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ESR Rider Spotlight: Phil Zodda

Meet Phil Zodda, Athlete and dragon slayer

Phil is no stranger to competition — whether he’s competing or coaching. He’s a six-time runner of the New York City Marathon and soon-to-be five-time road warrior for the Empire State Ride. If you’ve ever been on the road for ESR, you might have seen Phil with a whistle in hand, dishing out Swedish Fish as he cheers on other riders from his bike. He slays dragons and rides for everyone else who does the same.

Dragons? you might ask. They’re Phil’s go-to metaphor for all of life’s challenges: setbacks, obstacles, hills and (especially) cancer. He rides in solidarity with everyone who wants to slay cancer for good. While he’s doing so, he’ll likely be the one helping you overcome your own dragons and conquer Empire State Ride.

“You’ll always come across someone who could use a little verbal support, a little slap in the back of the saddle, just to help them along. I enjoy picking up someone who might be solo, and they’re still out there slugging along. I just come up alongside them and stay there and pace them and talk with them,” Phil says.

The Origins of Dragon Slaying

Phil Zodda proudly holds his bike over his head at the finish line of Empire State Ride in Niagara Falls.The idea of dragon slaying came to Phil during his first year riding in Empire State Ride. Phil had just reached Albany and found himself faced with a hill that seemed to stretch for miles. At the end of the hill was the next camp. To get there, however, he had to climb for what felt like forever. His legs were wiped halfway up, but he kept pushing and pushing.

“My ego was such that I wasn’t walking a damn inch. No one was going to put me on the truck and carry me through. There were four of us, and I think two stopped at the rest stop in Albany and took the bus back to the camp. My friend and I rode onward.”

When the pair reached the top of the hill, people rang bells, cheered, gave hugs and shouted words of encouragement. A fellow Empire State Ride road warrior named Carlos greeted Phil and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a dragon slayer.’ Carlos handed Phil a patch with a dragon on it, and from that moment on, the metaphor became Phil’s mantra. 

That winter, Phil thought about his Empire State Ride experience and the feeling of accomplishment he felt from tackling a physical challenge while raising money for cancer research. It had been the first time he’d ever done anything like it, and he resolved to return the following year to conquer Empire State Ride again while inspiring others to slay their own dragons.

“I’m no one special. I am not an elite athlete. I’m just another average guy who’s out there on the course. I’m not a young fellow either,” Phil says. “If I can do it and pedal, so can you. And if there’s a reason why you’re trying it, then let’s finish what you started.”

phil's Background

Phil coached high school track for 34 years before he retired. He’s also been involved with the New York City Marathon for close to 41 years, building the finish line, working as a four-mile captain and, most recently, escorting the elite runners on his bike. A retired teacher, Phil brings his passion for guiding others to everything he does, and Empire State Ride is no exception.

Cycling is not Phil’s first sport, but he made the transition from running following orthoscopic surgery on his knee. It wasn’t really until a friend handed him an Empire State Ride business card that Phil started riding regularly, though. He had tossed the ESR card into a drawer and forgotten about it for months. When he rediscovered it, the timing felt serendipitous. At the time, his wife was overseas for their niece’s funeral. Their niece, only in her thirties, had passed away from breast cancer. Participating in Empire State Ride was the perfect way for Phil to challenge himself physically while honoring those lost to cancer like his niece.

Five years later, Phil keeps coming back to ride again.

“Together, we will slay this dragon called cancer and make the world a better place for future generations.”

Join Phil and his team of dragon slayers by registering for Empire State Ride today. Don’t wait — the last day to register is June 29.

Join Phil at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Packing pro tips (from riders who’ve been there)

Tackling a seven-day, 500+ mile cycling adventure takes preparation. One of the best steps you can take to prepare for the Empire State Ride is to pack appropriately. From there, check out the tips below from our veteran riders for inspiration on some of the more unique items you might need.

🚲 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

🚲 Maria Thor

Six-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

Four-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!

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! 

