Cycling for honor

Team stops here on charity ride from Chicago

Submitted photo
The three-member bicycling team of Marty L:ampert, left, Mariann Blacconiere and Mike Blacconiere stopped in Stillwater Thursday on their trip from Chicago to Minneapolis to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer research.

There’s biking and then there’s 450 miles of biking, but for siblings Mike and Mariann Blacconeire and their friend, Marty Lampert, it’s about honor.

The three Chicago-area residents arrived in Stillwater Thursday after a long, hard five-day bicycle trip from the Windy City and they’ve still got miles to go.

The trio is participating in the 2012 Twin Cities PurpleRide in Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Regional Park Saturday. The PurpleRide raises awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research.

The three have been touched by cancer in the past. Mike and Mariann lost their 50-year-old brother, Walt Blacconiere, to pancreatic cancer six months after his diagnoses while Lampert lost his son to brain cancer.

“(The trip’s) been pretty exhausting and harder than we expected. With the rain yesterday, the wind and the bridge closures it’s been tough but worth it,” Mike said. “It’s more like an event than a vacation.”

So far their group has raised $1,625 for their team called Illinois-to-Minneapolis and they knew that they had to do it to honor their loved ones.

“Mike did the ride in Maple Grove the year after my brother passed away,” Mariann said. “It’s nice to do something bigger and go through all these places.”

The trio and their crew, who’s average age is 58 years old, are not new to long bike journeys. Lampert and Mike Blacconeire have been doing long rides for several years, the most recent one being from Montreal to Portland, Maine. Though the biking part of the experience is new for Mariann Blacconeire.

“I used to go with them on all their long rides as a member of the crew. I’m an excellent crewer but I just started riding. I suffered a stroke and I just got back on my two-wheel bike,” she said. “I’ve been doing a lot of 5:30 spin classes to get back into shape, so I can keep up with these two.”

Overall, they said they’ve had a great trip despite some issues they had before they left Chicago that had them seriously considering scrapping the trip.

“We decided that it was too important, and we didn’t know if we’d have the opportunity to take a shot like this again.” Mike Blacconeire said.

When asked if they think they’re loved ones would’ve been proud of them:

“I’d hope so,” Lampert said.

“They’d think we were crazy,” Mariann Blacconeire added.

But when it comes right down to it they do it to honor the family members they lost to cancer.

“What I really want to do is honor my brother,” Mike Blacconeire said. “The thing with pancreatic cancer is that they’ve made very little progress in terms of treatment and surgery,” Mike said. “Detection is difficult too. When the cancer is still in it’s infancy the symptoms are lower backaches and stomach disruption. That’s what my brother had and it’s hard to narrow it down because people have that all the time.”

The Twin Cities PurpleRide takes place on Saturday at Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Regional Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the eight-mile ride at 10 a.m. and a 25-mile ride at 8:30 a.m. There is also an eight-mile scenic challenge loop for riders to try out. The ride is followed by family activities, raffles and a closing ceremony.

To donate to this team or others go to www.purpleride.org click on PurpleRide Twin Cities and then click on the donate tab and find their team name.

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