Sunday, June 08, 2008

Calhoun Cycles vs. Cancer

Although he turned 66 a month ago and recently had a cancerous mass removed from his neck, and temperatures were in the mid-90's, Jim Calhoun had every intention of bicycling the 50-mile route in Sunday’s Cigna Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride.

However, a tire problem and a wrong turn intervened, and the UConn men’s basketball coach wound up completing “only” 30 miles.

“I don’t have the wind I normally would have,” Calhoun said afterwards. “Last year after 50 (miles), I felt like I could have done 100. Today I did 30, I felt like I could do 30.”

Calhoun’s riding distance may have understandably decreased; more importantly, the second annual event increased nearly twofold and, in theory, should raise about twice as much money.

“That’s pretty special stuff,” Calhoun said.

Last year’s inaugural event drew about 300 riders and raised $233,000. This year’s event drew over 500 bikers. Since donations are still being accepted until Aug. 1, it’s not yet known how much money the event raised. But event organizer Peter Gold believes the total should end up being over $400,000, all of which will benefit the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as Coaches vs. Cancer.

“It went terrific, really well,” Gold said. “We had a big spurt in numbers over the first year.”

Calhoun started with the 50-mile bikers, but at one point encountered a problem when the wheel of his front tire and his brake came together. He and a group of riders who were with him went to fix the problem and took a wrong turn. But the time the tire was fixed, Calhoun didn’t want to take a chance of blowing out a tube and decided to head back to the finish line.

His recent announcement of a third bout with cancer made this event particularly special to Calhoun.

“A lot of riders came up to me, before the race, at a stop, (and said) ‘Go get ‘em Coach,’” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question that my recent situation caused a lot of people to wish me luck. It means an awful lot to me.”

UConn assistant coach Pat Sellers compete in the 10-mile race for one reason and one reason alone.

“To support Coach,” Sellers said.

Sellers, who rode the 25-mile course last year, did the 10-mile course this year because he had a commitment earlier in the morning. Ex-UConn star Donny Marshall also participated last year but is busy with his commentary work for the Boston Celtics right now.

TIRE TRACKS: Calhoun said that Andrew Bynum, who committed to UConn before backing out and entering the NBA Draft a few years ago, has inquired about participating in the Mohegan Sun/Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Basketball game on Aug. 9.

“I think I probably would (let him play),” Calhoun said. “He probably made the right decision. The more good players we can get, the better it is.”

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