Posts Tagged ‘Tony Espy’

2023 PMC Wrap-Up (short version)

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023
Crossing the finish line in Provincetown

The 2023 Pan Mass Challenge took place on August 5th and 6th. It was truly a weekend to remember. While the 2022 PMC was the hottest ride I’d ever done, the 2023 ride was hands down the best weather in my 35 years riding in this event. Here’s the highlights for me:

  • Driving to Sturbridge with Eric and Meaghan.
  • Having an incredible lunch at BT’s BBQ (best I’ve had in New England)
  • Reconnecting with old friends in Sturbridge
  • The pandemic being a distant memory
  • Riding with Eric and Tony both days the entire way
  • Nancy, Nicole, Meaghan, and Joyce (Meaghan’s mom) volunteering in Franklin
  • Connecting with our pedal partner, Teagan, Day 1 in the PHAT lands en route
  • Eric and Tony both riding incredibly strong both days
  • Eric saving me 95 miles into Day 1 with a hotshot to get rid of a leg cramp
  • Crossing the finish line Day 1 with Eric and Tony
  • Pulling the team paceline along the Cape Cod Canal
  • Flying over the rollers from Sandwich to Barnstable
  • Nickerson State Park water stop with popsicles
  • Da Hedge being kinda back…
  • Wellfleet water stop fluffernutters, a tradition
  • The dunes in Race Point in Provincetown
  • Team PHAT Tuesday staying together Day 2 with almost no wait at Race Point or the final guard rail regroup to finish
  • Crossing the finish line Day 2 with Eric, Tony, and most of Team PHAT Tuesday
  • Dinner in Provincetown with Eric and Meaghan
  • Staying the night in Provincetown in lieu of the ferry back


  • Pre-recorded opening ceremonies
  • 1 mile of scarified road at mile 24 to the first stop
  • Crazy bike traffic where the Wellesley and Sturbridge routes merge
  • Our teammate Jeff crashing due to rider carelessness
  • Food at MMA (theme musta been burnt – pizza, burgers, chicken)
  • Poor rider etiquette on the service road Day 2. Riders all over the road not holding their line or staying to the right

Till next year…

2023 PMC Wrap-up – long version

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023
Crossing the finish line
Crossing the finish line in Provincetown

The 2023 Pan Mass Challenge took place on August 5th and 6th. It was truly a weekend to remember. While the 2022 PMC was the hottest ride I’d ever done, the 2023 ride was hands down the best weather in my 35 years riding in this event. The following is an account of my PMC weekend.

As usual, we made the trek to Sturbridge with the goal of arriving around 1pm. Why so early? The traffic getting out there just gets worse as the day progresses. We like to get there with time to relax, grab lunch at our favorite BBQ place, check in to the hotel and get our weekend ride registration and jerseys before the crowds arrive. This gives us the chance to get everything ready for the 5:30 rollout Saturday morning. This worked out as Eric was able to try his jersey on and swap it out for one that fit him better.

Traffic getting there was consistent. Very glad we got an early start We got to Sturbridge and dropped our stuff at the hotel as our room was ready. We said goodbye to Meaghan and we walked over to B.T.’s Smokehouse.

The food at B.T.’s was phenomenal as usual. If you find yourself in the Sturbridge area I strongly suggest you give it a try. If you’re a lover of smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork / chicken, etc you will not be disappointed. We ran into some friends there and the yearly reunion began. Somehow every year the same crew has the same routine. It’s not just us but it’s nice that some things in the world are constant and back to normal after some crazy pandemic years.

The afternoon is spent catching up with friends, meeting new people, and just getting into the PMC zone. Another constant is the people that make up this event. From the volunteers to the participants to the police it’s just the best group you could ever hope to be around. For the one weekend a year everyone is aligned. There’s no politics or division. We’re all there for the sme reason, help put cancer in the history books once and for all.

It’s good having the time to get the bikes and all our gear ready for the morning. It makes it so much easier to rollout at the ungodly hour. The afternoon seemed to fly by as usual, we hit the food tent for some dinner, went to the opening ceremonies, stumbled on a party at a room down the hall from us hosted by an old friend. How they got on the bike the next morning is beyond me but that’s another story. Let’s just say there was a lot of Tequila flowing. We made it an early night. I had set my alarm for 3:45 but as was typical the night before the PMC, I barely slept. I was up every hour. The anticipation and anxiety of getting on the bike and riding 110 miles the next day makes it tough to get good sleep.

I finally gave in and got up around 3:30AM and showered. We got dressed and put our bikes out at the starting line. One nice thing about staying at the HQ for the start is we were in the very front row of the coral. This means we’d be rolling out of there at the front of thousands of bikes. It’s just a lot safer and we can roll out and pedal quicker than if we were in the middle to the back of the crowd. We had a quick breakfast, some coffee, and dressed for the day’s ride. We dropped our bags off at the trucks that would take them to the Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) in Bourne where we finish day 1.

