Nancy Mulligan, left, and her daughter Gwen pedal along the Lake Link Trail while training for the 2009 Courage Classic. In honor of Mike, Nancy s husband and father to Gwen, the Mulligan family of three rode the three-day ride to raise money for Children's Hospital. David R. Jennings/Colorado Daily
DAVID JENNINGS
Nancy Mulligan, left, and her daughter Gwen pedal along the Lake Link Trail while training for the 2009 Courage Classic. In honor of Mike, Nancy s husband and father to Gwen, the Mulligan family of three rode the three-day ride to raise money for Children’s Hospital. David R. Jennings/Colorado Daily

I n 2003, Drew Vriesman’s surgery for scoliosis was nearly over when something went really wrong.

“I guess the alarm went off or whatever, and the anesthesiologist was like ‘wait, hold on, we need to stop this,'” said Vriesman, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“My right bottom half was officially paralyzed for six hours, my left side was paralyzed for eight hours.”

The docs weren’t sure what went wrong.

“I went to the ICU. They were doing all these CAT scans up and down my back, and they didn’t find anything,” he said. “And then they thought to do a scan of my brain.”

“They discovered a tumor on my brain stem.”

A long course of chemotherapy shrunk the tumor. “After all was said and done, it shrunk, it was pretty much calcified,” he said. “It’s still there right now,” he said, pointing at the back of his head.

Life normalized a bit for Drew. He finished high school, went to CU, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting, and he got a job in Boulder. But, he says, not a day goes by that he doesn’t remember what he went through, or that he still has that tumor. During college, he did an internship with the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation and worked the Courage Classic, a three-day bike ride in Summit and Lake counties that tackles big mountain passes and raises money for the foundation. (The 2012 Courage Classic starts Friday , in Leadville.)

“When I was out there, seeing the patients, it hit me — if they can ride it, I can ride it,” he said.

Drew still doesn’t have all of the feeling in his legs back, though he says he’s about 95 percent of the way there. And truth be told, he said, he hasn’t spent a lot of time on a bike. But the sum of his experiences help him remember: “There’s no reason to sweat the small stuff.”

“Even when I was going through treatments, my treatments weren’t nearly as bad as some of the other kids,” he said.

“It just washes away all of your other problems when you start thinking about that. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you in the moment.”

I don’t plan to pedal 157 miles in the mountains this weekend, but I hope that whatever I do, I don’t sweat the small stuff… and maybe have a little courage.

Info: Starts Friday, runs through Sunday. couragetours.com.

The big hill

And speaking of courage on the bike, the Bob Cook memorial Mount Evans Hill Climb is this weekend .

The list of winners of the climb up this fourteener reads like greatest hits list of Boulder cyclists (and former cyclists) I’ve been watching in the Tour de France lately.

Boulder’s Tom Danielson, who left this year’s Tour after multiple nasty crashes left him with both shoulders separated, is the Mount Evans record holder. In 2004, Tommy D. hammered to the top in an inconceivable one hour and 41 minutes.

Jonathan Vaughters, now the director of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda (and I’m probably missing a “-something” for another title sponsor that’s new to Garmin this year), won the race back in ’97, ’99 and ’03.

Finally, Scott Moninger, that new commentator on your Tour coverage on the telly? He won the Mount Evans race six times. So sure, maybe the guy’s a little nervous on television for his first tour, but I’m cutting him some slack — when he was a bike racer out of Boulder, he dominated this 27-mile bike race to 14,000 feet.

Props to all, including those of you braving the slopes of Mount Evans this weekend.

Info: Race starts Saturday morning in Idaho Springs. bicyclerace.com.