So, a few months ago I noticed a cool new instagram account appearing on my feed. "Leave It On The Road" had me intrigued... what was the message behind these lovely pics of two dudes riding in some pretty breathtaking scenes? Bianchista was privileged to grab a chat with Michael Tabtabai & Andrew Hudon, those 'two dudes' behind this very special project.
Bianchista - So, ‘leave it on the road’... sounds like an amazing adventure project... I mean, 3500 miles in 24 days is pretty nuts. That’s pushing some serious limits... what purpose could make you wake up one day and decide to undertake such a mammoth task?”
Andrew - For me it began with my mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2005. My brother and I were both endurance athletes, he as a runner and I as a cyclist. We felt helpless to do anything for our mother, and wanted to do something to make a difference. We came up with the idea of doing a combined event in Maine (our mother’s home state) where he would run up the coast and I would ride around the interior, 900 miles in 9 days, and then we would finish together on the top of Cadillac Mountain, raising money and awareness for cancer research as we went. We did the event in 2006. My brother “retired” after that and went to med school, but I had the bug. After that I became involved with a few different cancer charities. It became a cycle; the more survivors and patients I met, the more inspired I became, the more I wanted to get involved and ride in their honor. To me it has been my way of fighting back against an enemy that has devastated my family and friends. When I feel tired or it hurts, I know that none of the people I’m riding for ever gave up, and I can’t either. It’s a source of strength, a way to find positive energy out of tragedy, and a source of healing for us. It’s a way to inspire others, to inspire each other, and to make a difference in the world, however small it may be. It’s an experience that can never possibly be described.
Michael - For me this ride is a tribute to my father, Farzad Tabtabai, who lost his battle with cancer in late 2011. He fought colon cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer for over ten years. I knew when he passed away that I had to do something like this ride, for my dad, my family, myself and anyone who has been affected in some way by cancer. The only question was how quickly we could make this happen. We've basically been working for a year and a half to make it happen. Going further back in history, I got in to cycling as a way to stay healthy in my 20’s. My father had already been fighting colon cancer for a few years at that point, and I knew I needed to live a healthier lifestyle now that I had a family history of the disease. Riding and raising funds for cancer-fighting causes was one way I felt I could get rid of some of the helplessness that comes when a family member fights cancer. It was my small way of doing something positive. After riding several organized charity rides and getting in to racing, I graduated to riding with Andrew on his more epic challenges. Over the years that has become a partnership, with Andrew focusing on the logistical side of the rides and me taking over the storytelling side. Leave It On The Road is definitely the most refined version of this partnership, and we've been able to bring on some amazing sponsors to support us in this effort. We wouldn't be able to do it without them.
Bianchista - One thing we at Bianchista HQ spied recently is that you Michael, happen to be a lucky little devil and have made the testing lab for the insane looking ‘Google glass’!
Is this something you will be utilizing on the trip?
Michael - Yeah, the Google Glass is something we are really excited about. My day job deals in advertising & technology, and I had heard quite a lot about its capabilities for real time filming, posting and communicating with people. It’s essentially a voice-controlled computer with a tiny heads up display. Once you combine that connectivity with an event like this, the possibilities are endless. The act of recapping a day’s events on the bike for your supporters can see usually takes a couple hours of precious recovery time each night. Now with the Glass we’ll be able to do a lot of that stuff in real time as we’re riding. Or as we've found on previous rides, sometimes the route you've planned months ahead of time just isn't ride-able. A bridge is closed for repair and you have to spend another two hours riding around to the next one. Having navigation tools right there in your glasses, controlled by your voice could be a big help for us. Even just chatting with our wives and showing them the amazing things we’re seeing, when we see them... I couldn't be more excited about that. And of course there’s always ordering pizza from the road, too!
Bianchista - In 2010 you undertook another pretty mammoth ride with purpose, tell us about that? Did you kind of feel like there was unfinished business to be done for this ride?
Andrew - The 2010 ride was called The Resilience Ride. It was in honor of the 10 year anniversary of a woman from my home town recovering from colon cancer and inline skating from upstate New York to Colorado. The ride went from Boulder, through my hometown in New York, and finished in Connecticut. I had every intention of it being the last one. However, less than a year later, a close family friend died from a brain tumor. Within months of that, Mike’s father passed away. My worst fear when my mom was diagnosed, was that I would lose her. Now, six years later, I was watching my best friend live through my worst fear. There is no greater call to action than that. Whether Mike had wanted to ride across the country or walk barefoot across Antarctica, I was going to be there by his side to do what I could to help, and I would be there for my friend who passed away as well.
