The riders endured cold winds as they covered courses ranging from 10 to 100 miles in the third and final day of the signature fundraiser that benefits the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston.

Dempsey, a popular TV and film actor, auto racer and Buckfield native, rode at the front of dozens of riders setting out on the 100-mile course. He cycled with participants for the beginning of the ride and returned to the Festival in the Park stage for closing ceremonies.

The long-distance riders took a route through Casco, Oxford and Mechanic Falls, completing their countryside tour in about eight hours around 4 p.m. Riders who left to travel the shorter distances at 7:30 a.m. were rolling back into the park by midmorning and early afternoon. Those events covered 70, 50, 25 and 10 miles, alongside an informal family fun ride.

The courses went through New Auburn and fanned out to roads through Poland, Mechanic Falls and back to Auburn. Volunteers assisted at intersections and, on Route 202 near the Auburn interchange of the Maine Turnpike, Auburn police officers managed the safe merger of the cyclists with highway traffic.

There were several rest stops with refreshments on all the routes. At Auburn’s Kittyhawk Avenue stop, Jared Buckingham, manager of Rainbow Bicycles in Lewiston, provided equipment checks. He and his helper, Stan Weymouth, said tire pressure and gear adjustments were the most common needs.

Among those at the Auburn stopover point were members of a group calling themselves the No Zip Team. Riding in memory of Sal Gerardi, who succumbed to cancer in March, was Babe Paul of Gray. Angela Spencer of Sabattus rode in memory of two sisters, Muriel and Christine. Cheryl Lang of Turner rode in memory of her mother, along with friends, family and two students from Telstar Regional High School in Bethel. Larry Littlefield rode with them, in memory of his mother, who passed away two years ago, and his father, a cancer survivor.

Several professional cyclists rode the longer courses. Their equipment and clothing was top-of-the-line. Others taking part in the rides featured a variety of bikes and cycling apparel.

Several tandem bicycles were powered by adults in the event, while a couple of tandems had lower rear wheels and lower seats to accommodate youngsters.

Some cyclists made do with vintage equipment. One decades-old women’s-style bike with balloon tires was seen at the start.

There were several preteen riders and, at 84 years of age, Don Robitaille of Lewiston probably was the oldest. He rode a new bike that was presented to him last year by Specialized, a major bike maker and Dempsey Challenge sponsor. Robitaille rode on the 25-mile route with his three daughters.

The Vivian St. Onge Memorial Rickshaw Project provided several rickshaw-style pedicabs to carry people who were unable to cycle under their own power.

With bells and pompoms, a contingent of about 15 cheerleaders from Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram welcomed finishers as they rolled into the park, where a public address system recognized each finisher by name.

While Saturday’s run/walk crowd sported imaginative and whimsical outfits, the Sunday cyclists were more concerned with dressing appropriately for safety and warmth. Lime-green reflective jackets were common, and rules of the road were announced from the start stage.

New for the 2015 Dempsey Challenge was a two-day bike ride with dining at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport and an overnight stay in Brunswick.

Cyclists had a strong incentive to complete their circuits and return to the park. There, under a large tent packed full of tables, a special complimentary lobster dinner awaited registered participants.

About 3,000 Dempsey Challenge supporters of all ages took part in Saturday’s run/walk events. They enjoyed a morning treat of omelets and pancakes under the tent.

Dan Caron, who has been instrumental in organizing the Dempsey Challenge omelet event for several years, said staff representing 20 area restaurants were on hand to cook and serve runners and walkers. About 9,000 eggs were used for the omelets.

“They never say no when I ask them to help with this,” said Caron, who is head chef of the Green Ladle culinary arts program of Lewiston Regional Technical Center.


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