Schneider is up to Pan Mass Challenge

In the past, Tom Schneider had taken part in the CT Challenge bike ride to help cancer victims. But in terms of mileage, the number of riders and fund-raising goals, the Pan Mass Challenge raised the bar several notches.

Schneider, however, proved up to the challenge when he rode more than 190 miles over two days in Massachusetts on Aug. 3-4, in his first stab at one of the biggest events of its kind in the world.

“It was a great event. I used to do the CT Challenge, and I had friends who had done the Pan Mass Challenge. It’s just incredible,” said the 22-year resident of Wilton.

The event, in its 33rd year, raises funds for The Dana-Farber Institute in Boston, which is dedicated to cancer research.

This year, the event attracted roughly 5,500 riders from 38 states and five countries, and expects to raise more than $38 million. It is the largest biking fundraiser for cancer research in the world.

“It’s an incredibly worthy event, and the camaraderie amount the riders is amazing. There are several hundred cancer survivors that ride and it’s quite inspirational,” Schneider commented. “The physical toll that it takes on you as rider is nothing compared to what cancer patients endure in their treatments.”

Approximately 3,500 riders started out from Sturbridge, Mass., at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 3 for a 111-mile ride through the Massachusetts back roads to Bourne at the beginning of Cape Cod. It is the longest and the most difficult of the Pan Mass Challenge routes, featuring many difficult hills over the first 50 miles. Schneider was able to complete this stretch by noon.

Leaving Bourne the following day, riders then had the choice to continue onto the Cape all the way to Provincetown, or to ride north to Wellesley — an 84-mile trek. Schneider opted to ride to Wellesley this year.

“Luckily, the weather cooperated as it was comfortable temperatures and dry, which made the ride manageable,” he commented.

The routes featured stops along the way, allowing riders to rest, eat and drink.

In terms of publicity generated, and excitement, the Pan Mass Challenge was like nothing Schneider had participated in before. The CT Challenge ride, for instance, is limited to 200 riders, and the mileage is not quite as long.

The turnout of people in small towns along the route, and the coverage of the ride on TV, also made it a special experience.

“This ride gives you an athletic experience, a spiritual experience and an emotional experience,” Schneider commented. “It attracts people of all types of riding styles and experience. You’ve got cancer survivors riding. It’s really impressive.

“It’s also inspiring as there are thousands of people along the route cheering you on. Many are cancer survivors who are holding up signs saying ‘Thank You’ to the riders. It was pretty cool.”

Pan Mass Challenge riders have to commit to raising at least $4,000 — something that Schneider said made it “that much more fun and challenging.”

The Pan-Mass Challenge generates half of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and it is Dana-Farber’s single largest contributor. Over the past 33 years, PMC cyclists have raised $375 million to cancer research.

For more information on the Pan Mass Challenge, go to its Web site,