                                                                                                                        

Training for Hills on Flat Terrain

This is one of the most common questions I get asked. In this blog, I’ll break down the demands of climbing and the solution for training in flat terrain to meet those demands.

The demands of climbing can be broken down into three basic requirements. Good oxygen delivery to the working muscles, good pedaling efficiency and the right mindset and strategy to tackle the elevation gain. Let’s look at these a bit closer.

VO2Max

Oxygen delivery is expressed as VO2Max. This is your maximum ability to take oxygen from the atmosphere and deliver it to the working muscles. This is a very trainable system that does not require hills to accomplish. In the ESR Training plans your V02 is improved with the long Endurance Miles (EM) and the short high intensity Power Intervals (PI).

In the case of Endurance Miles it’s actually better to do this training on flattish terrain so you can keep the intensity consistently low. You may have heard this described as Zone 2 training. And here’s the kicker, the Power Intervals are best done in a very controlled environment and I often encourage my athletes to do these on an indoor trainer. You can do them outdoors as well but flat terrain is the best for these intervals as you need very high cadence to execute these well.

Pedaling Efficiency

It takes more energy to accelerate a bicycle that it does to keep it at a steady speed. So if you have big dead spots in your pedaling cycle you are essentially accelerating during every revolution of the pedal stroke. A dead spot is where pedaling power (torque) is lost when sub-optimally shifting from one movement pattern to another. Unpacking this further, if you have a dead spots in your pedal stroke you will struggle when the road goes up or when there is a significant headwind. Improving your pedaling efficiency will make the hills and headwinds a whole lot easier.

 

The good news is that this is very trainable in flat terrain. Use headwinds to improve your pedaling mechanics. Personally I like headwinds because it gives me an opportunity to work on my pedaling mechanics. And if you want to take it to the next level, go ride in a sandy trail. That will teach you how to maintain torque on the pedals.

To mimic the muscular endurance demands of climbing, ride into a headwind during your Endurance Miles with a bigger gear than you normally would choose. Don’t worry about speed, keep the intensity low and focus on maintaining effective force on the pedals from 12-7 around the crank.

Mindset and Strategy

If you dread the hills you’re missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling. I recently moved to Florida from CO and before I chose where to live here I did a recon to find the hilliest area in the state. So first we have to change our mindset and see hills as an opportunity to practice our pedaling and learn how to ride them with skill. Every hill provides a prize at the end, the fun descent!

First rule of climbing is start easy! Biggest mistake is to start too fast, blow up halfway up and rest at the top. When I do a climbing camp with cyclists the first thing I do is to challenge them to go up a hill as slow as I do. Invariably, as we ride side by side, as soon as we hit the hill they accelerate and within a few seconds are a bike length ahead of me. The right way to approach a hill is to keep your intensity at the same level as you were on the flats and allow the hill to slow you down. Shift to a lighter gear then if at some point you think you can go a little harder do it in small increments, one gear at a time, at a pace that you can sustain over the top and for the first 10 feet of the downhill on the other side.

You can practice this on flat terrain with a headwind. Pick a 5-10min stretch of road, start slow and gradually increase your speed until you find the right pace for you. Keep your Rate of Perceived Exertion at 6-7 and practice eliminating the dead spots in your pedal stroke.

The bottom line is that if you follow one of the three ESR training plans and incorporate the pedaling efficiency training you will have trained as well as you can for hills in flat terrain.

See you all soon!

Coach Charlie

 

ESR rider spotlight: Diana Flores

Diana Flores: Detective. Mother. Cyclist. Survivor. Warrior.

As a detective for the New York Police Department, Diana works for the Intelligence Bureau, detecting and disrupting criminal and terrorist activity using intelligence-led policing. The role marks a deviation from her previous job as an investigator in the field, where she faced dangerous and often life-threatening situations. Being involved in those situations taught her courage, strength and the value of doing what needs to be done — a mindset she’s embraced in all facets of her life.

