BOSTON (CBS) — The first weekend in August thousands of cyclists will take over the roads of Massachusetts for the two-day Pan-Mass Challenge. The goal is to fund a cure for cancer. This year, a young cancer survivor recruited a new friend to ride. And for these two, inspiring others is like riding a bike.
From up the road, they’re two guys on bikes. But, as they come closer it’s clear they have more than handlebars and helmets in common. Patrick Downes is a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. He will be riding his first PMC alongside cancer survivor Jack Manning.
“I know that this ride is going to be chock full of emotions,” Downes said. Downes lost part of his leg in the bombing.
When Manning won his battle against cancer he also lost part of his leg. “It’s been awesome that we’ve become so close and that he’s part of the team this year,” Manning explained. “So, it’s really exciting.”
Manning and Downes are now PMC teammates riding for “Team Jack.” A team created by Manning’s dad, Vince, after Manning got sick as a kid. “Patrick can provide guidance and support and mentorship in a way that, as a parent, and just what they’ve been through together, I can’t,” said Vince.
Before bikes, it was books that brought the pair together. Downes a Boston College grad, and his wife, Jessica, who is also a bombing survivor, awarded the very first BC Strong Scholarship to Manning last year. At that ceremony, Downes told Manning, “This scholarship, today, is not only to celebrate what you’ve overcome but to celebrate all the potential you have.”
Manning, now a PMC veteran, recruited Downes for the 192-mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown. For Manning, it was an easy event to sell, “The first time you do the weekend you’re hooked.”
Still, Downes is new to bikes and he laughed while describing his lack of experience, “As the guy was fitting me he said ‘What kind of biking experience do you have?’ and I said, ‘mostly Huffy’s.'”
The teasing over their training is constant yet there is a sincere appreciation for what both men go through to ride a bike with a prosthetic. “The carbon fiber, which is meant to support your leg, ends up jabbing into the back as you are really at the top of the pedal. It’s just like running the marathon in a prosthetic leg, you have to keep making adjustments,” Downes said.
Manning also takes the necessary adjustments in stride, “The first weekend my screw popped out. Two miles into the very first ride, so that was a bummer.”
But they pedal on for their pedal partner, Carter Mock. Manning’s young friend also lost his leg to cancer. “He doesn’t let anything get in his way. So, that’s been pretty inspirational to me as I ride,” Manning explained.
Inspiration is what the PMC is all about. “These things are more than just physical events,” said Downes. “They’re community events that transcend sport.”
This year the PMC’s goal is to raise a record $52 million for cancer research and treatment at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
WBZ-TV is proud to be your official PMC station. We’ll kick things off Friday, August 3rd at 7 p.m. with Opening Ceremonies live from Sturbridge. Also, join us for live coverage of the ride straight through PMC weekend.