Leave it on the Road
This month, we honor Mike Tabtabai and Drew Hudon as our Heroes of the Month. On June 17th, Mike and Drew will set out on Leave it on the Road, a 3,500 bike ride across the country. In just 24 days, they plan to journey from Oregon to Massachusetts, raising money and awareness for the Colon Cancer Alliance and Colon Club along the way. We sat down with Mike and Drew before their ride to hear what inspired them to get involved and how their cause is gaining momentum.
What inspired you to start cycling?
Mike: I got into cycling in my mid 20’s as a way to stay fit. I ended up falling in love with the sport and the evolutionary nature of building fitness on the bike. As Greg Lemond famously said: “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” The more I rode, the more I wanted to ride, and eventually that turned into racing and endurance events. I love both the solitary and social aspects of the sport - it’s just something that quickly became a major part of my life.
Drew: It’s hard to really say when I actually started. Growing up in a rural area, it really just started as a way to get to my friends’ houses as a kid. I eventually moved on to race mountain bikes, then got into road bikes as cross training for speed skating, and then started racing those. When I was in college, there was a nightclub fire in Rhode Island where 101 people died. I organized a ride to benefit the victims and their families. That was when I realized I could use my bike to inspire people and bring change. The rides and the message have grown since then, but the basic principles have remained the same: push myself to my physical limits to get people’s attention and tell a story that needs to be heard.
You’ve both lost loved ones to cancer - what would you say to our readers who are going through a similar experience?
Mike: My father battled three different types of cancers for nearly 11 years. And although I saw him go through a lot of really tough times, he never lost hope and he never lost his sense of humor. If I look at the positive side of those years, it brought our family a lot of perspective and it brought us closer together.
Drew: It’s easier said than done, but focus on the positives. Try to carry on the way that person would have wanted you to. I know for me, trying to do something positive for the world in that person’s memory has helped a lot.
Our June newsletter is focused on fathers - how have/did your fathers encourage/inspire you?
Mike: I learned how to be a man by watching my father fight cancer. How to value family and friends and how to keep the important things in life in perspective. A year and half after his death, I’m still processing those lessons. A lot of that happens on the bike as I think about the time we spent together and the lessons he passed on to me. Each ride is like a therapy session.
Drew: My father has always been an inspiration and role model for me. From a very young age, he taught me to value fitness and hard work, two traits that have made it possible for me to take on challenges like Leave it on the Road. He has also been a hugely enthusiastic supporter of all of my endeavors. Knowing that he believes in me and supports me gives me confidence when going into these challenges.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get involved in biking and/or fundraising for a cause they are passionate about?
Drew: First, match your passions. Mike and I are passionate about the cancer cause and cycling. We’ve each spent several hundred hours (almost two full weeks) on our bikes to get ready for Leave it on the Road. If we didn’t love what we were doing, that kind of commitment would be daunting.
Second, it’s important to know yourself and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Find a teammate with complimentary skill sets and divide up the planning work.
The photos on your Instagram and website are incredible - who takes the photos on your trips?
Mike: I do most of the photography. I’ve gotten pretty good at riding with no hands, composing images. One of the things that was most important to us was to share the full story, from training to working with sponsors to the ride itself. And we’re both fortunate to live in beautiful places, which makes it a lot easier to take great photos.
How did you find out about the Colon Cancer Alliance? What made you decide to get involved with the organization?
Drew: Our 2010 ride was done to benefit the Colon Club, a small grassroots organization founded by a friend of mine. We knew we wanted to make Leave it on the Road much bigger, so we wanted to work with a bigger charity who would benefit from the higher fundraising goal. Having worked with colon cancer survivors for a few years, the Colon Cancer Alliance came highly recommended. The four star rating on Charity Navigator was a great confirmation.
The welcome and enthusiasm with which we were greeted by Nicole Sheahan and Ali Ornitz showed us right away that the Colon Cancer Alliance has the same passion for the cause that Mike and I do, and it’s been a great partnership ever since. I’m looking forward to finding other ways to help out in the future.
To donate to Leave it on the Road, click here.