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Connecticut Challenge Bike Event Keeps Growing

The Connecticut Challenge keeps getting bigger and better. That's good news for both bike riders and for the cancer survivors that benefit from the event.

Registration opened Wednesday at CTChallenge.org. The rides will be held July 30 at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, a new venue, with 10-, 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile rides. Executive Director Bob Mazzone is hoping to have 1,000 riders for the event. Last year, more than 700 riders took part.

"It's not about the bike,'' Mazzone said at a press conference Wednesday at Butterfield 8 in Stamford. "It's about why you get on the bike. In the Connecticut Challenge, people get on the bike for someone they love."

The race started in 2005. As it grew, the starting point at Greenfield Hill Church in Fairfield became too tight. Additional riders have brought in more money to assist cancer survivors. Nine state medical centers will receive grants from the 2011 Challenge, including Bridgeport Hospital and St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport. The Connecticut Challenge also welcomes Amgen, a biotechnology company based in California, as one of its primary sponsors. It joins BMW of Bridgeport and Williams Trading of Stamford as major sponsors. BMW of Bridgeport has been a sponsor since the beginning.

"So many of us have been touched by cancer or by people who have survived it,'' company President Mitch McManus said. "My mom passed away from cancer in her early 50s in 1988, and my stepmother is a survivor. I have other family members and friends who have been affected by it, too."

In the past six years, the Connecticut Challenge has raised $5 million for supportive care resources for cancer survivors. The challenge also provides research grants, sponsors an annual summit for medical professions and promotes survivor education and awareness events. The survival rate for cancer patients has increased dramatically. The Connecticut Challenge programs help the survivors lead more meaningful and productive lives.

"You talk to some cancer survivors who feel like they've been dropped off a cliff,'' said Jeff Keith, Connecticut Challenge president and co-founder. "We look to fill that void."

Besides riders, the Connecticut Challenge offers volunteer opportunities. Riders can also form teams. The 100-mile ride is billed as "New England's Toughest Century." It rolls through upper Fairfield County into Redding, Bethel and Brookfield and into New Preston in Litchfield County. Riders who register by May 1 will receive a Connecticut Challenge cycling shirt. Complete information is available on the website .

Second photo: Stacia Howard, Bob Mazzone, Sharyn Taymor, Jeff Keith, Christian McEvoy, Katie Lieder and Julia Pemberton talk about the upcoming ride.

Do you plan to ride in the Connecticut Challenge? How many miles do you hope to ride? Start the discussion below!

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