Friends for Phinney Coast to Coast

When: July 20 to August 30

Where: Various locations across the United States

More info or to donate to the ride: http://friendsforphinney.org/

More about the Davis Phinney Foundation: http://davisphinneyfoundation.org/

Five friends sat around a table inside the Davis Phinney Foundation office in downtown Boulder, reminiscing about "old Boulder," or Boulder as it was back in the 1970s when they were still in school at Boulder High.

One of those friends was legendary cyclist and Boulder resident Davis Phinney, who after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease has dedicated his life to raising money and awareness for those affected by the disease. The four others -- who call themselves the Friends for Phinney -- were talking through some last-minute logistics for the cross-country bike trip they've planned to support their Boulder High School peer Phinney and his foundation.

Boulder County residents Tom Casey, Rick Baker, Kathleen Donohue and Kevin Cartin take off from Oceanside, Calif., next weekend, on July 20, and plan to finish their ride, Friends for Phinney Coast to Coast, Aug. 30 in New York City. Along the way, the four riders will stop in various cities and towns for dinners, presentations and events to talk about the work of the Davis Phinney Foundation. Phinney will check in from Boulder, sending his support and tips for riding in the hot summer sun.


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"There's a real symbolism with cycling that is unique to the sport," Phinney said. "It goes back to these guys being buddies in high school. With the bike you get farther faster if you work together. And so these guys have this incredible opportunity to bond on the road and work out each other's strengths and weaknesses and support each other in a way that they never would've dreamed they'd be doing back in high school."

Casey, Baker and Cartin went to school with Phinney at Boulder High and graduated in 1977. Donohue, who's married to Cartin and originally from Iowa, has become close to Phinney and his cause through the three others.

The three Boulder High Panthers plus Donohue watched Phinney rise to fame and compete in the Tour de France and Olympics. As time went on, the friends drifted a bit and lost touch with each other. They reconnected about five years ago and began talking about riding across the country to support Phinney's foundation. This summer they finally made it happen.

Along the 3,300-mile route, they're hoping to raise money for the foundation through donations and the sale of commemorative jerseys and "hearts of honor," which Casey says he'll will carry on his bike to honor loved ones who have died. The four hope that other cyclists join them along the route to help spread the word.

"We've come to the agreement that we want to do this as a team and we'd like to have people ride with us," Casey said.Though their primary goal is to ride as ambassadors for the foundation, the four suspect they'll learn quite a bit about each other and themselves along the way. Cartin said he's learned more about himself on the bike than anywhere else, and suspects that over the course of the 42-day trip, he'll learn even more.

Phinney retired from cycling in 1993 after winning an Olympic bronze medal and stages of the Tour de France for a total of 328 career wins -- the most by any American cyclist to date. In 2000, he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease and founded the Davis Phinney Foundation to help people with Parkinson's "live well today" -- the foundation's mission.

In high school, Casey, Baker and Cartin remember Phinney either riding his bike or skiing with the ski club all the time. Phinney remembers his friends differently.

"These guys were the rock stars," Phinney said as everyone around the table chuckled.

"They wouldn't have even hardly noticed me, because I was about 4-foot-11 and hadn't yet come into my own. All those years ago I would've been scared to talk to these guys basically and now here they are, and they've shown this steadfast support for me and the foundation. And now to do this endeavor, that says so much I can't even express properly what it means to me for these guys to pull this together."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.