To Andy Bailes, the 2,500-mile, 10-day, two-country cycling trek known as the Cancervive Peloton Project is a lot like fighting cancer.
It's a challenge. It's physical and emotional. It takes a team to reach the goal.
"The Peloton is a group of people working together for one final destination, what I would equate to someone fighting cancer," he said. "They're not fighting it alone. They have a group of people around them who are their support network all working together to get them to the destination of getting cleared up or cured."
Bailes would know. He and his wife, Anne, helped their son, Brandon, get through an aggressive cancer diagnosed just before his 13th birthday.
And next week, Bailes will ride in the Peloton Project, cycling relay-style from Alberta, Canada to Lewiston, where he will join the Dempsey Challenge. Forty people will participate in the journey to raise money for cancer-patient care. Bailes, 52, of Bowdoinham, will be the only American rider.
"(Brandon) thinks I'm crazy," said Bailes of his son, now 25. "He's also proud of me."
Bailes always loved cycling as a kid, but exercise-induced asthma kept him from his dream of racing. He returned to the sport in 2010 when a friend got him involved with the Dempsey Challenge, which raises money for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing with cycling and other events. He rode 50 miles that year. In 2011 he rode 70.
This year, that same friend learned the Dempsey Center was looking for someone to ride in the Peloton Project, which would end at the Dempsey Challenge.
"He basically stuck his hand up and volunteered me," Bailes said.
Bailes was a decent cyclist and he'd always wanted to do some distance riding, sure, but a 2,500-mile, 10-day trek through Canada and into Maine? He had to think about that.
He didn't have to think very long. The ride would symbolize the team effort that is required to fight cancer, and that was something close to his heart.
Although 40 cyclists will participate in the trek, Bailes will be part of a team of eight. Members will ride together in six-hour stints — about 75 miles per shift — and then give up the road to another team, relay style.
Bailes has spoken to his teammates over the phone and via email, but he has not yet met them. He hopes to arrive in Canada a few days early so he can get to know them.
Bailes will be the only American riding, but he won't be the only American — or even the only Mainer — on the trek. Ramsey Tripp, owner of Trade-mark R Productions in Lewiston, will film the event with his crew to produce an independent documentary called "The Peloton Project."
The trek starts Wednesday and ends in Lewiston on Oct. 13. Bailes won't rest right away, though.
He plans to ride 50 miles more in the Dempsey Challenge.
"It's a nice ride," he said.