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Riding 192 Miles for Cancer Research

It was never easy for Matthew Roper to lug heavy baggage as a volunteer supporting a charitable fund-raiser bike ride in Cape Cod, Mass. Now Roper will find out what it’s like be one of those bikers – he’s ready to ride 192 miles in two days.

Roper, a 1999 graduate of Winston Churchill High School, will ride in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a fund-raiser bike tour for cancer research, on Aug. 6-7. His 192-mile ride begins inland in Sturbridge, Mass., then goes out to Cape Cod, all the way to the outermost tip in Provincetown, Mass. He’s joining two long-time friends, Matthew Danziger and Andrew Danziger of Hagerstown, Md., on the bike-a-thon.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for years,” said Roper, who got to know the Danzigers at Cape Cod Sea Camp, a summer sailing camp where Roper was a camper and later a counselor. Their team is unofficially dubbed “The Whitecrest Express,” named after their favorite surf spot on the Cape.

The Pan-Massachusetts challenge is the most successful athletic fund-raiser in the United States, and event organizers hope to raise $21 million for cancer research and patient treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The event is sponsored by Overstock.com and the Boston Red Sox, baseball’s 2004 World Series champions. A lifetime of summers in Cape Cod and four years of college in New England made a Red Sox fan out of Roper. He was in Boston last year during the first two games of the World Series last fall when he went to the Head of the Charles crew regatta in Cambridge.

Roper and his friends will each ride with the names of family members and friends they have lost to cancer on their bikes or on their persons — Roper will wear necklaces with their names.

Roper attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., and after graduating in 2003, he returned to his roots in the Washington, D.C., area. He returned to Potomac while he worked on President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign last year.

“It’s a very fortunate area to grow up in. … Churchill’s great for instilling a very competitive instinct, and striving to work hard,” Roper said. “Later you realize how much [in politics] we’re exposed to early on.”

After the campaign, Roper began work with the Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Department of Justice, and he has since moved to downtown Washington, D.C. His roommate is Katie Johnson, also a Churchill ’99 graduate, who works for the Democratic National Committee. Their clashing political allegiances haven’t led to any problems, said Roper. “It’s kind of like a reality TV show without the cameras,” he joked.

Roper began training for the bike tour in May, mostly riding on the paved Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia and the Capital Crescent Trail in D.C. and Montgomery County. Sometimes he’ll head to Frederick County in Maryland and train on hills. “It’s fun on the downhills, but the first time [going uphill] was absolutely brutal,” Roper said. He will encounter some hills on the first day of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge before reaching Cape Cod, which is relatively flat. “The first day is 110 miles, so that will make the second day a cakewalk by comparison.”