SOUTHWICK/WESTFIELD – Among the 5,800 cyclists participating in the 35th annual Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) will be Michael Moses of Southwick, a veteran rider returning for his seventh year, and Michael Brunelle of Westfield, a first-time participant.
The 2014 PMC will take place Aug. 2 and 3 with the goal of raising $40 million to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund – 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar is donated.
Cyclists choose from 12 routes of varying mileage designed to cater to all levels of cycling strength and time availability. There are six two-day routes that range from 132 to 190 miles and six one-day rides that range from 25 to 111 miles. Cyclists are required to raise between $500 and $5,000 to ride in the PMC, depending on the chosen route.
Moses, 47, rides with the Brielle’s Brigade team in honor of his niece Brielle Laplante. He will travel for three days, cycling nearly 300 miles, from Hillsdale, New York, to Provincetown. This is the ninth year the team has participated in the PMC. Eight riders will join Moses: Paul Cicco, Andy Ede, Peter Grocott, Bill Laplante, Bob Lupacchino, Sara Melikian, Peter Pessolano and Ed Moses, the founder and captain of the team. The team is nearing a fundraising milestone of $1 million.
Ed Moses’ PMC biography details Brielle’s battle with cancer. It states, “Brielle was diagnosed with leukemia for the first time at age 4. Surrounded by love and support from her sister Jaclyn, Mom, Dad, and many close family members, Brielle bravely fought the disease and won. Her incredibly positive spirit and passion for life inspired everyone who met her. Brielle turned 13 in December 2011. Earlier that year her cancer had returned in the form of Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that spread to her lungs. Everyone hoped for more birthdays but even the great doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute could not stop this vicious cancer. Four months shy of her fourteenth birthday and shortly after cheering for last year’s  Pan-Mass Challenge riders, she lost her battle.”
Michael Moses told Reminder Publications
, “The ride is definitely different. It’s not the same without her being there. We continue to be inspired by her outlook.”
He also rides in honor of Justin Hayes who battled leukemia, but who is now healthy and participating in PMC Kids’ rides.
Ed Moses, 49, discussed forming the Brigade. He said, “Absolutely, it was a very easy decision – a no brainer.”
Ed said, “We raise a lot of money and awareness that touches so many lives. It’s a way to give back to those affected. I believe we do make a difference. It feels very important to continue [despite the loss of Brielle].”
He continued,” “We ride the extra day, we go the extra mile, we raise more money, we ride harder [to honor all those whose lives have been touched by cancer]. There’s no better story to tell than the PMC. It’s an unbelievable experience every year. We have a great team.”
Michael said, “Without a doubt, it’s the best three days of my year. It’s an honor to be able to ride for the people who can’t. Along the route, there are so many inspiring stories.”
Michael discussed the fundraising benchmark his team is striving to meet. “People have treated us wonderfully. We couldn’t do it without them. It never ceases to amaze me, the generosity of people,” Michael stated.
“I absolutely love those guys. I wouldn’t want to ride with anybody else. The whole season is a lot of fun. It’s a great event,” Michael said.
When asked how long will he continue riding, Michael replied, “That’s a tough decision. Definitely one more year. [We’ll see].”
Ed said the team is already “committed to its 10th year.”
When asked what he’d like to say to Brielle about her inspiration, Michael responded tearfully, “I don’t even know. I can’t even think of that. I’m at a loss.”
Michael described Brielle: “She was fearless. She was genuinely always happy and loved seeing people. She had strength and courage. She was beautiful.”
Ed also spoke to her character. He said, “She was just a great person who enjoyed life – an average teenager. She enjoyed spending time with her family. She liked to have a good time and joke around. She was an amazing young lady – a fighter.”
Watching his niece, Michael learned to “appreciate every day” and said the way his interacts with and relates to people has changed because “life is precious.”
Ed stated, “It became a different ride when she wasn’t with us. The ride is to remember her and other people. It’s [to honor] both people fighting their way through cancer and those that have passed.”
Ed noted, “It’s an emotional ride for everybody at different spots.” For him, stopping at the Laplante Construction Inc. building in East Longmeadow – Brielle’s hometown – for lunch on the first day of the team’s ride is the most difficult. Brielle was always there to greet the riders.
Michael advised new riders “not to be intimidated by the mileage and don’t underestimate what you’re capable of. The PMC is a life-changing experience.”
Ed said “rookie riders” should just take it all in and enjoy the event. “It’s an unbelievable experience,” he commented.
Ed explained that the riding is the easy part and the fundraising is the most challenging aspect of the PMC. He encouraged new riders to “Make it comfortable. Train to enjoy your PMC weekend.”
Brunelle is riding in honor of his father William who passed away from atypical meningioma, a brain cancer, in November 2013 at the age of 72. He has been a cyclist for the past decade and participates in other events such as Katelynn’s Ride.
Brunelle called the PMC his “bucket list ride.” He said, “I had always wanted to do the PMC. It’s the most appropriate tribute to my father.”
His friend Corbin Kinne started his cycling habit by inviting Brunelle for a ride using a spare bike Kinne had. The rest, as they say, is history. At the time of William’s passing, Kinne leaned in and told Brunelle, “You know we’re doing the PMC this year, [right]?”
Brunelle, 43, discussed his training for the PMC. “We’re one week out and it’s pretty amazing how my training rides are getting more emotional as the event gets closer. I talk to my dad all the time when I’m riding. It’s cathartic and helpful. I’m physically ready. I want the ride to be here,” he said.
He thanked his family for their understanding and support of his training for the PMC and said he “couldn’t do it without them.”
Brunelle said he’s just going to “soak it all in” and that he “can’t imagine what it’s going to be like.”
He chose the two-day, 190-mile route from Sturbridge to Bourne. “I have a feeling it’s going to be a great sense of accomplishment,” he said.
Brunelle expects he might be sore after the first day and said the hardest part will be physically getting back on the bike for the second. He said that during one of the year’s he rode for Katelynn’s Ride, he had an “emotional moment.” His father was there supporting him and told Brunelle, “Knock it off, get on the bike and finish.”
Brunelle said his dad would “be very proud that I made this commitment.”
His biggest fear was not reaching his fundraising goal. His motto, “Commit, you’ll figure it out.” At the time of publication, Brunelle was within a few dollars of his goal.
His wife, daughter, sister and mom will all be cheering him along his first-ever PMC journey.
For more information about the PMC and to track your favorite rider, visit www.pmc.org
. To learn more about Brielle’s Brigade, go to www.briellesbrigade.com