First “Pelotonia” kicks off in Columbus

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The most accomplished cyclist in the world is in Columbus through the weekend, kicking off a new bike tour aimed at raising money for cancer research.

Seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong will lead the way in the first Pelotonia.

The 180-mile bike tour from Columbus-to-Athens-and-back is a tour, not a race. It’s modeled after the Pan Mass Challenge, a similar ride through Massachusetts that since 1980 has raised $240 million for cancer research.

Dr. Mike Caligiuri is CEO of Ohio State’s James Cancer Institute, which will receive all of the proceeds from this year’s event.

“It’s to generate additional revenue to enhance cancer research to bring our community better prevention strategies and better cures for cancer quicker, and to bring awareness about the importance and seriousness of cancer to our community,” Caligiuri says.

Pelotonia organizers expect about 2,200 riders for the inaugural tour, with each person raising money through sponsorships and donations. That includes Kevin Bickle . He’s new to cycling, but along with a newly-formed cycling team managed to raise $97,000.

“I heard about it through my work and we formed a team. I heard about the cause and what it’s supporting and decided to get on board with it for cancer.”

Officials expect riders like Bickle to raise a total of about $4 million this year. Ceremonies begin Friday evening with a speech by Lance Armstrong, with the ride starting Saturday morning at seven. The two-day event will wrap up Sunday evening.

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