When Diana learned that she had breast cancer in November 2020, that resilient mindset was tested. As the mother of a four-year-old daughter, hearing the words you have cancer was more terrifying than anything she’d ever encountered on the job.  

“Of course, I was afraid. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I can’t leave my daughter. I don’t want to die,’” she says. “When you’re living for someone who’s counting on you and looking up to you, the last thing you want to do is leave.”

Diana fought with everything she had to stay with her daughter. Over the course of two years, she underwent treatment, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Now, she’s grateful to have returned to a career she loves and a newfound purpose: fighting for other cancer patients.

From cancer survivor to cancer warrior

For as long as Diana can remember, being competitive and active have been pillars in her life. Her favorite childhood memories involved racing her brother, Anthony, on bikes to see who could make it to their aunt’s house first. They took different, more difficult routes every time. In adulthood, she sought out ways to stay active, breaking out her bike for fitness and leaning into anything she viewed as a challenge.

“Movement is medicine,” Diana says.

Naturally, when she saw an Empire State Ride commercial on TV at home in the Bronx, she knew her next journey was about to begin.

“When I found out what [ESR] was about and learned that it was for cancer research and to end cancer, I just got a feeling that said, ‘I have to do this ride,’” she says. “I was going through my chemo treatments at the time, and I promised myself that next year, if I was able to ride, nothing was going to stop me from doing it for myself and those who can’t do it.”

Empire State Ride 2022 will be her first-ever multiday tour. She’s completed other day rides, but this challenge is new to her, and nothing will hold her back. She knows she is stronger than any pain or challenge and is fighting for something bigger than herself. Diana rides today for the advancement of cancer cures tomorrow.

On Empire State Ride

Diana’s decision to participate in Empire State Ride comes less than a year after her treatments ended. She’s honoring not only herself, but her sister-in-law who survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her mother-in-law who is a two-time survivor of cervical cancer and her daughter for whom she has always fought.

“It’s going to be amazing when my daughter grows up. The technology and the medicine are going to get better. It has already gotten better. You go from people dying from breast cancer — and I know they still do — but there are so many more survivors. So, this ride is going to mean a lot.”

Diana has already started to train and dream about reaching the finish line at Niagara Falls. She’s been following Charlie Livermore’s training plan and has no doubt that reaching the falls will be one of the most rewarding moments of her life. It will take courage, strength and a commitment to doing what needs to be done, but the detective in her has years of practice at that already.

She’s thankful for the opportunity to ride and for the support of her family, especially her husband, William and her beautiful daughter. “I am just happy … happy to be strong enough. That I came out of this on top. It was a tough time, but I am happy that I am here to tell my story and that I am healthy.”

Become an Empire State road warrior and join Diana in the fight to end cancer.

Join Diana at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Rider spotlight: Doug Field

Meet ESR Hometown Challenge Champion, Doug Field. 

Five years ago, Doug Field felt off, like he wasn’t quite himself. He found himself getting dizzy, disoriented and confused about everyday details. He couldn’t remember how to get to a restaurant he frequented in Manhattan or how navigate his way through an airport without the help of his daughter. Something wasn’t right.

Doug’s suspicions were confirmed during a visit to his optometrist. His optic nerve was badly inflamed, and he was quickly referred to an ophthalmologist and a neurologist. Tests later revealed that Doug had metastases on his brain from cancer that spread from his lungs. He had never smoked. Since that time, Doug has worked closely with oncologists and neurologists to remove the metastases around his brain and prevent the cancer from worsening.

Rising above

 

Today, Doug’s mind is clearer and more focused than before. He undergoes immunotherapy and receives infusions every three weeks, but he’s persevering and continuing to push back against his diagnosis. In fact, Doug will soon be graduating with his Master of Business Administration degree and riding in the weeklong Empire State Ride alongside fellow survivors and thrivers. 

“I feel good, and I’m grateful,” Doug says. “Now, my story is that I’m riding to help fund research to fight, have an impact and enable more people to be eligible for treatment across a range of cancers.”

