Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Pelotonia in Groveport – UPDATED

Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
A spectator cheerily encouraging cyclists at Main and Walnut streets in Groveport.
Marie Gibbons of Canal Winchester wheeling through Groveport.
Supporters lining Groveport’s Main Street applauding the cyclists as they pass.
A pack of riders cruises down Groveport’s Main Street.
Cyclists pedal past Groveport Town Hall.
A team of riders rolls through Groveport.

An inspiring sight of whirring wheels, pumping legs, and smiling faces could be seen on Main Street Aug. 21 as more than 4,000 bicyclists in the Pelotonia cycling tour pedaled through Groveport.

Pelotonia is a grassroots bicycle tour that raises money to help fight cancer. Cyclists chose one of four rides: 23 miles from Columbus to Groveport; 43 miles to Amanda; 102 miles to Athens; or 180 miles to Athens returning to end at Slate Run Metro Park.

People lined Main Street holding up banners, applauding the riders, and calling out, "Thank you!" and "You can do it!" to encourage the cyclists.

The cyclists responded with smiles and waves.

"This is the best town on the whole route," called out one cyclist to the Groveport supporters.

"I love your town! It’s so pretty," said another rider as she whooshed past.

The cyclists rode many different kinds of bicycles from recumbents to racing bikes to tandems to cruising bikes. The riders were men and women of all ages and there were even a few kids. Some rode swiftly in tightly packed groups. Others skimmed along at a leisurely pace. Some wore brightly colored cycling shirts. Some had the names of loved ones written on their arms.

Megan’s story

Groveport resident Megan LaFollette was one of the riders.

"I saw the Rohr Road sign and started to cry. ‘Okay, Uncle Bob (who battled cancer), I’m here.’ My feet peddled faster and harder than I ever imagined," said LaFollette. "My mom (a cancer survivor) cried, but not until I crossed the finish line. She told me, ‘I am so proud of you.’"

LaFollette said she was overwhelmed by the number of friends and family members who supported the cause.

"Having them sprinkled throughout the route kept me motivated. My husband was the ultimate crew chief. At my uncle’s on Rohr Road, he put more air in my tires, and had the Gatorade ready. And at Marcy Road he gave me the motivation I needed to attack the rest of my ride. He and my best friend met me at my nemesis: Marcy Road. The first hill on Marcy haunted me during my training. I only made it to the top of this hill once without walking my bike to the top, prior to Pelotonia. My husband told me, ‘You can do it. You’ve already completed more than half of the ride. You’re almost there.’ A few minutes later I was at the top of the hill, still on my bike!"

At a later point, LaFollette said she felt a burn in her legs and wondered if she could finish the ride.

"I needed motivation and was feeling a bit alone," said LaFollette. "Another cyclist and I were sharing in this moment when we passed a family. Sitting by the road was a woman wearing a pink, ‘Survivor’ shirt from the Race for the Cure. She was bald and sitting out in the sun watching the cyclists. ‘And that’s why we are doing this,’ I said to my fellow rider."

LaFollette averaged 16 mph and completed her ride to Amanda in about 3 hours and 15 minutes.

"I raised over $1,200. I burned over 1,700 calories. And I completed the most physically demanding task I have ever faced in my life, even above delivering my daughters," said LaFollette. "I proved to myself I am capable of doing anything. Will I do it again? Will I try the ride to Athens the next time? We will just have to wait and see."

LaFollette and others were saddened to hear that Pelotonia cyclist Michelle Kazlausky, 57, of Reynoldsburg, was killed in an accident when she was struck during the ride by a truck at the intersection of Route 374 and Route 180 in Hocking County.

"My heart broke, not only for Michelle and her family, but for the other cyclists who witnessed the event. Pelotonia riders commit to a physically demanding adventure in order to raise money for cancer research. The notion of Michelle losing her life while fulfilling her mission is heart-wrenching and humbling. This accident could have happened to any of us. After her passing, people contributed to her ride and in honor of her mission. The last time I checked, her total was over $7,000."

Beth’s story
This was the second Pelotonia for Groveport Madison teacher Beth Stevenson, who rode the 102 mile route to Athens in six hours.

"The crowds and the people who gather along the route make you ride faster with pride in knowing that you are riding for a wonderful cause – to end cancer," said Stevenson. "It’s a very emotional ride for me because I have lost two of the most important people in my life to the disease – my dad and grandfather. I wear a sign on my bike ‘For Dad 2003 and For Grandpa 2008.’ I ride in honor for them and to help fund research to finding a cure for cancer."

Stevenson said while riding through Groveport other riders asked her, "What town is this?"
"I proudly told them my childhood hometown of Groveport!" said Stevenson.

Along the route on Rock Mill Road, Stevenson saw a woman with cancer in a wheelchair with her entire family cheering the riders on.

"That’s what is so empowering. The appreciation is unbelievable from the crowds along the route. The ‘thank you’s’ we get from the crowd make you so proud and enthusiastic of the committment to riding the Pelotonia tour to end cancer," said Stevenson.

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