October 28, 2009
Joe Bianchi: Young cyclist shines
Joe Bianchi raised $3,090 from 58 sponsors for the 2009 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.
At just 17, Joe Bianchi was one of the youngest cyclists to compete in the 2009 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC), a bike-a-thon that raises money for cancer research and care at Dana-Farber. His ties to the cancer cause came through his family: his grandmother is a cancer survivor who was treated at Dana-Farber, he lost an uncle to the disease, and his mother, Theresa, is a chaplain at Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Hematology-Oncology in Londonderry, NH.
"Joe has always loved cycling and is a big fan of Lance Armstrong and his story of overcoming cancer, so the PMC was a natural fit for him," says Theresa Bianchi, M. Div. "When we sent out letters looking for support, we were floored by the positive response. Even with the economic downturn, friends, family, and neighbors responded generously.
"We are very proud of Joe's participation in the PMC," she adds. "It took a lot of courage for him to commit to such a large ride, not knowing how much money he could raise. When he completed his 111-mile journey, thousands of fans were cheering him on."
My parents introduced me to cycling. Without them, I would not be the cyclist I am today. It all started with a crash that destroyed my mountain bike. My dad took me to a local bike shop – where I now work – and asked if I wanted to get a new mountain bike or a racing bike. I chose a racing bike because I thought it would be something new.
Since then, I have become a member of the New Hampshire Cycling Club and the USA Cycling Club. During the spring/summer season I race every week at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon. I also commute several miles from my house in New Hampshire to my job, and every week I do long training rides.
I started the PMC at 5:37 a.m. on Saturday, and, with breaks, I finished at 1:30 p.m. I did the one-day ride from Sturbridge to Bourne. It was a truly awesome feeling, biking down the road with cyclists as far as the eye could see, all riding for the same cause. Every rest stop consisted of enormous tents loaded with tables, chairs, and refreshments. Some of the stops toward the end had giant water fountains to offer us a shower of relief from the heat.
Even though there weren't many participants my age, since I was in the adult event, I enjoyed meeting cyclists of all ages, from across the country and around the world. That's one of the things I loved about the PMC.
During the ride, observers were sitting on lawn chairs, handing out bottles of water for passing cyclists to keep hydrated. Almost every mile we met little kids holding their hands out for us to give them high-fives. Mile after mile, people were cheering and shouting, "Thank you for riding." It made you feel like you really were riding for someone. Physically, the event was easy for me because I do so much biking. Plus, I took advantage of all the rest stops, ate, and stayed hydrated, all of which made a huge difference in the way I felt when I finished. At the end, I easily could have biked another day.
If I were to continue listing my PMC experiences, I would be able to write a book. It was so life-changing that I hope to continue doing it as long as I can. I raised $3,090 from 58 sponsors, and all of it was put toward the fight against cancer. I am confident that I can exceed that amount next year when I do the two-day ride [192 miles] from Sturbridge to Provincetown.