Patrick Finley: Pro cyclist, actor join to create ride for all

2013-01-17T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:14:02Z Patrick Finley: Pro cyclist, actor join to create ride for allPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tom Danielson pitched his idea. It was a simple one: The pro cyclist and his business partner, actor Patrick Dempsey - Ronald Miller from "Can't Buy Me Love" to one generation, "McDreamy" to another - wanted to put on a bike ride in Tucson.

It wouldn't be competitive; rather, it'd appeal to college kids, cycling commuters, workout freaks and everyone in between.

And, of course, Dempsey fans. (In an early scene in "Can't Buy Me Love," he's riding a bike in Tucson.)

The ride would be free. No one would keep score of who finished first, or at all.

A room full of Southern Arizona officials, gathered by cycling guru Richard DeBernardis as a favor to Danielson last month, nodded with approval.

It sounded good, they said, in 2014.

DeBernardis smiled.

" 'Tom, tell them when you want to do it,' " he said with a smile.

Danielson was sheepish.

"Jan. 20," he said.

Danielson, who trains here in the winters, could have been laughed out the meeting. It takes 30 days just to get permits approved.

"This kind of event, you need at least six months to a year to prepare for it," said DeBernardis, who for 30 years has made running El Tour de Tucson his life's work. "It's condensing six months into three weeks, and that's what amazes me."

DeBernardis, who first spoke to Danielson on Dec. 16, worked through Christmas break; he sent an e-mail blast to 400 supporters on New Year's Eve asking for help.

They held their first meeting two weeks ago.

The city and county waived the 30-day rule.

Danielson and DeBernardis started raising money to pay for Porta-Potties, traffic control equipment, sound equipment and more; they've raised more than $17,000 of the roughly $25,000 they need through tax-deductible private donations.

And Sunday, Ride On, Tucson - what they hope will be a pilot program for cities nationwide - will depart Armory Park at 1 p.m. For three hours, between 1,000 and 6,000 projected riders - no one has to sign up - will do a 2.2-mile loop through a closed-off downtown.

Staffers from Bicycling magazine, which features Dempsey on its cover this month, will land here Friday and, a day before Ride On, Tucson, will tour Pima County's a 110-mile trail that snakes from Marana to Rillito Park to the edge of the Pascua Yaqui Nation.

The public relations from the magazine story, DeBernardis said, will be priceless. The ride will be a celebration of cycling.

The sport is in need of it this week - Lance Armstrong's doping admission is expected to air on television in a two-part series with Oprah Winfrey beginning tonight.

"Sunday is what's great about cycling, and what got me interested in it," said Peter Flax, the Bicycling editor in chief who lands here Friday. "At the end of the day, for most people, what happens in the Tour de France is outside their lives."

That's not the case for Danielson, who began serving a six-month suspension Sept. 1 after he was one of 26 to testify in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's investigation of Armstrong. Danielson said in an affidavit he was pressured into doping after joining Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team.

He didn't want to talk to me about Armstrong, but said he's been a "clear advocate" of clean riding since before joining Garmin-Sharp, his current racing team, in 2008.

"I'm sad and I apologized that the sport of cycling had gone through that, and I was a part of that," he said. "I think Garmin-Sharp was the team that led the fight against doping, and they were the ones that changed the sport.…

"We were asked to tell the truth, and we did. We had to take a punishment because of that, but the whole team was in support of us doing that."

As with everything in cycling today, it's complicated. Sunday, he hopes, is simpler.

"This ride's not about me, though," he said. "It's about people coming out on their bikes."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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