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Team spotlight: the Regulators

Meet the Regulators

"Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."

Each Empire State Ride road warrior who tackles the adventure in July hopes to glean something different from riding their bike 500+ miles across New York State. For those on Team Regulators, it comes down to raising funds for cancer research and having fun while doing it.

“We’re just a band of misfits,” said Josh Lundquist, a founding member of the Regulators. “We’re all the non-super-serious cyclists who go to have a good time. We goof around; we pick on each other. It’s all in good fun to get your mind off some of the daunting hills and long days. Through that, we’ve made lifelong friends.”

The Regulators, led by 2024 team captain Amy Flynn, has become one of Empire State Ride’s largest teams, with 16 cyclists on last year’s roster. The growth can be attributed to a variety of factors, but one comes up time and time again: “picking up strays,” a term they use endearingly.

As a no-drop group, the Regulators often quote the Disney classic Lilo and Stitch as they pick up riders in need of motivation, making sure that nobody gets left behind or forgotten. Why? Because that’s what family does, and through the years, the Regulators have become just that: family. They do their best to make sure cyclists who take on the adventure solo or fall behind their group aren’t alone. As long as riders don’t mind the banter, they have a place with the Regulators.

“We come in last for two reasons. One: Because it’s not a race, and we want to have fun and enjoy every single mile that we’re out there. Two: We really don’t leave anyone behind,” said Shelley Unocic, a long-time member of the Regulators. “You ride as fast as the slowest person who’s going to stay in that group with you.”

Riding with Purpose

Two members of the Regulators fist bump during day seven of the 2023 Empire State Ride

The Regulators often joke that they aren’t the fastest team (often self-declared dead last), but they have grit and a fierce passion for riding to end cancer. In fact, their team was the third top team last year, raising more than $106K for cancer research at Roswell Park and beyond.

For Shelley, being a part of the Empire State Ride movement is a chance to make a lasting difference in the mission to end cancer.

One fact that motivates her, in particular, is that for every dollar donated to ESR, Roswell Park is able to leverage an additional $23 from external grants toward cancer research. That means donations have a huge impact on the future of cancer care, paving the way for innovative new treatment options.

Shelley has helped the Regulators become a fundraising powerhouse with her unique ideas, unbeatable drive and passion for the cause. Not only do these riders stay in contact year-round, but they fundraise together. The Regulators have found great success in unique fundraising methods like hosting a hockey tournament, working concessions at the Buffalo Bills games and encouraging riders to use their unique talents for the cause.

“We fundraise together as a team, and it makes life easier,” Josh says.

How Josh Got Started on the Regulators

Josh with his family and best friend, fellow ESR rider, Mike.

Like so many riders, the cancer cause is highly personal to each member of the Regulators. For Josh, ESR first became a thought when he saw an ad during a Buffalo Sabres game.

“I said to my friend Mike, ‘Listen, when I’m fully recovered, we’re going to do this.’ And he looked at me and goes, ‘Are you serious?’”

Josh was serious. At that time, he was battling a rare form of testicular cancer, a diagnosis he received after dealing with continued kidney pain. In the emergency room, he learned he had a tumor the size of a softball that wrapped around his aorta, vena cava and the ureter to his left kidney.

Josh explained that his particular type of cancer doubles in size every 11 days. To stop the progression, he went through six rounds of chemo over the course of about four months and had his kidney removed.

“I had my last treatment on Christmas Eve. The next Friday, I put my ice skates back on and played hockey. I just wasn’t going to let cancer take me away from me.”

Not long after, he and Mike, his friend of 20 years, signed up for ESR together. They’ve been an integral part of the ESR community ever since.

Shelley’s Inspiration for Riding

When Shelley Unocic first heard of ESR, she doubted whether or not she had what it took to ride 500+ miles across New York State. She questioned, “I was in my mid-40s. I am not an athlete. I’m just an average mom.” Soon she would learn, she is anything but average.

She mustered up the courage in 2020 to sign up. She was ready for the experience of a lifetime. Then, COVID-19 hit, and the ride she had envisioned was no longer an option. Still, that didn’t keep her from raising money and putting in the miles. She took part in the Hometown Challenge that year, and in 2021, she was finally able to get the full seven-day ESR experience.

“It was life changing. I thought I was one and done, and now I’m in year five and will probably ride ESR until I can’t ride my bike anymore,” said Shelley.

Like so many ESR road warriors, Shelley too has a connection to the cancer cause.

“My father-in-law passed away from esophageal cancer. By the time he had been diagnosed, it was stage 4. They gave him two months to two years to live. He lasted 12 months, and it was eleven months of hell.”

While her efforts through ESR couldn’t have saved her father-in-law, she knows that being a part of this movement is changing the future of cancer care … and that keeps her going.

ESR’s 10th Anniversary

An ESR jersey saying 500+ miles, 7 days, one mission

2024 marks 10 years of ESR. When asked if they’d be there for the milestone, neither Josh or Shelley hesitated.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. ESR has become a staple in our life,” said Josh. “We rode with Terry when we found out we hit $1 million for cancer research. That kind of stuck with me, and I want to be there for when we hit the next milestone and the next milestone.”