Doug's 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge

In 2020, Doug completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge and raised approximately $10,000 in the fight to end cancer. He says that participating in events like Empire State Ride Long Island is a great way to raise funds to drive the research that helps people like him navigate their cancer diagnosis.

“I’m a direct result of research efforts,” Doug says, “My oncologist says that when she finished her oncology fellowship, the rubric showed three boxes for patients with lung cancer, meaning you had three choices [for treatment]. Now she says that it’s an entire spreadsheet of different combinations, drugs and therapies.”

Physically, Doug feels better than ever despite his condition. When the idea of cycling first came up in a conversation with a friend, Doug couldn’t imagine riding the distances he currently does. Now, he rides on the weekends with a group of cyclists and can easily cover 50 or more miles on his own. That all started from a simple desire to do something to further cancer research for future generations.

Whether you’re a novice rider or riding is part of your weekly routine, participating in the Empire State Ride Long Island is the perfect way to raise funds and work toward more clinical treatment options.

Don’t miss out — register today!

Volunteer feature: Meet Ken

Meet Ken Flynn

Meet Dax, Ken’s four-legged road warrior

It’s a tall ask for someone to take a full week off work to join the Empire State Ride team on the road, but 46-year-old Ken Flynn doesn’t mind one bit. For him, it’s a family affair. His wife, Amy, tackles ESR as a road warrior, and Ken follows her from stop to stop with their golden retriever, Dax (above). They bring their camper, and Ken helps the ESR team while his wife is riding.

We sat down (virtually!) with Ken to hear his reasons for getting involved.

Q&A

Why do you volunteer for Empire State Ride?

I volunteer to be a supportive partner for my wife on a quest that means so much to her.

How did you get started with Empire State Ride?

My best friend knows Terry Bourgeois and told my wife and me about the ride. My wife and friend, Ben, planned to do the ride together in 2020; Ben’s wife and I planned to volunteer for the week while they were on the road. Ben, unfortunately, had to back out, but my wife was committed. 

She rides for her mother and her aunts who battled various forms of cancer. She lost her one aunt to pancreatic cancer.

What do your accommodations look like for the week?

I pull along our camper for a comfortable bed and air-conditioning at night. I even purchased a new truck to make it easier to tow my RV.

Why did you decide to come back again this year?

My wife and I both said this was going to be a one and done thing. That idea lasted about two days. It has turned into so much more than just volunteering for a week on the road. We have made incredible new friends and heard amazing stories that keep us coming back to help. The riders are truly amazing!

What’s one memory you have from being on the road?

The Regulators (left) are a team that came together last year that generally brings up the rear of the pack, coming in late almost every day. This team stayed at the back and helped so many who were struggling. Because of them, every one of these struggling riders was able to overcome and conquer the road. Seeing this is another reason why I have to come back for more.

What are you most looking forward about this year’s event?

Last year, I met so many great people, many of whom were survivors or currently battling cancer. The stories, emotions, people, food and overall cause is what makes it easy to return as a volunteer again in 2022.

Any last thoughts?

Nothing was going to stop me from volunteering for such an important cause. All I had to do was put in for vacation time.

 

Luckily, you don’t have to put in for vacation time to get involved as a volunteer for Empire State Ride. Volunteers are needed daily on the route, and you can sign up for a shift that fits your life. Learn more and sign up below.

Join Ken at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Finding the right wheels and gear

Empire State Ride is the adventure of a lifetime for many types of athletes. This unique challenge proves that, with two wheels, you can change the world and save lives. We have the answers to frequently asked questions about your two wheels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of bike can I use? 

A road bike is the best type of bicycle to ride during Empire State Ride. Road bikes are light weight, have a shifting system to take on distance and hills, narrow tires for pavement and precision braking systems. 

Some riders opt for a touring bike, which is heavier but built for long distance riding with gear.

Regardless of the make and model of your bike, we highly recommend you take your bike to a local bike shop for a fitting and tune up before setting out on this adventure.

