By TERESA HAMMOND
In early 2005, while his wife Nancy was being treated for leukemia at Stanford Medical Center, Mel Bradley began bike riding to help pass time, as well as help clear his head as his wife fought for her life.
“Up until then, I thought a five, six or seven-mile ride was a big ride,” Bradley said of climbing on the elementary level road bike he’d acquired from a discount retailer. By the time of his wife’s passing in fall of 2005, he had graduated to a better bike, as well as logging 20 miles daily and 50 miles each Friday.
“I redefined bike riding,” the Oakdale resident said of his progress, as well as investment in a new road bike.
During this same time, their daughter Cheryle had joined forces with Team in Training as a runner to honor her mom at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. It was through his daughter’s TNT participation that Bradley came to, as he puts it, “drink the purple Kool-Aid.”
While running suited his daughter, cycling was more Bradley’s speed. The “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” event in Tahoe captured his interest. It’s a ride which offers riders the option of either 35, 72, or 100 miles throughout the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas.
To properly prepare for an event of this distance, he followed his daughter’s lead and also partnered with TNT in Sacramento, the closest TNT training option at that time.
In 2012, after being approached by TNT to start a Stanislaus County area team, Bradley began his journey as a Head Coach and TNT Team Captain. That first year he led a team of 12 riders through 18 weeks of training and raising a total of $43,000 as a team.
That team of 12 has now grown to 80 who will ride that same Tahoe event in early June. By ride day, they are anticipated to have reached the million dollar mark collectively since the Valley team’s 2012 inception. Proceeds will go directly to and benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“People read my passion, they see why I’m doing it. They know why I’m doing it and every year the team grows,” he said of TNT and his passion for the cause and coaching. “I do it to help people I will never meet, in ways I will never know.”
As a coach, however, there is a team of people whom Bradley is not only able to help but watch grow as many transition from being a non-rider, as he once was, to avid TNT enthusiast. Team captain Linda Lindenberg of Merced is one such person.
Like Bradley’s daughter, Lindenberg first joined TNT as a runner, yet her eyes were set on cycling, it just wasn’t yet available close to home.
“The minute it [Stanislaus County team] was introduced to us in 2012, we were all in,” Lindenberg shared of herself and a friend. “We were so excited. I had never ridden a bike beyond five or 10 miles.”
Lindenberg is an original member of the 12-person team that Bradley has now cultivated to a TNT army of 80. She rode her first century ride in 2012 at the Viva Bike Vegas, an overall experience she describes as “life-changing.”
The 54-year-old mother and grandmother describes herself as non-athletic prior to joining the TNT group and she lives with Lupus. Her illness, however, and past physical experience seem to serve more as details than determiners. Lindenberg is a go-getter.
To date she has completed seven century (100 mile) rides with TNT.
“I’m what they call straight off the couch,” she said of her physical ability when she first joined the team. “Anyone can learn how to ride a bike, but to do it for a specific purpose such as this, it makes you really feel like a part of something.”
The cyclist shared when first becoming involved with TNT she had no direct connection with leukemia or lymphoma. As fate would have it, however, that would change, as her childhood best friend’s father, as well as members of her husband’s family became affected.
“I just can’t say enough about Mel and all the coaches,” the rider noted. “They’ve just made it so fun and there’s such camaraderie.”
The couch convert shared she and many who join the team must be taught a number of things from proper attire, shifting gears, to the simplest thing as grabbing and drinking from a water bottle while riding.
Skills which seem easy, yet present a challenge as one maneuvers across miles of terrain.
“It’s really given me a sense of purpose and a sense of accomplishment,” Lindenberg shared, choking back emotion. “Those two on top of the premiere reason that we’re helping families and a patient, really make me feel a part of something very important that affects everybody.”
As the captain of the local team and the sole member brave enough to take on the task put to him by the TNT administration, Bradley echoes his teammate’s sentiments.
“Raising money that most of which goes to research, that hopefully someday will stop this insanity, that speaks for itself,” Bradley said of his passion for working with TNT and his team members. “That our million dollars might have had some sort of small part in making that research possible and possibly finding a cure.”
For more information on the Stanislaus County area team or to inquire on sponsorship opportunity contact Bradley at [email protected] or call 209-765-7009.