Esther Kang

Tour de Pier: Riding in place in Manhattan Beach to advance cancer research

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Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Eric Fonoimoana, Tour de Pier co-founder Heath Gregory and Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Kerri Walsh at a media event last month at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach.

Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Eric Fonoimoana, Tour de Pier co-founder Heath Gregory and Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Kerri Walsh at a media event last month at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach.

Last week, Olympic road cyclist Tony Cruz was approached by a gentleman who shared with him that five of his friends, in just one year, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Only two of them survived.

“He personally wanted to thank me for helping with the cause,” said Cruz, the bicycle ambassador for the City of Long Beach, where he resides.

This Sunday, Cruz will participate in the inaugural Tour de Pier at the Manhattan Beach pier as one of seven celebrity riders, which include three Olympic gold medalists—swimmer and testicular cancer survivor Eric Shanteau, water polo player Heather Petri, volleyball player Eric Fonoimoana—as well as three-time Manhattan Beach Grand Prix winner Rahsaan Bahati, former NBA player Brent Barry and U.S. Cycling Hall of Famer Ted Ernst. Craig Hummer, seven-time U.S. Ocean Ironman Champion and sports commentator, will MC the event.

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The team is riding alongside several hundred others, with the common mission of collectively raising $300,000 for cancer support and research.

“It’s important that they have a cause because it engages the participants in a way that’s different from trying to be competitive,” Cruz explained. “It’s more of an emotional engagement.”

But Tour de Pier is not a run-of-the-mill charity ride. Participants will not be navigating from Point A to Point B, as is typical; rather, they will take to about 200 stationary cycles at the Manhattan Beach pier, riding in place and in unison, facing the ocean.

Spin cycling is increasingly becoming a popular indoor fitness activity, particularly in the Beach Cities community, explained Heath Gregory, who co-founded the event with Jon Hirshberg and Lisa Manheim of the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

“Only in the last couple of years has indoor cycling really taken off,” Gregory said, crediting studios like Manhattan Beach’s FitOn Studios for familiarizing the sport.

“They’ve really done a great job of exposing our community to the benefits of spin cycling and how you can enjoy that workout experience,” said Gregory, a longtime cyclist living in Manhattan Beach. “It allows me to condense my workout to an hour. A lot of people are gravitating towards it.”

When Hirshberg first approached him with the idea of Tour de Pier, Gregory’s mind flashed back to the 2009 Tour de France, where he, at a park in Barcelona, rode in unison with 300 others decked in yellow Livestrong T-shirts. It was quite a spectacle—in a good way, he recalled.

The founders shortly approached a number of high-profile local athletes because they “wanted to promote healthy lifestyle, and the people who embodied that most would be athletes who devoted their lives to fitness and sports,” Gregory explained.

They were quick to jump onboard. Each of them, Gregory recalled, shared a personal story of how cancer has affected his or her life.

“You find out very quickly that everybody’s been touched by it,” Gregory said.

For himself, three of his immediate family members are terminally ill with colon cancer, brain cancer and leukemia.

Proceeds from the event, divvied into four 50-minute riding sessions, will benefit the Hirshberg Foundation for Pacreatic Cancer Research; the Cancer Support Community of Redondo Beach; the Livestrong Foundation, and the Friendship Circle of the South Bay.

Tour de Pier will also feature a health and fitness expo highlighting products and services that focus on healthy living and prevention, such as food supplements, water bottles, fitness equipment and services. A Kid Zone will feature a number of interactive activities, including a pitching machine, an obstacle course and a bouncy house. Cynergy Cycles of Santa Monica will raffle off four children’s bikes.

Registration is closed. For information on how to donate or volunteer, visit tourdepier.com.

 

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