"HE DOES EXIST!!!" yelped Catawba College Associate Director of Lifelong Learning Ann Dunn of Salisbury to her husband, Alex, as they excitedly watched Lance Armstrong approach the podium to welcome 6,500 cyclists who were eagerly anticipating the start of the ninth annual Lance Armstrong Foundation's Ride for the Roses held in Austin, Texas on October 23.
As they listened to Armstrong read the stirring words of the L.A.F. Manifesto and stood silently for the playing of the National Anthem, Ann came to the true realization that she was not dreaming. After all, there was Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, standing on the stage, only 50 feet away from her. She and her husband were really in Austin, Texas! Shortly, the sound of a loud air horn signaled the start of the 100-mile ride through the rolling central Texas countryside. Her heart pounded as she mounted her Trek Madone 5.9 SL road bike and carefully made her way out of the Travis Count Expo Center.
"I've never seen so many cyclists in one place," she told Alex as they rode under the start banner. It was exciting for them to see this many individuals from all over the United States and the world join together to support one common cause. What was even more remarkable to the Dunns was that many or the cyclists participating in the event were cancer survivors.
Six hours later, the exhausted pair returned to the Travis Center with big grins on their faces as they triumphantly pedaled under the finish line banner. "We did it!" they exclaimed to each other as they leaped from their bikes. "We really rode the Ride for the Roses!" they shouted as they excitedly hugged each other.
Ride for the Roses was the cycling event that the Dunns had dreamed of participating in since they took up road cycling four years ago. They had spent the entire summer training for the ride. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, the two cyclists had regularly mounted their bikes and headed for the back roads of Rowan County. The pair had completed a metric century (62 miles) each Saturday morning from April until October. They pedaled on the weekdays as well, but of course, the rides were much shorter because of time constraints.
Each rider who participated in the Ride for the Roses was required to solicit sponsors. A minimum donation of $150 dollars was required from all riders entering the event. Donations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation are used to support cancer research and to help cancer survivors enjoy a better quality of life. The Lance Armstrong Foundation contends that when it comes to fighting cancer "knowledge is power and attitude is everything!" The 2005 ride was the most successful to date, with over seven million dollars raised for the L.A.F.
Since 1990 when she was thrown from her horse, broke her back, and was almost paralyzed from the waist down, Ann has had a burning desire to help individuals stricken with catastrophic illness or injury. She and Alex took up road cycling to benefit their health. They never dreamed how much their riding could benefit others until, Ann's best friend invited the couple to participate in the Multiple Sclerosis Society's Magical Mystery 150-Mile Bike Tour in New Bern, N.C. in 2004. It was through this event that the Dunns discovered that they could use their passion for cycling to help others who were less fortunate. They have been riding in charity fundraisers ever since. Entry fees from almost every organized ride that the two participate in are used to benefit some major cause. Ann says that cycling for charity is "win/win!"
With winter rapidly approaching, outdoor cycling for the couple has given way to spin classes and weight training at Y.M.C.A. However, each Saturday (weather permitting), the Dunns pull on their tights, arm warmers, ear warmers, and jackets, mount their bikes, and head for the open road. The next event that the two plan to participate in is the Rocky River Road Club's annual Polar Bear Metric Century to be held in Davidson, N.C. in mid-January.
The Dunns ask that if you are driving around the back roads of Rowan, Cabarrus, Davidson, Iredell, or Mecklenburg counties and happen to see them pedaling along, please don't honk your horn or rev your engine! Just smile and wave and give them safe passage. They will smile and wave back and nod their thanks for your respect.
In addition to working for Catawba, Ann Dunn is a 1969 alumna of the institution. Alex Dunn is employed as Information Systems Manager at Rowan Business Forms, Inc. of Salisbury.