Hundreds of stationary bikes once again lined up in Manhattan Beach on Sunday, September 12, as fitness instructors and celebrity guests cheered on riders who enjoyed the view of the blue ocean.
Some of the riders were cancer survivors. Some lost their loved ones to disease. They all pushed the pedals to gain some control over a situation that had drained their strength, both physically and mentally.
The ninth annual Tour de Pier, a favorite South Bay fundraiser for cancer causes, was back in person.
The event reached its peak in 2019, with around 2,500 bike riders. This year, less than half participated – about 1,100 – 240 bike rides across five sessions throughout the day.
Still, after more than a year of dealing with a pandemic, riders were happy to ride stationary bikes once again, with co-founder and cycling enthusiast Heather Gregory calling “the best day on the calendar.”
Gregory, John Hirschberg and Lisa Mannheim all made their Tour de Pier debuts in 2013. That first year, Gregory said, the fundraiser attracted 800 riders and earned $340,000. To date, the eight-year ride has raised $8.7 million, split between The Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, The Uncle Corey Foundation, and the Cancer Support Community.
And the return to the beach this September was particularly poignant, Gregory said.
The event, which usually takes place in May every year, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and postponed again in May.
“This is an opportunity for our community to share their silent battles,” said Gregory, whose three family members died of cancer in less than two years, and about the challenge he really had in his life. I open up, which is not easy to talk about. other people.”
It’s this camaraderie that has gotten Jennifer Valladares through the most challenging thing ever—an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Valladares, an avid spin cyclist, rode the Tour de Pier for an aunt and a grandmother who had died of cancer.
“(Before my diagnosis), it was a different ride for my aunt and my grandmother,” Valaderes said in an interview before Sunday’s event.
But after her December 2018 diagnosis, the Lomita resident said, pedaling became personal.
“It’s like you let go of your stress and your anger over the cancer,” Valaderes said.
The single mom of two had to undergo intensive chemotherapy five days a week, every three weeks for six months. He is now cancer free. Doctors told her that the reason she avoided cancer treatment was that she was in good shape.
“The energy there is just amazing,” Valaderes said of past Tour de Pier events. “Even before I was diagnosed, I realized that everyone out there was affected by cancer in some way and riding together. I felt so happy. All the stress I had in my life just went away. .
On Sunday Valladares was on stage to help his longtime spin coach, Philippe Kessel, better known as PK, help inspire the crowd. His 17-year-old son Sam did the turn riding.
But now, Valaderes said, she understands pedaling on a deeper level.
“I’m spinning for myself, for my survival,” she said, “and that the treatment worked.”
Gregory, for his part, said the pandemic has been especially difficult for cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. COVID-19 is, after all, extremely dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions.
He said this year’s Tour de Pier has come with a lot of emotion and inspiration, as people begin to reset priorities and learn to be more positive.
“It’s a celebration of all that we’ve been working on over the years,” Gregory said. “It gives us a lot of hope about what we’ll be able to do in the coming years and we’re getting back to normal.”