Some look forward to it every year, ringing cowbells and cheering as jerseys in neon-sign colors pass by in droves. Some begin training in April, blitzing the countryside, melding with the hills of central Ohio. Others simply brace for the oncoming traffic.
Gambier hosts a stream of bicyclists on Saturday, August 9, as Pelotonia 2014 rides into the village for the third year in a row. The annual cancer-research fundraiser — founded in 2009 — will see thousands of cyclists cross the 75- and 100-mile finish line at the Kenyon Athletic Center.
“It’s exciting because there are so many people,” said Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, who is the captain of the Kenyon “peloton,” or team. “We’re looking at … somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 people coming to Kenyon on that Saturday.”
Pelotonia, a Columbus-based nonprofit, has raised over $61 million since its founding through the ride that sees upwards of 6,500 cyclists from across the globe. Participants pledge to raise between $1,200 and $2,200, depending on how far they’ve decided to travel — from 25 to 180 miles. Every dollar goes to the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, which includes the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute. This year, the Pelotonia event is scheduled for August 8-10, and for many, the finish line — or halfway point for the 155- and 180- mile rides — will be right here in Gambier.
Kenyon’s peloton has, so far, 10 riders, including Kohlman; Robert Brown; President Sean Decatur; Rachel Downey; Director of Equal Opportunity Mariam El-Shamaa; Sarah Kahrl, director of the Kenyon Institute; Sustainability Director Everett Neal; Erin Salva ’79, director of student accessibility and support services; Jonathan Tazewell ’84, Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama; and Maureen Tobin, graduate school and pre-professional advisor.
Salva will tackle the 155-mile, two-day trek. Her brother, Paul Farrell will join her from Connecticut. Their parents died in recent years. “We’re kind of riding for them,” Salva said. “They both had issues with cancer.
“Cancer is personal. It touches virtually everybody,” she said. “Everybody has a story, and for me, that’s the most powerful part of it.”
And the most difficult?
“The hardest part about Pelotonia isn’t the ride,” Salva said knowingly, this being her third Pelotonia. “It’s the fundraising.”
Pelotonia sets the benchmark for each course, so riders doing the 100-miler, which most of Kenyon’s peloton is doing, must raise $1,800.
The urgency has led Tobin and Downey, her daughter, to find some creative ways to reach their goals.
“I’m doing something called skunking,” Tobin said. Armed with three stuffed-animal skunks with “Cancer Stinks” scarves, Tobin has planted the beasts on the desks of colleagues, with the promise to remove it for $20 or the right to skunk others for $30.
“It’s just a clever way, I hope, to ask people for small amounts of money,” she said. Downey’s variation involves lawn signs. “They’ve been flying around the village in different people’s yards,” Tobin said.
Participants can still raise money without riding the course, like Larae Schraeder ’97, who opted to be a “virtual rider.”
Kohlman is also trying to enlist volunteers to help with the ride. To register to ride or volunteer, or for more information, visit www.pelotonia.org.
By Henri Gendreau ’16