A rider sang the national anthem, very well I might add, and we rolled out at 5:30am right on time. The weather was just perfect. It was still dark but the air was crisp. I gave up trying to use my riding glasses as they were fogging up from the morning dew. No biggie as long as I kept my ride to a comfortable pace I didn’t need to watch my heart rate, speed, or cadence. Mileage is kind of nice to know as we were warned of a road that had been stripped down 24 miles in, 1 mile from the first water stop. The miles just seemed to fly by. The first two sections of the ride are the toughest as they have most of the hills. Fresh legs make the hills seem relatively easy. I was glad we had been warned as we saw this break in the pavement and there was a drop of a few inches to scarified asphalt. This doesn’t sound like much but when you’re flying along on skinny racing tires inflated to high pressure if you hit this the wrong way it’s a recipe for disaster. This section was really rough on the body as you felt every imperfection of the road. We slowed down a bit to keep it safer and rolled into the first stop after 25 miles averaging 19.2 mph. This was probably a little faster than my plan but Eric and Tony seemed good with the pace and the goal was to keep the 3 of us together all day. We did decide to back down just a little as we had a lot of miles ahead of us as well as another 18-20 miles of hills ahead on the next section.

We got in and out of the first stop quick and were back on our way heading to water stop number 2 in Franklin, our team’s home turf.

Franklin Water Stop Volunteers

We pulled into the Franklin stop by 8am. The sun was shining, the music was cranking, and we were home. Nancy, Nicole, Meaghan and Joyce along with many other PHAT Tuesday family were there volunteering among the many others. This was Joyce’s first PMC experience and I’m guessing she’s hooked and will be back. As much as we wanted to spend time with them we had to get back on the bikes so we wouldn’t stiffen up as we still had 67 miles to go to reach MMA.

Me, Meaghan, Eric, Nicole, Nancy, and Joyce
Brittany, Paul, Tony, Me, Diane, Jeff

Refueled and back on the bikes we headed towards the 3rd stop, Dighton-Rehobeth at the 70 mile mark. This is a great section as we get to ride through our PHAT Tuesday home turf and know the roads very well. Our pedal partner, Teagan, was on the route cheering us on. Teagan was diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 14 in May of 2022. She’s endured grueling treatment that’s landed her in the hospital many times but she’s a fighter and pushes on. She just wants to be a normal 15 year old kid but that’s not easy for her. Through it all, Teagan has been resilient. Teagan’s mom tells us she is the most optimistic of all of them – never complains, never gets frustrated, never even sheds a tear. She takes on everyday with a smile.


We rolled into the lunch stop around 10am.

PHATs at lunch at the Dighton/Rehobeth Stop

We planned to be in and out of this stop in 20 minutes but ended up there over 40 minutes as we decided to ride out of there with the bulk of the team. Regrouped and on our way towards the next stop, the official pedal partner stop, with a big group riding in a paceline. The miles were flying by. It’s only 15 miles to the next stop and this usually goes fast. Everyone was having a good time until one of our team crashed into a road sign bolted to the road. The bikes in front of him never pointed it out and by the time he saw it he was riding into it. Thankfully he wasn’t badly hurt but it was scary. It looked like he had serious injuries or worse as he wasn’t moving after he hit the ground. His helmet saved his life. He was taken to the hospital and released that night and would meet us at the finish in Provincetown the next day. Once he was cared for by the EMTs that happened to be right there at the site of the accident we rolled out as there was nothing more we could do. It was the best thing for all of us.

Approaching the stop the road is lined with pictures of pedal partners. It seems like they go on forever. If this doesn’t get to you you’re just not human. This is why we ride.

Riding past pedal partner pictures
Think this says it all
PHAT Tuesday at the final waterstop in Wareham

We spent very little time a this stop and were back out on our way towards our final stop of the day in Wareham. By this point I’m just tired and want to get into MMA and off the bike. Between the lack of sleep the night before and about 90 miles into our day I’m more than ready to be done. 5 miles out of the stop I got a cramp in my left leg. I thought I was done for the day as it hit fast and hard. Eric had this “hot shot” product with him and I downed it and 30 seconds later I was back on the bike. It’s a miracle product that worked for me (this time). We pedaled those final miles well and pulled into the MMA just after 1:30.

Eric crossing the finish line Day 1 at MMA
Me and Tony crossing the finish line Day 1 at MMA

Day 1 is done. It was incredible. We averaged close to 18 mph for the day and it felt great. Massages were back this year and those were very much appreciated. They were a staple for all the years I’d ridden but stopped in 2020 due to the pandemic. You only get a 15 minute massage but after riding 110 miles having someone work on your legs and neck / shoulders in my case was a true gift. You get off the table and feel like a new person. I know Eric said he felt like his legs were rejuvenated and were ready for day 2.

