Dispatches - Vince Gee
Vince Gee recently helped to support the Pablove Across America ride from San Rafael, CA to Los Angeles, CA. 560 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing over 7 days of riding. Pablove Across America helps to raise money for pediatric cancer research, and as a cancer survivor himself, its easy to imagine the passion that Vince has for this ride. He had this to say about this year’s PAA (his fifth, and his wife’s second as a rider):
My “day job” is a full-time team mechanic for a professional cycling team which encompasses most of my season/year. But when my schedule permits, I sometimes do freelance jobs with cycling groups.
A few weeks ago I worked the Pablove Across America ride. The Pablove Foundation raises money for pediatric cancer research and also helps fund the Shutterbugs project. Shutterbugs puts cameras in the hands of pediatric cancer patients and also teaches them about the art of photography. A great way to get something normal to do AND teach them photography AND take them AWAY from the treatments or thoughts of treatments. Pablove Foundation was founded by the parents of Pablo, who was told “You have cancer.” at a VERY young age. Pablo, unfortunately, passed away as a young kid. So his father Jeff rode across America to search for “it.”
That was 2009.
This was the 10th year of this ride and this edition started in San Rafael, CA and finished at Pablove HQ in Los Angeles, CA encompassing 7 days, 560 miles and over 30,000 feet of climbing. The group was 49 riders (raising funds and riding the event), 10 ride leaders, 10 soigneurs, 8 mechanics and a host of hospitality/event staff, including some from Pablove HQ, all who worked to get this event north to south smoothly. The goal of this years event was to raise 1 million dollars for pediatric cancer research. Generally, only 4% of the US funding goes to pediatric cancer research vs adult cancer research. This was my 5th PAA and a small bonus was having my wife Yuko ride and fundraise. A rare treat to work and travel city to city WITH my wife. This was Yuko’s second PAA.
So the 8 of us mechanics were responsible for the 60-ish bikes. The job for mechanics here? Simple. Sort of. Washing and tuning all 60 bikes daily. Nothing out of the ordinary for us except maybe the “why we were there” to work. The why was easy for me. I’m a prostate cancer survivor and to me, fighting cancer is very important. Especially when it is children. Children who have less time to be kids, less time to play ball or hang out with their friends, or to go to school, or any other childlike experience. So the motivation is easy. The work is generally fairly hard with long days. Much more than what encompasses a team mechanic. Mainly in volume. A typical day at a bicycle race could be 10 to 12 hours. These days at the Pablove Across America easily surpass 15 to 16 hour days. But that is NOT a big deal if you compare it to what the kids going through cancer have to deal with. My job is easy compared to a kid who is dealing with cancer.
This was my fifth PAA and I’ve watched it grow and get so much smoother. I get to work with 7 other highly accomplished mechanics that I have known for many years. During the day (while the group is riding from point A to B), two mechanics do typical hotel duty which is set up the work area. Setting up 6 of the 10×10 tents, multiple wash hoses, tables, and bike stands and work stands. The other mechanics are following the ride in support vehicles in case of any technical needs such as flats or (hopefully not) worse mechanical issues. So, like in a race, we can go straight to bike wash and tune as soon as the first riders and mechanics roll into the new hotel.
As I said this is my fifth PAA and I am honored to work this event each of the 5 years. Trying to do my part to help make a difference in pediatric cancer. In those 5 years, I have met some amazing people. Some of which their kids are CURRENTLY going through cancer treatments. Each morning we start with a dedication prior to the ride depart. For 7 mornings someone talks about a child that they are both riding for and inspired by. Some of these kids we are dedicating the days ride to are still with us. And unfortunately, some are no longer with us. This part of the day is so emotional and I basically cry each morning listening to each dedication.
There is a part of me that wants to do this event year after year. And a part of me that doesn’t because I just want to see this Foundation find cures so we no longer need to raise money for cancer. Maybe in the near future this group can just ride together for 7 days and just not have to think about cancer. Just this big ass family rolling down the road on bikes.
Note: To date, we are at just over $900,000 raised so far and counting.