LEWISTON – As many as 4,000 bicyclists, runners and spectators could make the Twin Cities a very busy place for the first Sunday in October, according to organizers.

The first-ever Dempsey Challenge will combine four different bike tours, a 5K fun run and a festival in Simard Payne Park on Oct. 4, and Event Manager Wendy Tardif said organizers are hoping for big turnout.

“It’s the first year for the event, so we don’t quite know what to expect,” she said. “But we’re planning for 3,000 participants in all of the cycling and running events and another 1,000 spectators or so. So we’ll see.”

The event is designed to raise about $1 million for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center.

The bicycle portion will feature four different bicycle tours of varying lengths, all starting from Lewiston’s Simard Payne Park. A 100-mile course will take riders from downtown as far east as Bridgton and as far north as Otisfield before returning. A 50-mile course will take riders to West Poland and back. A 25-mile course goes to Minot, returning to the Twin Cities at Harris Hill Road. A 10-mile course will stay in southern Auburn.

The 5K fun run and walk starts at the Simard Payne Park and heads east to the Colisee before turning back west through the Franklin Pasture to Auburn. All the events, from the bike races to the fun run, end up crossing the pedestrian bridge from Auburn into Simard Payne Park.

“None of it is timed,” Tardif said. “It’s just events, a tour, that can be done non-competitively, but we will have a big clock at the finish line for all of the participants.”

The park will also be the site for a health and wellness expo, with booths for sponsors, a children’s area and live entertainment all day.

City officials in Lewiston and Auburn are being asked to help provide police service and public works help for the event, and Tardif said she’s working with sheriffs’ departments in Androscoggin, Cumberland and Oxford counties.

So far, Tardif said 200 participants have registered for the cycling portions from 22 states and Canada. She knows of groups and bicycling teams in England and Spain that are talking about coming.

Actor Patrick Dempsey, the event’s namesake, is scheduled to take part along with five-time Olympian cyclist George Hincapie. Some of Dempsey’s colleagues from Grey’s Anatomy are expected as well.

That should all help bring more and more people to town, she said.

“We know we’ll get plenty of friends and family members of the riders, but we expect a few just to see Patrick and the others, too,” she said. “Or, just people willing to come down and spend the day.”


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