LEWISTON — The Dempsey Challenge saw a late end this year because of unseasonably cold conditions, but that didn’t stop the 1,168 riders who came out Sunday to help raise money for cancer research.

The Farewell Ceremony took place at 3:30 in the center Simard-Payne Memorial Park. Patrick Dempsey, who normally gives the farewell, had to leave early Sunday morning to get back to filming in London. Instead, his sister, Mary, shared a few of his words and some of her own. 

“He had to get back to filming,” Mary Dempsey said, “but wants to thank everyone for participating and being so open with their stories. He looks forward to coming back again next year.”

The event committee then joyously shared the news that 2016’s Dempsey Challenge will be held on Oct. 1 and 2, much to the delight of the participants. 

Despite the cold weather and windchill, thousands of people came out to support the riders this weekend, many sticking it out to the end. Volunteers handed out survivor medals at the finish line as well as large groups of people cheering on each and every rider.

Although the ceremony as scheduled to go until 5 p.m., tents and trucks were packing up and leaving around 3:40, along with most of the crowd. By that time, more than 800 riders finished. Normally, most riders are done by then, but the cold contributed to later finish times.

Jan Wiegman, a participant from Leeds, said the cold wasn’t too much of a problem, “as long as you’re prepared. I wore a lot more clothes than normal.”

Some bikers were having a difficult time relieving cramping caused by the cold. 

Wiegman was riding for friends and family members who have either passed away from cancer or are survivors, including his wife’s cousin. “You have these people in mind,” he said, “and it’s also a challenge to yourself.”

This was his second year participating in the 50-mile bike challenge, and he finds it incredibly rewarding. “It’s a great feeling, everyone cheering you on, and you know you’ve got a beer waiting and the lobster.”

According to Dempsey, the Challenge raised over $1 million this year to help with cancer research, treatment and support at the The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

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