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Team Spotlight: Team Regan

Team Regan sign at the ESR finish line

If you ask Emily Regan and Colleen Regan-Kreuz, the team captains of Team Regan, they’d tell you something was pulling them to Empire State Ride long before they committed to the journey. This niece/aunt duo took on the adventure together in 2023 in memory of Larry Regan (Emily’s father and Colleen’s brother). They both reflected on the many signs pointing them to ESR after Larry’s passing, and the reminders along the route that he was with them each mile of the way.

A physical challenge + a week in the outdoors + a mission to end cancer = the perfect combination for the Regan family.

Emily Regan

Riding 500+ miles across New York State is a challenge for anyone, but ESR was far from the first physical challenge Emily has faced. In fact, Emily won an Olympic gold medal in the U.S. Women’s Eight in Rio in 2016 and holds four gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the World Championship competition. She was drawn to ESR primarily to honor her late father, Larry, but the idea of taking on a new adventure also compelled her.

“I rowed and that was all I did for a decade. And then prior to that, rowing was everything through college. I hadn’t been able to experience just pursuing other things that brought me joy.”

ESR has helped her find that sense of exploration and joy through outdoor cycling.

Colleen Regan-Kreuz

Physical fitness has always been important to Colleen, as well. She exercises regularly and is also a bit of a thrill chaser when it comes to a challenge. Colleen has completed triathlons and half Ironman events, and she saw ESR as the next big step. 

“The combination of the exercise, the fresh air, the beautiful scenery and the incredible people … it’s just an amazing experience.”

Signing up in memory of her late brother, Colleen wanted to make sure she could enjoy each day of the weeklong trek, so she followed Coach Charlie Livermore’s intermediate training plan in preparation.

Committing to Empire State Ride

The Regan family unofficially started Team Regan at the 2021 Turkey Trot, which took place Thanksgiving morning — less than two weeks before Larry’s death. Not long after, Colleen reached out to the whole family about establishing a Team Regan at Ride for Roswell, a one-day ride benefiting Roswell Park. It was on that ride that Colleen and Emily crossed paths with an ESR road warrior named Kristen Burgmaster who told them all about the experience.

Colleen said, “If Emily was going to do it, I had to do it. That was for sure, but we didn’t think the timing was going to be right last year. Then, on January 2, 2023, I went to Rebel Ride to take a spinning class and after the class, I saw a man with an Empire State Ride T-shirt on, so I started talking to him. Well, that man turned out to be Terry.”

Terry Bourgeois, the founder of ESR, happened to be working out with his now-wife Maria, a cancer survivor and longtime ESR rider. Colleen was there with her friend Amy Bryan. The four of them got to talking about ESR, and Terry and Maria invited Colleen and Amy to get together to learn more.

“We went to dinner and the very next day, Amy and I signed up,” said Colleen.

Emily followed not long after. Then, Colleen’s brother-in-law John McKeone did the same. Soon, they had a team of four riders.

Larry’s Cancer Diagnosis and Final Days

Cancer was not the first of Larry’s health struggles. He lived with polycystic kidney disease and received a transplant from his sister Maureen in the early 2000s.

“When you have a kidney transplant, you’re on immunosuppressants. My dad was fair, just like me, and there are medications that can make you extra sun sensitive. So, I think he started pretty early on having some squamous cell skin cancer and he’d go into the dermatologist, they’d cut it out. They’d look at it and that was a pretty long journey,” Emily explained.

Then, in March of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Larry went to his dermatologist to remove a cancer cell, a semi-regular occurrence for him. This time, though, it was different.

Emily added, “When they looked at it more closely under the microscope, they came back into the room and they told him that it was more serious, that it was a tumor connected to a nerve. So, he had surgery.”

Doctors were hopeful they got everything, and Larry began radiation that summer. The treatment was hard on him, but it afforded him time to be present with family. He attended his son’s wedding and a christening for one of his grandchildren. While things were looking up, a pet scan revealed devasting news that August.

Colleen will never forget the phone call she shared with her brother when he told her the prognosis. “He said that they didn’t know but they thought with the treatment that it could be three months to two years basically. I remember the day, like this can’t be,” she reflected with tears in her eyes.

Larry passed away in December of 2021. Both Colleen and Emily shared a piece of what they consider to be his last day.

Colleen went to visit Larry, as she did every day, alongside her husband, her sister and her brother-in-law.

“We all went over after church to say the rosary with him, which we did, and he also watched mass on TV. He was just cracking all these jokes. And he was very happy that day,” said Colleen. “But then he collapsed. They were able to keep him alive for a couple of days … but to me, he had the most special last day.”

Emily FaceTimed her dad that day after seeing a memory on her iPhone with a picture of the two of them. She’s grateful for that conversation, because the last thing her dad said to her was, “I love you.”