Can I use an e-bike?

For Empire State Ride, we allow Class 1 and Class 2, pedal-assist road or touring bikes. We cannot accommodate throttle-assist e-bikes. E-bikes will need extender batteries to achieve the daily 70+ miles per day. E-bikes are charged each night at the campsite. Owners are responsible for charging the batteries. Before registering, please call us at 716-845-3179 to confirm your type of e-bike and charging requirements. 

Do I need clips and cycling shoes?

Many of our riders prefer to clip into pedals with cycling shoes, which allows for power on both upstroke and downstroke. Riders have completed Empire State Ride on touring and fitness bikes with clip-in or flat-pedal shoes. 

What do I wear?

High visibility gear! We suggest packing a fresh pair of cycling shorts and jersey for each day. Registered riders receive an Empire State Ride custom cycling jersey to wear on the first and last day of the weeklong ride. Don’t forget to pack cycling socks, cycling cap, shoes, gloves and a rain jacket. Empire State Ride happens rain or shine!

What do I need for my bike?

Riders need a seat or handlebar bag for their bike. Bike bags should carry a patch kit, tire levers, spare tubes, inflator and co2 cartridges (threaded or unthreaded dependent on type of inflator) to inflate tires and a multi-tool for quick repairs. A GPS unit is necessary for navigating our route, and we suggest carrying two water bottles for hydration. Certified helmet (CPSC or ASTM) and flashing front and rear bike lights are required for safety.

To be prepared for an average of 80 miles each day, riders should train to ride 20 to 30 miles outdoors at a brisk pace without stopping. Riders need to be comfortable while riding on bike paths and with traffic. Getting plenty of “seat time” will help your body adjust to the feel of long-distance cycling. It’s important to start using anti-chafing personal care products early in training to figure out what works best for your body. We suggest using chamois butter and Desenex proactively. 

The Empire State Ride is an experience for any cyclist who can commit to take on the adventure of a lifetime to end cancer. If you have additional questions, contact our team at empirestateride@roswellpark.org .

Alumni ESR rider advice for first-time riders

Hello first time #ESR rider, 

For a first-time rider, the Empire State Ride can seem intimidating. But, ask any of our alumni and they will remind you that this ride isn’t just a fitness challenge. They will proudly tell you that the Empire State Ride brought them a new perspective on the world, their life and each other.

If are a novice rider, or on the fence about accepting the challenge, look no further – our alumni have you covered.

 

You can do it!

“Your body can do anything… it’s your brain you need to convince.”Tracey M.

Studies have shown your body releases early signs of fatigue to keep you from overexerting yourself. With proper training you’ll find you can push through anything. 

 

“Humility. Accepting, with grace, my limitations.”Arlene K.

Sometimes enough is enough. While it is good to test your limits, you need to listen to your body. Your health and safety is our top priority. When you choose to go on the road with us, we have a team of professionals to support you every pedal of the way. 

 

Pace yourself, and get it done.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you pedal, just freaking pedal!”Sal T.

If you haven’t done a long-distance ride before, 500+ miles can seem impossible. One push at a time, one stretch at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have crossed that finish line.

“Pacing is key. I can hang on the back of a train at 23 mph for a day and then struggle to ride 10 mph for the next two days. Or I can ride 13 mph all day, every day.”Matt G.

Find your flow and stick to it. This is not a race, it’s an adventure. 

“For me, there are three: 

  1. Bring a battery powered oscillating fan for your tent! 
  2. It’s not a race, always take the time to stop for a picture or explore something cool 
  3. Make SURE to use the bathroom before going to bed every night. Nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night when you are exhausted and can’t see anything.” – Jason M. 

“Ride your own ride…and enjoy it.”Rick J.

No matter what, this challenge is about you and the cancer patients you are riding for. Enjoy yourself and do what you need to do to prepare so you are ready for the ride of your life.

Meet Your New Close Friends.

“Who knew in those 7 days of cycling you would inherit a family. ESR family for life.”Maurice A.

“You will have yourself another family. Ride with others but ride by yourself…you’ll have to dig in and it’ll all make sense.”Nicholas R.

At the beginning of the Empire State Ride, a group of strangers begins their journey across New York. By the time the riders cross the finish line, they have made lifelong friendships. And nothing will break that bond.


“Enjoy the moment and the great sights and people around you. It doesn’t matter if you ride 12 mph or 20 you are moving forward for a great cause.”Daisy H.

Look at the bigger picture. You are completing a ride of a lifetime to advance cancer research. Cycling is a celebration of health. We must do our part to end cancer. 


“Started as a “me” thing. Ended as a “we” thing.”Chris H.


“Putting yourself out there, challenging yourself and supporting a cause will inspire others to do the same.” 

– David V.

Road warriors are courageous. Choosing to ride the Empire State Ride is choosing to lead. Your hard work contributes to the world of cancer research and the patients at Roswell Park. 

Don’t forget your butt!

“Develop your chafing prevention protocol early and stick with it.”Chris H.

Saddle sores hurt. We suggest training for a long-distance ride, as much as possible, and finding the saddle that works for you. 

“Extra strength Desitin = Liquid Gold.”Michelle B. 

The food is fantasitic.

“Snacks!”Jose V.

Everything you need to keep you going on the road will be provided with a smile from our team. 

“I learned I can gain weight over the same seven days I rode 540+ miles. The food was excellent!”Jim M.

You have been warned. Riders enjoy catered breakfast and dinner every day

ESR rider spotlight: Maria Thor

Why this year’s ride matters more than ever

For 59-year-old Maria Thor, enjoying nature, being surrounded by loved ones and taking care of her health are three of life’s greatest blessings. She cycles six days a week and adds an hour of weights whenever possible as part of her training for Empire State Ride, which she has proudly done every year since 2017. She rides to honor her parents who both lost their battles to cancer.

Through everything, Maria’s strong faith sees her through life’s ups and downs. In recent years, this faith has become more important than ever as she’s been faced with new challenges.

Early warning signs

In February 2021, Maria was diagnosed with dyslexia, a condition that affects how she processes written language. The diagnosis shed light on the struggles Maria faced throughout her life. Armed with a new perspective, she set out to learn how to navigate her condition by spending time with a specialist in New York City. It was during training that she started to notice something in her stomach didn’t feel right. 

“I know my body so well, and that’s really important,” Maria says. “I always stress that if there’s something wrong, you should go to the doctor.”

And she did. She called her doctor right away and had an appointment as soon as she returned home in November. After a sonogram and a CT scan, she received a phone call that no one ever wants to receive.

“I’ll never forget it. I was riding my bicycle when the doctor called and said I had a fatty mass. I almost fell off my bike.”

On November 22, Maria’s diagnosis came back: Leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that grows in the smooth muscles.

Maria Thor-020822-070

Alongside her niece, Rebecca, close friend, Terry, and the staff at Roswell Park, Maria started chemotherapy. For each round of treatment, she stays at the hospital for days at a time, hooked up to an infusion pump on an IV stand that Rebecca has fondly named Wanda. Despite any limitations, Maria completes three miles, or about 99 laps around her floor, with Wanda in tow.

Not all days are good, but she does what she can to keep herself moving. That includes participating in her sixth Empire State Ride.

“It’s in God’s hands what I’m going to be able to do this year [at ESR],” Maria says. “If it’s just a mile, I’ll do a mile. But I will be at the Empire State Ride, heck or high water, sleeping in a tent and joining everybody in celebration.”

 

 

Remembering her first ride

Maria’s journey makes raising funds to end cancer more important than ever.  She thinks back to her first Empire State Ride in 2017 and remembers not knowing what to expect. A self-declared “Holiday Inn girl,” she avoided camping for most of her life and had limited experience with distance cycling.

