Friends on cross-country bike ride in memory of cancer victim
By Lou Fancher
Someone forgot to tell cyclists Nick Bloisa and Rick Perez that there's an easier way to wash their bike tires.
"We're dipping the rear wheel of our bicycles in the Pacific Ocean, and then washing the front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean about two months later," says 70-year-old Pleasant Hill resident Bloisa.
Between Santa Monica and St. Augustine, Fla., he and Perez, 69, of Orinda, are pedaling approximately 3,000 miles on "Laura's Ride." The cross-country cycling fundraiser honors Laura Bartron, Bloisa's girlfriend, a nutritionist at Renaissance Club Sport in Walnut Creek, who died of breast cancer in September at age 45.
In connection with Lazarex Cancer Foundation, 100 percent of the donations to sponsor the ride are passed by the Danville-based charitable nonprofit to clinical trials and research to support people with advanced stage cancer. To increase their chances of reaching a $100,000 fundraising goal, Bloisa, a retired building contractor, and Perez, an attorney, are entirely-self funding their journey.
Bloisa says it was actually Perez's idea to climb in the saddle and pump out an average 80 miles per day. The two men ride together on Saturdays as members of a Lafayette-based bike club.
"He asked me, 'Would you like to ride across America?' I said, 'Sure.' Maybe I agreed because, as my friends say, I'm comfortable in the uncomfortable zone," says Bloisa.
Perez's life partner, Sandi Eng, suggested the two ride in honor of Bloisa's girlfriend. Soon after, the men began referring to it as "Laura's Ride." The concept expanded, and seeking a nonprofit that supports cancer research, the men say Lazarus stood out because donations will be applied to the cause, not to the ride's or the nonprofit's administrative costs. Suddenly, a nutty notion to celebrate the year of their 70th birthdays on a cross-country bike ride became not just a novel adventure.
"Riding for Laura -- it's made it so much more meaningful," says Perez.
Because Perez years ago had done a bike trip carrying all of his supplies in backpacks and saddlebags, he knew from experience that he "wasn't crazy about that part." They took to Craigslist to find volunteer drivers to transport their belongings and hit the jackpot. Sarah Rubin, of Concord, a student at San Francisco State, and Alejandra Garcia Aragon, a psychologist who works in Puebla, Mexico, are accompanying them.
Perez and Bloisa say they selected the two women out of about a dozen applicants because they were eager, participatory, multilingual, fun and easy to get along with -- many of the same reasons they believe they will be a good cycling team.
"They'll drive ahead most times, but on long days and places where there aren't facilities to replenish water, we'll meet them midway," says Bloisa.
Anticipating the heat as they cross Texas and other southern states, they'll begin their days at 5 a.m. and carry camelbacks instead of their usual water bottles to ensure a steady water supply.
Bloisa rides a Colnago C-60 and has a C-40 alternative bike. He logs about 200 miles per week as a recreational rider and has completed 200-mile-a-day rides and triathlons. Perez rides a Formigli One, with a backup Formigli Genesi. His triweekly rides range from moderate to aggressive.
"I climb hills better, he goes down faster, so we'll stick together pretty well," says Perez.
For Bloisa, "The sadness is still raw, but the wounds are healing now, especially with this event, this ride," he says. "Her mother and brother were at the send-off party. Laura's gone, but she lives in our hearts."