Two area men to take part in Pan-Mass Challenge

NASHUA – For Nashua residents Bill Provost and Jeff Margolis, there was never a question about participating in this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge. The reimagined, virtual event meant that riders would reinvent how they rode. And that’s exactly what Provost and Margolis did.

On Aug. 1, more than 10,000 participants, including 29 from Hillsborough County, will virtually take part in the 2020 Pan-Mass Challenge. The goal is to raise critical funds for cancer research and patient care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute located in Boston.

For Provost, this will be his fourteenth consecutive year of riding in the PMC. He said part of the appeal of the challenge is the camaraderie.

“You have thousands of volunteers and riders and residents and everyone, who turn out for PMC weekend,” he said. “It’s an emotional and uplifting and inspirational type of event. Seeing a teenager on a street corner holding a sign that says, ‘I’m here because of you, thank you riders,’ really gets to you.”

At a water stop, just outside of Lakeville, Massachusetts, riders “meet up” with their PMC “Pedal Partners,” a group which joins a cancer patient from Dana-Farber with a PMC team. Before retiring in 2018, Provost was the captain of his company’s team.

“We got introduced to a fantastic young man named Jackson,” he shared. “We got to know him him and his family, a great family, and we got to know his situation. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in February 2014. He went through a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy at Dana-Farber.”

Provost said that Jackson’s prognosis wasn’t looking good.

“At the end of the year, either the prayers and/or his treatments kicked in and this past Thursday, we had Jackson and his family come down to Odd Fellows and celebrate his 16th birthday.”

Several members of the team, who have had the good fortune of meeting Jackson, joined in the celebration.

“We sat socially distanced outside,” Provost said. “You can’t have cake these days, so we had individual cupcakes. So, Jackson is thriving and doing great. It shows what the medical professionals at Dana-Farber do. They save lives every week down there.”

Driving through that water spot near Lakeville, Porter said there are posters with photographs of all the Pedal Partners.

“It’s tough not to get a little teary-eyed when you go through that,” he said. “These kids are all so hopeful and positive, even as they go through incredible challenges.

For this year’s ride, PMC founder and executive director Billy Starr challenged the riders to reimagine their virtual, solo or small group ride this year. Large groups of riders are not permitted.

“I am passionate about three things,” Porter said. “Family, cycling, and the Pan-Mass Challenge. So, I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a true Pan-Massachusetts challenge. So, this past Thursday night, two other riders and I are going to start cycling across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

They’ll start at the Massachusetts-New York state line and will bicycle on a route known as “Day 0.”

“The original PMC route was over a two-day event,” Provost said. “The first day goes from Sturbridge to Bourne. The second day goes from Bourne to Provincetown. It’s about 110 miles the first day and 80 miles the second day.”

For “Day-0,” some riders will make it a true Pan-Mass challenge by biking Friday morning at the New York state line and ride 100 miles to Sturbridge for the opening ceremonies.

“We thought as part of raising awareness and raising money for Dana-Farber, we’re going to try to do all three day routes in one day,” Provost said. “There are some other PMC riders that wanted to participate but they didn’t know about the 300 miles. So, there will be four other cyclists who will be joining us in Sturbridge. One will do the 110 miles to Bourne, and the other three will continue with us to Provincetown.”

Nashuans might also know the semi-retired Provost from Odd Fellows Brewery, located at 124 Main St. He’s the owner.

“My son Patrick is the general manager, so I help out sometimes,” he said. “We started over nine years ago with a neighborhood sports bar called O’Briens. Then we expanded that. And a little less than three years ago, we wanted to expand again.”

They were going through a lot of beer when Provost thought they could brew beer themselves.

“Craft beer was and is very popular these days,” he said. “Our customers really enjoy our beer selection.”

Also, Odd Fellows fundraising beer, “Vision,” was designed and initially brewed by members of PMC Team Vision. Two dollars of every pint sold at Odd Fellow will be donated to the PMC during the month of August.

A cyclist for 16 years, Provost said he “feels like a kid” when he’s cycling, and his motto is “Go big or go home.”

For cyclist Jeff Margolis, also of Nashua, his company, Lindenmeyr Munroe, a paper and packaging supply company in Londonderry, does philanthropic fundraisers and in 2018, they selected the Pan-Mass challenge.

“They put together a team and we all decided to raise money for Dana-Farber,” he said. “I’ve never been a cyclist before. So, I went out and bought all the equipment, the bike, the helmet, the shoes. I started training five miles a week and kept going up. My longest ride was 40 miles.”

In 2018, he did the one-day event, which was 82 miles. Margolis said he did 192. Cancer effects many and he was no exception.

“My current girlfriend’s husband passed away from cancer four years ago,” he shared. “So, I dedicated that to him. And in the past year, I lost my aunt to cancer and two colleagues here at work passed away from cancer as well.”

Cycling is cathartic and the faces of the many people lining each bike route enthuse riders.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Margolis said. “You’re going along and there are people lined up on the street and they’re clapping and yelling. There’s so much support from them. It’s amazing. You’re riding and you can’t wait to get to the end and when you get there, it’s such a feeling.”

Margolis said the ride may be therapeutic, but the goal of raising money to help cancer treatment keeps most riders moving.

With the Pan-Mass ride being reimagined, Margolis said this year his plan is to ride about 20 miles. They left it up to the individual person and because of COVID-19, training was more difficult.

“I’ll probably be riding by myself,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll be putting together a team, because everybody works in Londonderry but lives in other places.”

Margolis said he understood the undertaking of riding for the cause and said he set a five-year goal.

“I’m in my third year now,” he said. “And if I stay healthy, I do plan on doing more.”

To donate to the PCM, please visit www.pmc.org. Click on donate and search for a rider you might know.