.  Early on, I developed a slow leak on my rear tire. I pulled over, changed the tube and set off again. Then the second tube developed the same leak and it got to the point where I was pulling over every 3 or 4 minutes to put more air in the tube. SOOOO frustrating! I was riding with one of my former rowers, Eric Millard, and was enjoying the day riding at a comfortable 23-25mph, but was crippled by having to stop every 3 or 4 minutes to top off the tire. At the Nickerson water stop (about the half-way mark on Sunday), I got a new tire and tube from the support mechanics. This was another part of the PMC that just shows what a great event it is: the tire and tube were FREE -all donated. 


The Nickerson water stop is also where my family meets with me. Seeing my kids cheering for me and a proud smile on my wife add a HUGE amount of gas to my tank! My mother started volunteering at Nickerson last year as well, so I got the whole family involved now! 


One other thing about Sunday was the sheer amount of crashes and people going down. I guess when you mix a few thousand people riding at the limit of their physical ability, and at the limit of their cycling skills, with wet slippery conditions, wrecks are inevitable. I personally saw about 10, and heard of several more. 


I have never seen a crash during the PMC before. They have been so rare that at the finish line you would normally hear other riders saying “Did you hear about the guy who crashed?”


This year, it was more like “Hey, how many crashes did you see?”. 


Riding through the dunes in Provincetown, I saw someone running on the path next to the road. He looked a bit familiar and it turned out to be another guy I used to coach! He is spending the summer lifeguarding while he is in grad school. I slowed down, rode with him for a bit and we talked for a while catching up. I never would have hooked up with him if I didn't have tire troubles earlier in the day!


This was my most memorable PMC so far -how can you top riding with the best ever? 


As always, it is not too late to contribute to my effort. 


You can give on-line by going to http://www.pmc.org/profile/DL0080 and clicking on the “Donate to my ride” button.


Or, if you prefer, you can send a check made out to "PMC/Jimmy Fund" to:


David LeFebvre 31578-2

DL0080

Pan-Mass Challenge

77 4th Ave

Needham, MA 02494.


Your gifts are 100% tax deductible.


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Drafting Lance.... Does it get any better?

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