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Annual B Strong Ride to bring cyclists together in Boulder to raise funds for cancer care

One cancer survivor's journey has brought thousands together, raised millions.

B Strong Ride co-founder Kevin Mulshine sits on his bicycle in front of Mateo restaurant in Boulder on Monday.
B Strong Ride co-founder Kevin Mulshine sits on his bicycle in front of Mateo restaurant in Boulder on Monday.

Since 2011, the B Strong Ride has brought hundreds together to raise money to provide quality care for those battling cancer. This year, more than 800 cyclists on Saturday will ride one of three routes starting and ending at Celestial Seasonings corporate headquarters in southeast Boulder.

What is now a celebrated community event was born out of an act of hope during a hopeless time. When Kevin Mulshine was told there was nothing more that could be done for him while he battled stage 4 lymphoma, he did not know what to say to his family. He had spent more than 180 days at Boulder Community Health’s former Broadway campus and his hope was running low.

“I was down about 40 pounds and I wasn’t eating, just on IV food,” Mulshine said.

But a hospital radiologist, restless over Mulshine’s diagnosis, had a new plan. Dr. Roger Nichols was able to figure out where surgery was needed on Mulshine, and days later his life was saved.

A year later, Mulshine rode alongside Nichols up Left Hand Canyon toward the small mountain town of Ward in celebration of his cancer-free status. Their cycling trip went on to become an event that has collectively drawn more than 7,000 cyclists and raised more than $3 million for cancer patient care.

“It’s almost surreal,” Nichols said. “When we first were putting this together, our vision was to have a few friends do the ride and write a few individual checks. To see the ride become what it is is so unbelievable.”

The two partnered with Paul Balaguer, who had previously spent 22 years working with Ride the Rockies, to spearhead the event.

“It was their vision,” Balaguer said. “It’s always been a really great event … there’s something for everyone. Our hope beyond raising the funds is that people have a great day out there.”

A large portion of the money raised by the annual ride has supported patients at Boulder Community Health’s Center for Integrative Care, which offers therapies for reducing stress and anxiety, reducing the need for opioid dependency and ultimately shortening hospital stays. For patients, much of this care is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. The event raises money to provide a full year of care. Last year, the event donated $150,000 to the center.

“That investment that they are making is allowing hundreds of patients to receive dozens of treatments,” said Grant Besser, Boulder Community Health Foundation president. “Knowing that (B Strong) has such a tangible impact is something that they take great pride in”

For Besser, working with B Strong is a “transformational relationship, not a transactional one.”

Marylin Svihovec, who is battling breast cancer, said sometimes it is easy for doctors to only see the disease rather than the whole person.

“The center didn’t look at it as the disease,” Svihovec said. “It looked at you and said ‘you’re a whole person … emotionally and spiritually.’ I left feeling better every time.”

While Svihovec says she enjoys having acupuncture and massages, above all else what the center gives her is a place to vent and to be heard.

“I’m very appreciative to have gotten the grant and to have gone through (integrative care),” Svihovec said. “I wish everybody had access to that. I think you’d see a lot fewer pain medications and a lot fewer side effects.”

While Svihovec will not be riding this year, she plans to attend the event to cheer on others.

While the final steep push up Ward is still a challenge for Mulshine, he said he would not have it any other way.

“If you ride up to Ward the last mile is super steep and your heart’s pounding and you’re sweating and it’s really hard, and I always think: there is someone at the Boulder Community hospital who wishes they could be feeling this right now,” he said.

“People with cancer are going through a horrible journey.”

Nichols sees the event as having a bright future.

“I hope it’s the Boulder Boulder of cycling in the future,” Nichols said.

Cyclists will have the option of three routes: Morning Thunder Mountain Loop at 69 miles, Red Zinger at 38 miles and Countryside Peach Passion at 24 miles — all named for teas from Celestial Seasonings, a major sponsor of the event. After the ride, cyclists will enjoy a post-ride party with live music, Oskar Blues beer and food provided by a variety of local restaurants, including Snarf’s and Rush Bowls. Families and non-riders also are invited to the post-ride party.

If you go

What: B Strong Ride

When: Saturday. Three groups will leave at staggered times throughout the morning: Morning Thunder Mountain group will leave at 7:30 a.m.; Red Zinger group at 8:30 a.m.; Countryside Peach Passion group at 9:30 a.m. Online registration closes at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.

Where: 4600 Sleepytime Drive, Boulder

Cost: $95 for adults, $55 for students and riders younger than 18, $10 for children 10 and younger.

More info/registration: