Mark McDermott

Tour de Pier sets new record

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Members of Team Kory came out in support of the 7th Annual Tour de Pier Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Gaffney

by Mark McDermott

One of the draws to the 7th Annual Tour de Pier was the comedian and high wattage celebrity George Lopez, who did indeed show up for the signature local event at which 2,000 cyclists rode stationary bikes to raise money to cure cancer and to help those in the midst of the fight. But a mother whooping her teenage son kind of stole the show.

Liz and T.J. Underhill have been riding together, and competing against each other, for four years. They were inspired by the loss of a close family friend, Kory Hunter, who died of an aggressive form of cancer known as Glioblastoma the day before the very first Tour de Pier in 2013. T.J. was nine years old the first time he and his mom rode with a friendly wager over who could raise the most money. Going into Sunday’s event, he was undefeated. His mom was determined that this was the year she’d finally outraise him, and the stakes were high: if he won, she had to quit coffee for a month; if she won, he’d have to cut off his long golden locks. Going into race day, the pair were in a tie —  each had raised $2,400.

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But by the end of the next day, Liz was victorious, with $2,860 to $2,625. Over triumphant coffee the next morning, she shared the news with her Facebook friends.

“It seems only fitting as the curtain fell on the Games of Thrones dynasty that T.J.’s reign ended as well,” she wrote. “Yes, indeed this morning I’m having a large coffee and have already called for an opening in the barber’s chair!”

In truth, everybody involved Sunday was victorious. Tour de Pier raised a record $1.5 million, outstripping its previous high from last year by $300,000. Those funds will go towards three cancer charities: the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Uncle Kory Foundation (in honor of Kory Hunter), and the Cancer Support Community, the locally based organization that provides support to those dealing with the impacts of cancer personally or in their family.  

“It’s really incredible, and I want to pinch myself sometimes when I think about all the different moving parts that go into making this event so successful,” said Lisa Manheim, a Tour de Pier co-founder. “In the end, every moving part has somebody behind it who is incredibly passionate and giving —  doing something like this almost purely with volunteers is astounding…This is grassroots at its finest, and it’s three organizations all working in harmony to make it happen.”

“We always say, ‘We can’t possibly top this year,’ and then we think, ‘How can we top this year?’ It’s about the energy of people that are there, from the riders to the instructors and everybody who comes to support it. Everyone who is there, from a volunteer to an instructor to a rider, just wants to be there, and it’s such an incredible combination of emotion, passion, loss, and fighting and dancing and celebrating and everything in between.”

This year proved especially challenging when rain clouds began bunching up Friday afternoon. Organizers were able to pull a permit at the last possible moment to put up a tent, and Manheim praised the city for making it all happen.

“The City of Manhattan Beach was just excellent in working with us,” Manheim said. “We are really thankful for them, and for the fact that people woke up Sunday morning when it was pouring rain and showed up.”

Mayor Steve Napolitano expressed gratitude for tour organizers.

“Tour de Pier is a great event for a good cause and it’s great to see everyone get into it with teams and costumes,” he said. “Sure, it rained this year, but what’s a little rain when you are trying to fight for those fighting cancer? Ride on.”


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