Earlier this year fellow pro mountain bike racer, Robert Bender, was diagnosed with cancer. He’s currently in his second round of chemotherapy, and although his spirits are high, so is the stack of medical bills piling up. To help pay them, Bender’s teammate, Al Laframboise hosted a benefit ride last weekend in Big Bear. More people than I could count came out to show their support and to take part in the post ride raffle at La Montana restaurant.
With help from his wife, Bender’s family, and a few locals, Al had long and short ride loops planned with a common feed station that was stocked with fresh fruit, cookies, and liquids. I did the long loop and was pleased to be led over all kinds of Big Bear trails that I never knew existed. After the feed station, Mt. Everest summiteer, and all-around nice guy, Paul Romero, led a couple of us on an extended ride that consisted of pure sweet singletrack. Most of it has been right under my nose the entire 15 years I’ve been riding Big Bear and I never even knew it. I’m not sure I could find it on my own, but getting to ride it just once was a pleasure.
The entire experience that day made me realize a few things: I really miss racing and riding in Big Bear on a regular basis; and I miss seeing Bender at all the races here in the southwest. On more than one occasion Bender has turned the screws to me while I was trying to stick to his wheel. I hope the day comes again where we’re racing in Big Bear, and that Bender is there turning over the pedals at a rate which causes us all discomfort.
We stumbled upon this beauty on the downside of a huge mountain. How it got there in the first place, I'll never figure out. And we forgot to check it for bodies. Dang.