“I really had no idea how to ride my bicycle. I just rode,” she said. “It’s a game — getting the rest, taking the supplements you need, drinking water every 10 minutes, finding a support group to cheer you on. That first year, you really learn.”

As she prepares to embark on her sixth Empire State Ride with her team, GBY9 (“God Bless You” followed by her parents’ favorite number), she looks forward to doing what she can on her bike and cheering everybody else on. Like years past, she’ll stop when she sees a penny or quarter and pocket what she calls her “wings from heaven.” Later, she’ll add the coins to her fundraising total.

Most importantly, Maria will keep a list of people who have donated to her fundraiser and send them prayers from the road. They’re part of her team, and she can say firsthand that what they’re doing makes a difference in the lives of patients like her.

“Your whole life changes in a blink when you hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’” she said. “You don’t take anything for granted.”

That, Maria says, is reason enough to keep moving.

Join Maria at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Official 2022 route

The official ESR 2022 route is here! 

Let’s take a deep dive into what our road warriors can expect as they embark on the ride of a lifetime this summer.

Orientation

Check-in begins at Wagner College on Staten Island. Riders will drop their gear, can take a self-guided tour of Manhattan, meet new riders, reconnect with old friends and get ready to start the 500+ mile adventure the next day.

Day 1: 58+ miles

You’ll start the day with the group photo on the steps of Wagner College and head out on a brief ride to the Staten Island Ferry. While on the ferry, you will take in the iconic scenes of New York City including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island and Battery Park. Once in Manhattan, riders will take the west side Greenway bike paths past The World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial, Aircraft Carrier Intrepid Museum, George Washington Bridge and beautiful views of the Hudson River.

Riders will take city streets and the South County bike trail through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx into Yonkers and Westchester County. Following the east bank of the Hudson River, Day 1 will continue until all riders arrive at camp in Somers.

Day 2: 79 miles

Depart camp and head northeast through the towns of Westchester and Dutchess counties, past Vassar College to the Walkway Over the Hudson for a rest stop and photo opportunity. After a quick break, continue your 79-mile trek past the FDR Presidential Library, Vanderbilt Museum and Staatsburg State Historic Site before arriving at the Day 2 camp site — the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, home of the largest six-day agricultural fair in New York State.

Day 3: 77 miles

During this 77-mile day, you will continue along the Hudson River until you get to the Erie Canal. You will rest at New York State Capital Park in Albany for a look at the state government before embarking on the final 9 miles to camp at the Shaker Heritage Site, where the Shaker religion was first founded in the United States.

Day 4: 100 miles

It’s century day! Ride along the Mohawk River and the historic Erie Canal through small towns and villages until you make it to Utica, New York. This day will challenge you but remember to stop for a photo op at the official halfway point of the ESR adventure.

Day 5: 83 miles

On Day 5, you will have the chance to experience breakfast at the famous Flo’s Diner, home of the Ten Cent Coffee. Passing through the picturesque surroundings of Oneida Lake, you will continue on for a party with live music and overnight camping at Weedsport Speedway, home of dirt track car racing.  

Day 6: 81 miles

On the penultimate day, continue west along the Erie Canal through Lyons, Palmyra, Fairport and Pittsford. A road warrior favorite is a quick stop at Pittsford Dairy Farms for an afternoon ice cream. After you refuel, you will continue your ride until you arrive at camp at the American Legion Post in Spencerport.

Day 7: 78 miles

You’ve made it to the final leg of #ESR22! You will continue west through Brockport, Albion and Medina before breaking for lunch in Lockport, home of Lake Effect Ice Cream. In the home stretch, you will ride through wine country before arriving at Deveaux Woods State Park to gather for a police-escorted ride through the finish line celebration down Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

Throughout the week, there will be extra challenges for experienced riders (think hills and mileage) as well as boosts to help any riders struggling to complete a day. Ultimately, the Empire State Ride is an experience for any rider who is prepared to take on the adventure of a lifetime to end cancer.

proceeds directly benefit