Colleen added, “And the other thing, when we said the rosary, we said prayers and he did not pray for himself. He prayed for World Peace and for his family. That’s my brother, that’s the kind of person he was.”

Remembering Larry on Empire State Ride

Colleen and Emily thought of Larry every day on the road for ESR, especially on the last day. It was pouring rain and cold, but it was Emily’s favorite day of the journey. Emily believes he was leaving signs that he was rooting for them as they prepared to cross the finish line. For example, he loved donuts and there were donuts at one of the rest stops. He would’ve left Christmas lights up all year round, and they rode past a tree still decorated for the holiday. The list goes on.

“It was meant to be from all these different forces that worked on getting us there, but then that last day, my dad was definitely with us,” said Emily.

For both Colleen and Emily, the experience on the road and at camp was so profound, they committed to coming back for ESR 2024.

“It’s one of those things. When you first sign up, you think this is a one-time thing, you know? And then you meet people, and you find out how many people have done it over and over and over again. So, this year, for me, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do it again this year because it’s for the 10-year anniversary,’” said Colleen.

The Team Regan roster has grown from four riders in 2023, to seven in 2024, and the captains hope to continue expanding. They’re grateful to the people who have joined their team to support the mission to end cancer.

While their reasons for returning are broader than their reasons for signing up in the first place, the impact is still at the forefront of their motivation.

“For me, knowing that the treatment process for my dad was so complicated by his unique medical issues, raising funds is something that means a hell of a lot to me, because I know that my dad would want someone in his shoes in the future to be able to beat cancer,” Emily explained.

Colleen added, “It’s amazing. It’s a really good feeling. “It’s a beautiful thing that it’s going to research because we need it.”

Colleen Regan at the ESR finish line

Maria Coccia-Bourgeois’ seven mountains: from ESR to surviving cancer

Maria being interviewed about ESR

It only takes one meeting with Maria Coccia-Bourgeois before she forms some sort of connection with you. She’ll likely know your name, greet you with a contagious smile, ask how you’re doing and genuinely care to hear your response. Maria’s gift and love for people is undeniable. Her outlook on life, especially as a cancer survivor, is equally as admirable. 

Perhaps the best way to describe Maria comes from a story she shared about her first Empire State Ride in 2017. On the third day of the seven-day adventure, Maria found herself off track.

“They wanted to flag me in. And I’m like, ‘No, I really don’t want to. I really, really, really want to do this ride.’ I wanted to pedal every mile that day, and I did,” said Maria. “I was the last one in, and there was Terry [the founder of Empire State Ride] at the top of the hill. I came in on my bike and Terry was standing there with his hands in his pocket just waiting for me. Everybody was cheering. He gave me the biggest bear hug, because the last person made it home.”

Maria could’ve been picked up that day; she could’ve decided to take the last miles of the day as a loss. But that’s not what she did.

“You don’t give up. You don’t give up,” she echoed. That memory from the road also serves as a metaphor for the way Maria has approached each obstacle in her life: the death of both her parents, a lifelong struggle with dyslexia and her own hard-fought battle with cancer.

How Maria Learned about ESR

Physical fitness has always been important to Maria. Indoor cycling was the first exercise she really loved before discovering the world of outdoor cycling.

“I used to spin six days a week at the gym. Get up, spin. I was blessed to have the time to do this. I truly believe we have one temple. We’ve got to take care of our temple: mind, body and spirit.”

Then, one day a friend asked Maria to join her on the 65-mile route at Ride for Roswell, one of the nation’s largest cycling fundraising events based in Buffalo, New York.

“I can still remember back then. I did it with some friends from the gym, and I’d never cycled outside, never. I just did it that year. After I did that first 65, I was exhilarated. I could have kept going. I’m like, ‘I want to go more. Let’s do this again!’”

And she did. The next year, she signed up for the 100-mile route. When she later learned about Empire State Ride from a friend and met ESR founder Terry Bourgeois at a different 100-mile cycling event, Maria sprang into action.

“And I flipped my life in two weeks to do the Empire State Ride.”

So began a new chapter for Maria.

Maria on the road at ESR in 2021
Maria riding at ESR

Becoming an Empire State Ride Road Warrior

The mission behind Empire State Ride is what had Maria hooked from the very beginning. She lost both her parents to cancer.

“My parents were A & G, Angelo and Gloria. They were an amazing couple, amazing parents. The love that they had … you can’t measure it.”

She was also drawn to the idea of a community of riders that become, in some ways, like family. And remember Maria’s natural gift with people? That absolutely shines through as a road warrior.

“I think there’s a magnetic component of her personality; she has become part of what makes the Empire State Ride a great experience,” said Terry. “With her fundraising, she sends out literally 300+ personal letters to 300 people. And every single donation she gets, she doesn’t send a text, she doesn’t send an email to thank them. She picks up the phone, and she calls them. She does that same thing with her fellow riders. She goes out of her way to make sure that people feel welcomed and loved.”

