Last year, Keith Bellizzi of Montgomery Village rode 12 miles into Washington, D.C., on the last leg of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. This year, he was one of 24 bikers who rode on a 3,300-mile relay across the United States Tour of Hope’s national team. Each Tour rider was part of a six-person team that rode for roughly six hours each day from San Diego on Sept. 29 to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8.
Tour of Hope riders reached Washington, D.C., as scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 8, but that afternoon's events at the Ellipse in front of the White House were canceled because of heavy rainfall.
The Tour of Hope is an annual event that advocates the importance of cancer clinical trials, and each of the 24 national team riders has a life that has been touched by cancer. Bellizzi works at the National Cancer Institute, where he follows the post-treatment lives of those who were diagnosed with cancer. Bellizzi himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 25, and within a year was diagnosed with an unrelated case of kidney cancer.
“I think we’re all quite tired, but cancer patients deal with fighting through their treatment day in and day out, so it serves as a motivator,” Bellizzi said.
LANCE ARMSTRONG, seven-time winner of the Tour de France and a cancer survivor, joined the riders on several stages of the tour. “He’s certainly inspiring with his story,” Bellizzi said. “He’s just an everyday guy. He’s a great athlete, but what I’m most thankful for is all that he’s done for the cause.”
For Bellizzi, though, some of the most memorable moments of the tour included gliding into some of the smaller rallies, groups of elementary school students, or seeing families come outside at 1 a.m.
Early in the route, riders climbed 6,000 feet through mountains in New Mexico. Between the continental divide and the Blue Ridge Mountains, most of the terrain was rolling hills. On flatter routes, headwinds of up to 20 miles per hour were a challenge to riders.
Some of the Hope rallies, like the stop in Atlanta last Wednesday, attracted crowds in the thousands. Bellizzi spoke to the crowd about his experience surviving testicular cancer. “I’ve shared my story … on a one-on-one basis before, but this is the first time I’ve [spoken to a group that size]. It feels great to feel all their support and all that energy.”
The last full day of riding on Friday was one of the most challenging of the 10-day Tour. The teams climbed more than 12,000 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, with rain coming sideways at the riders during some parts.
To see Bellizzi’s daily log about biking on the Tour of Hope, visit www.TourofHope.com and click on “Read Their Personal Journals” under “Tour of Hope 2005 Team.”
<1b>— Alex Scofield