ORONO — Charlie Manzoni has always wanted to bike across the United States.

This summer, the 72-year-old Orono man is completing his goal while raising money for a cause he cares deeply about.

In 2011, Manzoni’s youngest son, Nick, got a rare cancer called Ewing sarcoma. Nick, who was a senior at Orono High School at the time, was treated at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and made a full recovery.

While his son was getting treatment, Manzoni spent a lot of time at the hospital and met other children with cancer, many of whom were not as lucky as Nick and didn’t make it past childhood.

Manzoni became well acquainted with the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, a group that funds children’s cancer research and helps the families of kids who have cancer. Manzoni was on the fund’s board for several years and is still a regular volunteer.

As he settles into his retirement, Manzoni decided this was the summer for his cross-country biking trip. He is participating in the Great Cycle Challenge USA, which allows him to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Through the challenge, people raise money for the fund by finding sponsors who will donate a certain amount for each mile they bike in a month.

“It’s designed to allow anyone in the world to participate,” Manzoni said. “You set a goal for the number of miles you want to cover in the month of June.”

Most people only bike a few hundred miles, Manzoni said. He is biking a little more than 3,400 miles from May 11 through June 29, which ends up being around 80-100 miles a day.

Manzoni is riding with around 15 other people (the number changes because not everyone bikes the entire trip). Manzoni started his trip in Los Angeles and plans to finish in Boston before the end of the month.

Crossroads Cycling Adventures is the touring company that Manzoni is working with to navigate his cross-country adventure. The riders in his group are not all biking for the same reason. Manzoni says some are doing it because they want to, while others are raising money for causes that are important to them.

Day to day

The daily rides can be grueling. The longest the group has ridden in a single day thus far is 117 miles.

Weather — particularly wind — is the biggest factor in terms of how many miles they bike in one day, Manzoni said. A crosswind can slow the bicyclists down quite a bit and when the wind blows with them they tend to bike faster than an average day.

“Weather is the most important factor,” Manzoni said. “In Flagstaff [Arizona], we had freezing rain and snow. We all had to go buy coats from REI.”

Crossroads Cycling Adventures takes care of the cyclists as they bike their routes for the day. The group always has a car nearby for bikers who get tired and want to stop. Manzoni said he’s never had to use the rest vehicle.

When Manzoni spoke to Lakeshore Weekly News on June 4, he was on his third rest day in Junction City, Kansas — with nine states left to traverse before reaching Boston.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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