Maria has become not only a cheerleader for other riders, but some would even think of her as a mother figure on the road.

Maria’s Cancer Diagnosis

Maria prides herself on taking care of her body and being mindful of any warning signs that something could be off. During the 2021 ESR, she noticed she didn’t feel quite herself. Her stamina wasn’t what it used to be, and she started having trouble going to the bathroom.

She reached out to her doctor right away and sought to get to the root of the problem. After a sonogram and a CT scan, Maria received a phone call that no one ever anticipates. 

“I was on my bicycle spinning, riding my bike like I always did. And I got a call and she [the doctor] just said, ‘There’s a fatty mass and we need to get you at Roswell Park right away.’ I just lost it. I called Terry, and I told Terry what was going on. Boom, my life changed. I remember walking in the door at Roswell Park that Friday. I blessed myself and I said, ‘Jesus, you have the wheel.’ I threw my hands up and started my journey.”

A Cancer Battle of Seven Mountains

Maria was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that grows
in the smooth muscles. The treatment plan in front of her was aggressive and uncertain.

“I had 430 hours of chemo, a ten-hour surgery. I had a cantaloupe-sized
tumor, my left kidney and part of my large intestine removed.”

This was 2021, still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria
could only have two people by her side throughout the duration of her
treatment.

By this time, Terry had become an incredibly close friend. He
would be one of those two people. Her niece Rebecca stepped up to be the second person as soon as she heard the news.

“Aunt Maria has such a huge family. And it’s not even just the Coccia kids that are her family,” said Rebecca. “It’s the Roswell family. It’s
the Empire State Ride family. It’s all of those people who have truly impacted her … I know for a fact that so many other people wished and wanted to be there. It’s not blood that makes family. If anybody is a true testament to that, it’s my Aunt Maria.”

Maria broke down her cancer treatment into what she called, “Seven Mountains.” Each mountain represented a different milestone in her journey: five rounds of initial chemo, a ten-hour surgery and one last round of chemo.

“I rang the Victory Bell in May and in  June I was on my bicycle. I wanted to be on the Empire State Ride. I accomplished all those goals – and the Seven Mountains,” said Maria. “We are so blessed, and yes, it changed me. This whole journey changed me.”

Maria Bell Ringing
Maria at Empire State Ride after cancer treatment.
Terry and Maria with friends at the 2022 finish line
Terry, Maria and friends at the finish line at ESR.

The Urgency Behind Empire State Ride

Today, Maria believes she is lucky to be alive. First and foremost, she thanks God, and then she thanks the medical team at Roswell Park. Every four months she goes for body scans and monitoring. The fear of her cancer coming back always lingers.

“Honestly, for a week before the scan, I’m a hot mess. A lot of praying. The night before you break down because you don’t know what they’re going to say. And then when, praise God, they say that it’s clear, then I’m just doing a happy dance.”

But, despite the amazing progress made in recent years thanks to events like ESR, Maria’s treatment was not one of the new, breakthrough advancements. Instead, it was incredibly invasive and toxic for Maria’s body.

“It’s hard to talk about reality sometimes,” said Terry. “But Maria’s reality is that because she had 430 hours of chemo, she’s reached her maximum allowable dosage of those drugs. If that cancer comes back again, what would be the next step? Once again, we don’t know for sure. But, if there is a light, it’s the light of what’s currently being worked on at Roswell Park with cellular therapy. There are known targets that the team has identified for sarcoma, and in my mind, that adds a huge sense of urgency to what we’re doing.”

With her parents still at the forefront of why she rides, knowing she’s pedaling for a breakthrough that could help her if her cancer were to return, fuels a new motivation for Maria.

Terry added, “We’ve got work to do. And the beautiful thing is, we have a path to go down.”

More Life to Live After Cancer

The end of Maria’s cancer treatment marked the beginning of a new adventure. While cancer has left her forever changed, her appreciation for life has only grown. Still, she’s made it back to ESR each year. Even when an injury prevented her from riding her own bike, she and Terry took on the statewide trek together on a tandem bike.

She’s also found love. Her friendship with Terry evolved into a wonderful relationship, and at the finish line in Niagara Falls at ESR 2022, Terry asked Maria to marry him. Their story, which in some ways bloomed out of adversity, is a reminder that getting to the top of the mountain is always something worth fighting for.

That’s true for Maria’s personal battle with sarcoma, and it’s true for the greater cause that brings us all together: ending cancer.

How to pack for a 500+ mile bike ride across New York State

Packing for ESR? Check out these tips.

