Steamboat crew embarks on ambitious 5,000-mile cycling odyssey

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On the 'Net

At www.healthyaltitu..., readers can view the full Ride for Your Life itinerary and track Gary's progress in terms of his heart rate average, speeds, calories burned, miles, power output wattage, mood test results and hydration levels. In addition, Gianetti, Campbell and operations manager Steve Bouchard plan to post blog entries and photos from the rides. Information also is available about donating to the project and to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

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Gianetti knows his Ride for Your Life project is a small piece in the larger picture of raising awareness and funds for cancer research and cancer survivors. Gianetti and Steamboat's Marin Campbell depart Friday, the same day the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life starts at the Steamboat Springs High School.

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Gary Gianetti, 28, discusses his plans for departing Friday on a 50-day journey to attempt 50, 100-mile bike rides in each of the United States. Gianetti has made serious sacrifices with not only diligent training, but also with the year of planning and organizing leading up to the trip. The reasoning that drives Gianetti is his desire "to follow a dream to help other people be healthy."

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Gary Gianetti, seen here training Friday on River Road, has been tapering his rigorous workouts in preparation for an Aug. 18 Steeple Chase Bike Tour in Connecticut, the first of 50, 100-mile bike rides he hopes to complete in each of the 50 United States in the 50 following days.

When Morgan Spurlock subjected himself to a 30-day experiment in 2004's Super Size Me to test the physiological and psychological effects of an exclusive diet of McDonald's fare, the numbers were alarming - Spurlock gained 25 pounds and did irrevocable damage to his liver after consuming an average of 5,000 calories a day and stopping exercise, limiting himself to 5,000 steps a day.

Gary Gianetti has a similar end goal in mind when it comes to raising awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. But his method is based around exercise instead.

The 28-year-old Steamboat Springs resident and personal trainer's experiment is equally drastic, and, like Spurlock, he'll be monitoring his heart rate and mood.

But unlike Spurlock, the big "5,000" Gianetti hopes to tally for his project is at the other end of the spectrum and focuses on continuously burning calories.

Gianetti plans to ride 5,000 miles, broken up into 50 separate 100-mile cycling rides, in each of the 50 states, in 50 consecutive days.

You may want to read that again.

Every day, starting Aug. 18 with the Steeple Chase Bike Tour in Willimantic, Conn., and ending Oct. 6 on the 112-mile Ironman Triathlon World Championship bike course in Kona, Hawaii, Gianetti hopes to complete a "century ride."

'Ride for Your Life'

It could be called a mission for awareness, an experiment in output (Gianetti plans to publish research on the experience in conjunction with the University of Connecticut's Department of Kinesiology) or even a fundraiser - proceeds benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Gianetti is going with "Ride for Your Life," and Connecticut is a fitting start for the ride.

Gianetti grew up in Trumbull, Conn., and hopes his father, stepmother and two older brothers will be able to join him for parts of the first 100-mile ride.

After graduating from UConn in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in sports nutrition and exercise science, and later returning for a master's in health promotion, Gianetti was planning to move to Colorado, but decided to stay near home when his mother, Francine deBoer, became sick. Gianetti lost his mother to lung cancer Sept. 24, 2003, at age 52.

"You talk about how cancer affects families and communities - my mom held together our family, and it left us asking, 'What can we do?'" Gianetti said. "My brothers went in different directions. I took the initiative to be responsible for my health, and it's changed my life because of that."

Gianetti stopped smoking cigarettes and started running marathons. While running an ultramarathon, he met Sam Thompson, and then in the Los Angeles and Greater Hartford Marathons, he met Dean Karnazes. Once, he heard about how they both had run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, the wheels in Gianetti's head started turning.

"With cycling, we'll be able to include more people - it's much more join-friendly," said Gianetti, who hopes to invite cyclists to join him on the rides - especially the ones he foresees as lonely, such as when he's plugging away at Midwestern courses like the Des Moines Tour De Cure (state No. 29). All the group rides are open to the public, but to help reach his goal of $100,000, Gianetti's team is suggesting a fundraising minimum of $175 per rider for each weekend or weekday ride. Benefits will go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and other programs that empower cancer survivors.

Fifty century rides

The Ride for Your Life course was designed around nine official century ride weekend events, highlighted by LIVESTRONG Challenge rides in Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., and filled with weekday rides on established 100-mile tour and race courses.

Gianetti thinks the end of the tunnel will be visible once he returns home on day and state No. 39 Sept. 25 to ride the challenging 105-mile Tour de Steamboat course that climbs Rabbit Ears, Gore and Yellow Jacket passes.

But logistics coordinator Marin Campbell will be the one crisscrossing the country in a 2006 Dodge Caravan, making sure Gianetti is putting down some of the 100 pounds of pasta donated by Barilla or boxes of donated Honey Stinger Energy Bars and ready to get back on his 20-pound LeMond Alpe D'Huez cycle every morning in a fresh state.

Campbell is a little more worried about the home stretch of rides - they'll fly straight from Portland, Ore., to Anchorage, Alaska, then fly back to Seattle to knock off Washington, Idaho, Montana and then California in time to still make it to Hawaii for the finale.

"He's one of the most motivated, ambitious people I know, and he's always looking to bring everyone with him - it's 'hey, come along and do whatever you can, let's do this together,'" said Campbell, a 27-year old Steamboat resident and avid outdoor athlete who works at Backdoor Sports and coaches the Moffat County High School girls swim team. "He's perfect for the job."

A larger message

Campbell's life also has been affected by cancer - her father survived colon cancer, and both her grandmothers died from cancer - so she knows the message is larger than Gianetti.

"It's not about Gary as much as saying we all have challenges and this is mine, whether it's quitting smoking or dusting off your bike for a one-mile ride," Campbell said. "It's relative to each person. Our goal is to get out there as a nationwide event and reach out to people to take responsibility for their health."

Even as the team hopes to empower, they also are making final preparations. After riding 450 miles and burning 28,000 calories a week all summer, Gianetti is tapering his workouts. He loaded up the minivan Saturday for a "dry run," heading out to the 78-mile Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle at Copper Mountain.

Gary knows how daunting the task ahead is, but he has the support and training.

And a seemingly unending stream of optimism. Before finishing his Friday 50-mile training ride in the rain, Gary revealed his secret weapon: "Coffee is going to be the secret to our success," he said with a grin, imaging the thousands of cups of joe it will take to get to that margarita on a Hawaiian beach.

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