Shelley added, “The 10th anniversary just speaks volumes to Terry’s vision and how far it’s come. The fact that so many of us have been able to be on that journey for so many years and get it to where it is, is a special feeling. I tell people this event is a life-changing event. It certainly changed my life.”

JOIN THE REGULATORS FOR THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF EMPIRE STATE RIDE

Rider Spotlight: Alan Kurtz

Meet ESR Road Warrior Alan Kurtz

Alan talks about the Hometown Challenge, overcoming obstacles and honoring 75+ loved ones

Alan Kurtz, 64, sits in front of a wall of race T-shirts, all cut down to squares and stitched together into a quilt that speaks to his lifelong passion. In front of them rests his road bike, a towel draped over the handlebars from his most recent ride. Running has always been at the center of Alan’s life. He’s completed seven marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon — one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive running events. He ran the 26.2 miles with pride despite a sprained ankle. Later in life, he began competing in triathlons, which brought him into the world of cycling. Once he discovered Empire State Ride, the rest was history.

WHY EMPIRE STATE RIDE MATTERS

Image shows the back of Alan's custom jersey with the names of 75 people lost to cancer.

Like many, Alan has a personal connection to the cancer cause. He lost his father to cancer in 1984, and since then, he’s constantly sought out ways to honor his father’s memory. Walks and short races to raise money weren’t for Alan; he wanted something that would challenge him and combine his love of endurance sports. That’s when he saw a suggestion on Facebook for a 7-day bike tour. He clicked through, learned about the Empire State Ride and read that it supported clinical trials and cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He knew he had to become a road warrior.

In 2017, Alan embarked on a journey of a lifetime to end cancer, joining his fellow road warriors in tackling the 500+ miles from New York City to Niagara Falls. He’s been involved with the event ever since. Along the way, he has honored his father’s 56-year legacy, as well as a growing list of other loved ones affected by cancer: his mother who passed away in 2018, his mother-in-law who passed away in 2016, his father-in-law who passed away in 2020, his uncle who lost his battle in 2022 and 71 others affected by various forms of cancer.

Alan also honors his own battle with prostate cancer after receiving a diagnosis this past year.

With cancer affecting so many facets of Alan’s life, he knew he’d keep coming back to Empire State Ride year over year. Of course, life sometimes has other plans.

RIDING THROUGH IT ALL

A global pandemic, the loss of loved ones, hip surgery and other obstacles have kept Alan from joining his fellow road warriors on the road in recent years. But that hasn’t stop him from participating. He’s completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge multiple times, always finding new and innovative ways to cover the distance.

This past year, Alan rode up the eastern seaboard of his home state of Florida over the course of seven days. He charted out a course that traveled along the east coast from his home near West Palm Beach, finishing up just north of Jacksonville, booking hotel rooms each night along the way. His wife followed him on his journey, meeting him at preset rest stops (with nutrition and hydration) and the “finish line” in front of each hotel.

Along the way, Alan took in the sights, including a statue of a tin man, piglets, Daytona Speedway and a PGA tournament golf course.

“It was beautiful. I’ve seen many parts of Florida driving, but riding it just gives you a whole new perspective. You can take in so much of the scenery: the local developments and real estate, the river, along the Intercoastal Waterway and, of course, the beach. It was really just a great ride. I’m glad I did it.”

For the challenge, he had two jerseys designed. One jersey indicated that his “Sunshine State Ride” was in support of the Empire State Ride; the other included the names of 75 people who motivate and inspire him to ride, a list that is not comprehensive.

“They are not alone,” Alan says. “More than anything, they (and numerous others) are why I ride!”

ALAN'S ADVICE ON THE HOMETOWN CHALLENGE

The beauty of the 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge is that you can log the miles on your terms while still raising funds for the same impactful cause. You can ride anywhere in the world and break up the miles however you choose during the month of July (or beyond).

“If this is a cause that you really believe in and you want to do something about it but can’t afford to go on the road, the Hometown Challenge is your best opportunity to do it,” Alan says. “It’s not that hard if you put your mind to it.”

Here are some of the great benefits you’ll get when you sign up for the challenge:

  • A private Facebook group with fellow riders to connect, share advice and ask questions
  • The new ESR myHUB app
  • Access to experts, including a fundraising coordinator, cycling coach and more
  • Fundraising tools to help you meet and exceed your personal goal
  • Challenge to track your miles during the month of July
  • Rewards to celebrate your milestones
  • A team of other cyclists from around the world, ready to take on this adventure with you

“ESR, to me, is not only about the challenge; more importantly, it’s about the cause. Figure out what you’re comfortable with, get dedicated, get motivated and get out there and do it,” Alan says. “You will get better, you will get more comfortable, and you’ll be able to go farther. It’s not about speed, but you will find yourself going faster, and you’ll find yourself just loving it.”

JOIN ALAN AT THIS YEAR'S RIDE — IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY