LEWISTON — Actor Patrick Dempsey is scaling back plans to bicycle all 100 miles of October’s inaugural Dempsey Challenge, a bike-run-and-walk fundraiser for his cancer-fighting charity.

The challenge is demanding more time from the Turner native and “Grey’s Anatomy” star during the one-day event.

Dempsey will ride a 50-mile route instead.

“This is something that was decided just recently,” said Mark Turcotte, a spokesman for the challenge. “We realized that the schedule was tightening, and Patrick could not attend everything and ride the whole 100 miles.”

Plans for the Oct. 4 ride figure on an 8 a.m. start. Dempsey announced his goal of completing the full route when he unveiled plans for the event last December in Lewiston.

“I’ve never done 100 miles in a single day,” he said then. He also said he’d begun training for the October ride.

Of the 815 riders who had registered as of Wednesday, 447 have signed up for the long ride. In comparison, 209 planned to do the 50-mile route.

Shannon Gilmartin, a mom from Hamburg, N.Y., signed up for the 100-mile trek because that’s the one Dempsey planned to ride, she said.

A fan of Dempsey’s — she created a Twitter account to help raise money, titled “McDreamyBike” — she said she was disappointed by the star’s choice. However, she and her husband, Tom, plan to go forward with the 100-mile ride.

And she’ll continue to admire Dempsey’s work though the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing.

“I have a huge, long family history of cancer,” she said. After she lost her grandfather and a cousin to cancer, she decided to search out a bike event. She found one in Philadelphia run by a Lance Armstrong charity. Then, she found Dempsey’s ride.

She liked him (“Oh, who doesn’t?” she asked) and she preferred Maine over the big city. Earlier this summer, she met Dempsey, who was driving in an auto race she attended.

“I think he’s a really, really great person,” she said. “Every time you see him, it’s for something good.”

Gilmartin has raised a little over $4,200. She hopes to raise $10,000 for the Dempsey Center.

Ronald Jackson, the leader of the challenge’s JeanRichard Team, hopes to raise even more. His team is one of the top money-raisers so far, with just over $7,000. Their goal: $15,000.

Jackson, the CEO and president of watch manufacturer JeanRichard North America, said he was not disappointed by Dempsey’s decision. Rather, it impressed him.

“It’s probably one of the most selfless things that he does to advance the bigger issue and goal,” said Jackson, who plans to ride the 100.

He, too, has met Dempsey. The men have seen each other several times amid audiences at international cycling events.

“I admire him a lot as a person,” Jackson said.

To give a further boost in publicity to the event, Tour de France
cyclist George Hincapie has pledged to ride the 50 miles with Dempsey. Cyclist David Zabriskie also plans to ride, though he hasn’t announced which route he’ll take.

In the end, the goal is raising money to fight cancer, said Turcotte, the Dempsey Challenge’s spokesman.

“We’re (also) promoting physical activity as part of one’s daily life,” Turcotte said. Each of the bike routes, from 10 to 100 miles, does that. So does the the 5K walk/run.

The bike ride’s route extends through Poland, Raymond,
Naples, Bridgton, Harrison, Casco and Otisfield, then back through
Poland and Auburn to Lewiston.

It begins and ends at Payne/Simard Memorial Park in Lewiston.

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Patrick Dempsey talks to Donnie Bonney and autographs a portrait of Dempsey created by Bonney outside Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.


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