LEWISTON — Many riders were eager to get rolling Sunday at the starting line at Simard-Payne Park as cycling events marked the final day of the Dempsey Challenge.

The chill of late September did little to stop the enthusiasm of the crowd cruising the grounds of the park before embarking on courses of either 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles.

Actor Patrick Dempsey, a founder of the Dempsey Center and Dempsey Challenge, tuned in from Modena, Italy, where he is filming a movie and from where he completed his ride virtually. He wished participants luck and safety.

“Usually, I’m doing the hundred-miler, but I did the 10 and it was just as fun,” said Tom Roeber of Yarmouth. “Everyone’s challenging themselves. You see them grinding up the hills. They’re working hard.

“It doesn’t matter what distance you’re doing. It’s a good feeling (when) everyone’s cheering you on. The Dempsey Center is an incredibly worthy cause. It’s hard to imagine anything more worthy than fighting cancer.”

Cyclists begin the 100-mile ride Sunday in the Dempsey Challenge. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

By midday Sunday, the donation total was nearly at the goal of $1.6 million, coming in at $1.576 million, raised by 2,371 in-person participants over the weekend, including cycling events involving 611 riders on the courses, according to the Dempsey Challenge website.

“I’m here for my mom. She has breast cancer and is a survivor,” said Cathy Conley of Auburn, who raised $1,250 and did the 10K ride Sunday and the 5K run a day earlier. “I’ve lost a couple aunts and uncles. I thank (fundraisers) for their donations and say that we need the Dempsey Center here because you never know when you’re going for a physical and you find out you have cancer. (The Dempsey Center) is a good thing to have.”

As the rides wound down, live music blared over the Bates Mill as sponsor tents bustled and Dempsey Center staff members moved about the area in golf carts. Performances by Shelley Coombs & the Laughing Brook Players, Rigometrics, The Only Hope and the Tinpanic Steel Band fueled the revelry as riders crossed the finish line and headed into the craft beer tent, satisfied with another year of altruism and athletics. in the books.

“The ride was beautiful. It was a little chilly riding by the river, but it was really gorgeous,” said Debbie Rancourt of Lewiston, who has participated in the Dempsey Challenge for 11 years. “It’s nice that everything is back here and there are a lot of people again. When it was virtual, it just wasn’t the same. It’s nice to be back in the park and have all the events going on.”

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