Tackling a seven-day, 500+ mile cycling adventure takes preparation, and one of the best steps you can take to prepare for Empire State Ride is to pack appropriately. When you register for this lifechanging ride, you learn all the details about the adventure you’re taking on. Here, you’ll also find a list of necessities to pack and suggestions for some of the must-haves you may not have considered.

Once you’ve reviewed the packing list, check out the tips below from our veteran riders for inspiration.

Terry Bourgeois

ESR founder Terry Bourgeois suggests packing:

  1. Flashlight for navigating camp
  2. Vitamins, focusing on magnesium and potassium supplements for recovery
  3. BioFreeze or a topical pain-relieving product
  4. Earplugs to use in the tent
  5. Desitin for skin irritation
Terry speaks into a microphone in an ESR shirt during the weeklong adventure. Filler content.

Maria Coccia-Bourgeois

Seven-year rider Maria Thor is always prepared with:

  1. Performance bars
  2. Packs of nuts
  3. Pedialyte for hydration
  4. Toilet paper with a plastic bag for use in between rest stops
  5. Tube, co2 cartridge and bike tool

Joyce Ohm

Five-year veteran rider Joyce Ohm can’t leave home without:

  1. Gallon Ziplock plastic bags – she packs her kits (jersey, bibs, sports bra, socks) in plastic bags for each day, with clothes for the evening, as well. Dirty clothes go back in the plastic bags. If it rains, suitcases can get wet, and the bags protect her clothing from rain.
  2. Lightweight, fitted sheet to cover the air mattress
  3. Battery-operated fan for the tent
  4. Recovery shakes and a reusable water bottle
  5. …. and most importantly: A sense of humor!
Dr. Joyce Ohm dons a white Roswell Park lab coat in an office setting. She weighs in on ESR impact.
As part of the $3,500 fundraising commitment, riders are provided with a tent, air mattress, camp chair and towel service each day. Each rider is allowed two medium-size bags, plus a sleeping bag and pillow that we transport each day. The weight of any single bag may not exceed 35 pounds. Pack strategically to have everything you need to enjoy the week!

The best tires for riding 500+ miles across New York State

Coach charlie LIvermore on Mobility

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Are narrow bike tires really better?

This is a question that comes up a lot from ESR participants and it’s a good one. The answer is wider is better for all road surface conditions, but especially for the variable road surfaces you’ll encounter on the ESR route. Use the widest tire, with supple high-performance casings,  your bike frame will allow.

Wide tires make cycling more fun, safer, and just as fast as narrow tires on smooth surfaces and faster on less-maintained and bumpier roads. Additionally, lower tire pressures are much more comfortable acting as a mini shock absorber. The wider the tire, the less pressure required. In the test below, the 44 mm tires were inflated to 2.1 bar (30 psi); the 28 mm tires at 4.5 bar (65 psi).

Here’s a tire test on real roads, using a down-hill coast with constant speed, on a day with no wind. Same exact tire and casing on a 44mm vs a 28mm model.

The results:

28 mm: 27.636 km/h
44 mm: 27.564 km/h

Graphic that shows a tire test with rider climbing up the incline
tire size over run time graph

Debunking the Myth: Wide Tires Are Not Slower

It’s a common belief that wide tires are slower than narrow ones, but recent studies challenge this notion.

  • Real-World Testing:
    Lab tests on steel drums don’t accurately reflect real-world performance. To truly measure tire performance, tests must be conducted on real roads with a rider on the bike.
  • Results:
    Tests conducted on various tires, pressures, and road conditions consistently show minimal differences in speed between wide and narrow tires. Even at significantly lower pressures, wider tires roll at comparable speeds to their narrower counterparts.
  • Aerodynamics:
    Contrary to popular belief, wider tires don’t significantly compromise aerodynamics, especially at moderate speeds.
  • Track Tests:
    Power meter measurements on a track confirm that wider tires don’t require more power to pedal, and in some cases, they outperform narrower ones.
  • Smooth vs. Rough Roads:
    On rough roads, wider tires actually perform better due to their ability to absorb surface irregularities without compromising speed.
  • Real-World Performance:
    Racers have achieved remarkable success using wide tires in various competitions, showcasing their speed and durability.
  • Lab Tests vs. Real World:
    Lab tests on steel drums may suggest narrow tires are faster, but real-world conditions prove otherwise. Suspension losses caused by vibrations are not accounted for in drum tests.
  • Placebo Effect:
    Narrow tires may feel faster due to increased vibrations, but actual speed measurements show wide tires perform just as well.
  • Cornering Grip:
    Wider tires offer superior grip, especially on twisty descents, due to increased rubber on the road surface.

Conclusion:

Wide tires are not slower than narrow ones. Choosing tires with high-performance casings ensures both comfort and speed, debunking the myth that narrow tires are inherently faster.

I rode the last two ESR’s on 35mm tires and will increase to 38mm this year.

Look forward to seeing you all soon!

Coach Charlie

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