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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

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