Team PHAT Tuesday at MMA

We took our team photo at the canal and then headed back to the house for the night. Huge thank you to our friends Ron and Audrey for giving us a ride back to Falmouth. I used to enjoy spending the afternoon at MMA hanging out with friends and listening to some good music and finishing the day with a great meal at the Beachmoor with my old team. That all stopped 15 years ago when we got our home nearby. It was all great till the night trying to sleep in the non air conditioned dorms at MMA. Let’s just say they were kinda ripe and the beds were less than what prisoners had to sleep on. I have lots of fond memories of some crazy days but the luxury of being able to sleep in my own bed is just priceless. I had a wonderful 3 hours of sleep until I awoke to the smell / sound of our puppy having an accident and redecorating the carpet. That was a long night followed by Nancy taking her to the emergency vet after dropping me, Tony, and Eric off at the MMA to begin our day 2 ride. Why did Nancy have to drive us? The taxi I reserved failed to show up. I’d been using them for the last 10 years without any problem. Chalk it up to the pandemic hangover and lack of staffing.

Day 2 began with us rolling out of MMA at 5:15AM. This is usually the perfect time to go as it’s a rolling start and the cyclists are typically spaced well apart. It seemed that this year everyone decided to start at the same time as the traffic jam of bikes getting onto the bridge was crazy. We are fortunate that one lane of the bridge is closed to motor vehicle traffic to let us get over it safely. It’s usually about a 10 mph pace going over. This year it was barely half that as it was so congested. Thankfully, once it thinned out we could pedal consistently to get over it. I always enjoy the few supporters that get up early to cheer us on going over the bridge. It always makes me smile to see one of my neighbors out there cheering for the riders with her group of friends. Thank you, Michelle, we all appreciate it.

Once over the bridge we regrouped at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal bike path. From there I lead a clean pace line for the 6 miles at a consistent 18mph pace. One thing PHAT Tuesday is very good at is safe cycling and riding well in a pace line.

PHAT Tuesday Pace Line on the Cape Cod Canal bike path

Once we exit the path we wind our way through Sandwich and onto the Service Rd, aka “The Rollers”. This is one of my favorite sections of the ride. At this segment we split up as riders go at their own pace here. The group I rode it with flew over this section. We basically leave it all on the road and ended up averaging about 23 mph through the hills here. Lots of adrenaline and fun. We regroup at the first stop and head out as a large pace line with most of the team. The miles to the next stop in Brewster at Nickerson State Park are fast, flat, and fun. This year they brought back one of our favorite spectator areas known as “Da Hedge”. This is a long hedge in front of what used to be the Cape Cod Sea Camp that closed during the pandemic and was sold to the town. This year a group of people took it upon themselves to try and revive the screaming / cheering that we always were greeted with just before pulling into the water stop. It was nice to have it back but still a much smaller group than we expected. I’m optimistic that next year they’ll get the word out and “Da Hedge” will be a wall of people screaming that lifts us off our saddles as we ride by.

PHATs regrouping at the first stop Day 2
Eric and me at the 2nd stop Day 2

The second stop at Nickerson State Park is very festive. We usually hit this around 8:00. The sun is out, the music is cranking, people are dancing and singing and smiling everywhere you look. The highlight of the stop for me, popsicles. They taste so good at this point. I usually end up with brain freeze I eat em so quick but it hurts so good.

We regroup the team again and roll out in a pace line and stick together almost the entire way to the 3rd and final stop of the day in Wellfleet. The group splits up riding up the hill to the Beachcomber in Wellfleet but it’s close to the stop so nobody is waiting for long. This last stop is also another quick in and out as now we can smell the barn and just want to finish. Fluffernutters originated on the PMC at this stop for me and have been a tradition every year since. That and the ice couch they setup there.

Eric, Tim, and Bob on the ice couch in Wellfleet
PMC Shirts hung across the bike path

Rolling out of Wellfleet as a group was really nice. Even better, we stayed together as a group which rarely happens.

Ready to roll out of Wellfleet

The well oiled pace line that is PHAT Tuesday rolled through Truro and into Provincetown together. We all turn into the dunes in Race Point in Provincetown within minutes of each other where we all regrouped for the final push. The dunes comprised of 5 miles of hills. Hitting this at the end of close to 190 miles can be grueling but weather and training made these miles pass by very fast as we all raced through them like a group of kids riding in the neighborhood back in the day.

PHATs rolling along route 6 towards Provincetown
Regrouping at Race Point

Once through the dunes we regroup one last time about a half mile from the finish line so we can all cross together as a team. I was very grateful this year that everyone stayed together. This has been a sore point with me for years as we’d historically ended up waiting for anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes for everyone to catch up. This is no fun when all you want to do is cross that finish line and cleanup. A big thank you to Team PHAT Tuesday and especially Captain Tim Brightman for keeping this group together this year. I hope this is the beginning of a trend going forward.

Rory, Tony, Eric, and me crossing the finish line!
Team PHAT Tuesday and Team Huckleberry at the Provincetown Finish

Another year is in the books. I couldn’t be happier or more grateful to all my donors and friends that helped get me here. Almost 3000 miles of training went in before this year’s ride for me and at the time I’m writing this I’ve got more than $34,000 in donations in to the PMC.

Till next year…