'Cancervive' trek ends in Lewiston

Friday, October 12, 2012

LEWISTON — The melancholy moments came at night.
"It was quieter. There was no traffic," cyclist Andy Bailes said. "There was a little bit of chitchat but not much."
 
He pedaled and he thought about his 25-year-old son, Brandon, for whom he joined the Cancervive Foundation's 2,500-mile bicycle ride across North America.
 
Brandon was his warrior.
 
"Tears well up and I have a hard time talking about it," Bailes said Friday. Twelve years ago, doctors discovered a tumor on Brandon's rib cage. For a year, he battled through radiation and chemotherapy. "We literally almost lost him at age 13."
 
On Friday morning, moments after he completed his journey, Andy held his wife, Anne, and Brandon together in a long embrace.
 
They were not alone. In all, 39 cyclists left Calgary on Oct 3. In teams of six, they relayed through a 24-hour schedule that found them covering 60 to 80 miles each day.
 
"We had freezing cold," Bailes said. "We had hail, sleet, snow, wind, rain. Everything you can imagine. Crappy roads. Wonderful roads. What made it all special were these wonderful people."
 
The effort is an annual fundraiser for Wellspring Calgary, which serves people affected by cancer, much as the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston does.
 
Each year, the cyclists make a journey that serves as a metaphor for the ordeal faced by people with cancer. Each cyclist is paired with someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Money returns to Wellspring. This year, a portion of the money, $18,345, went to the Dempsey Center.
 
Actor Patrick Dempsey welcomed many of the participants Friday, giving them hugs and posing for photos.
 
He joined a group of hundreds of people who endured wind and 40-degree temperatures to welcome the cyclists as they crossed Longley Memorial Bridge from Auburn into Lewiston. Veterans Memorial Park served as the finish line.
 
Among the other greeters were two busloads of Canadians, well-wishers from the community and several friends and relatives of Bailes, who lives in Bowdoinham and was the only American on the journey.
 
The other cyclists were mostly from Calgary.
 
Almost all made it to Lewiston safely. The biggest casualty was a cyclist who fell and broke her arm.
 
There were flat tires and other mechanical problems, both on the bikes and on accompanying vehicles.
 
An RV used by a Lewiston-based movie crew that documented the trip was also one of the casualties, breaking down several times. Director Ramsey Tripp said the mechanical troubles were the biggest challenges of the journey for his crew, which did much of the filming from an open-seated contraption that allowed the cameras to capture the cyclists on the road.
 
The film, executive-produced by Dempsey, is slated to premiere at the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival next April.
 
In the finished film, "The Peloton Project," the story of the journey will be inter-cut with the stories of people who have cancer or have survived it. The people in those stories, nicknamed "warriors," were each paired with a cyclist. When the cyclists arrived in Lewiston, the warriors came too. Most arrived in limousines.
 
Not Brandon, who lives in Westbrook. He waited in the cold with his mother. He said he was proud of his father.
 
Andy Bailes said the metaphor of the journey as a substitute for dealing with cancer is apt. But even minutes after his trek ended, still sore from the many rides, he said the cancer was worse.
 
"We didn't go through anything as severe as someone who goes through cancer," he said.

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