Bianchista - Retul and Over The Top Productions held a colon cancer discussion panel at which you both spoke recently, how was that? Do you feel that awareness of this disease is something that needs improving upon? I know in the UK the past couple of years was a big push to highlight the awareness of prostate cancer in particular, and they do a few bits with British Cycling..
Andrew - Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates that 142,820 people will be diagnosed in 2013 and that 50,830 will die from colon cancer in the United States. But the disease is entirely preventable through proper screening. Unfortunately, it’s not something people want to talk about. In fact, I didn't find out until after the show that my own family has a history of the disease, meaning I need to start my screenings earlier than the typical age of 50.
Michael - The saddest part about colon cancer is that it can be completely prevented if you’re regularly screened. Part of our awareness campaign is to help tell the stories of young people who have fought the disease, like Brian Novak, who was on the panel discussion. He was diagnosed with stage IIIB colon cancer at just 36. If we can get people thinking about colon cancer screening at a younger age, we can really make an impact on the disease. It’s that simple!
Bianchista - You have quite an awesome roster of sponsors, and its great to see such a roll call of companies on board. Can you tell us a little bit about the support you guys will receive for the training period and also the actual ride?
Michael - We've been so fortunate to land our amazing sponsors, we literally could not do this ride without their support. When we first started planning for the ride Andrew and I decided that we only wanted to work with people and brands that were as passionate about our cause and our story as we were. We really needed to be able to leverage that passion through social media to help tell the story of the ride. There are so many more social tools available to us on LIOTR than when we did the Resilience Ride just a few years ago. And all of our sponsors have big followings in places like Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. So it is a huge help for us to have them passionately talking about what we’re doing through their communities. As far as financial support, we’ve been able to fully fund the logistics of the ride with early sponsor contributions, which means that 100% of the money we raise goes directly to the Colon Cancer Alliance and The Colon Club. That is huge for us! Material support is immensely important as well, Rapha has supplied us with the best cycling clothing in the world for our training and the ride itself. World renowned frame builder Sacha White will be building fully custom Speedvagen road bikes for our journey, and component sponsors SRAM, Enve and Chris King Components will outfit our bikes with their best pieces. Our timekeeping partner Tudor has some special products in the works, as well as helping us tremendously with fundraising and social media support.
It takes a lot of fuel to cross the country and one of the first things people ask is “what the hell do you EAT?” - Skratch Labs and Justin’s have been fueling us throughout the last several months of training, and they’ll be providing nutrition for the ride as well. Of course, the other important fuel source for cyclists is coffee; so Grimpeur Bros. Specialty Coffee will be roasting up special beans for the journey. Sponsors Wieden+Kennedy and Legwork are helping to build the social campaign and digital live tracker for the ride. Poler is helping us with gear and social support, and Retul and The Sufferfest have helped us through training with bike fittings and training videos. Our coach Aidan Charles Coaching has been working with us to make sure we are physically ready to tackle an undertaking like this. Phew... I think that’s everyone... for now! Be sure to head to our page for more info on our sponsors and their gear.
Bianchista - So what are the goals of the project? (Financial and otherwise) Wanna hook us up with a way people inspired by your story and vision can assist you in reaching your target?
Andrew - The monetary goal is to raise $52,000. The previous three rides have summed to $48,000, so this will round it out to an even $100,000. For me personally, my goals are to help Mike on the road and be there as he goes through this process, and, with this being our last ride, to inspire someone else to take up the cause. I would love for someone to reach out to us after this and to help them do their own ride!
Michael - My personal goal is to pay respect to my father’s time on this earth. He was a quiet, humble guy who taught me a lot about strength and love through his battle with cancer. Every single training ride for this event has been a therapy session for me - a way to cope with his absence. I hope to leave the negatives on the road and create some space for the positive. And I hope my father’s story and this ride provide some help and hope to others who are going through the same experiences mine & Andrew’s family have gone through.
To get involved, see our story as it happens, spread the word, and most importantly to donate, go to www.leaveitontheroad.com and follow us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/leaveitontheroad