Ashland Resident Neal Gerber Riding In The PMC
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Seventeen plus years ago, Ashland’s Neal Gerber was introduced to the Pan Mass Challenge when a friend of his approached him to ride with him after losing his sister to brain cancer.
The Ashland native originally thought that there was no way that he could possibly ride the two-day 192-mile event. However, he eventually gave in and decided to give it a try and has been doing it since.
“After participating in that first ride, I’ve become addicted,” Gerber said. “I was riding with Team ZipCar back then and when one of our leaders came down with cancer and passed away it gave me even more incentive.”
Over the years Team ZipCar became Team BMW and now Polar Beverages is looking to pick up the team.
Over the first 13 years, Gerber took part in riding the full two-day 192-miles along with his teammates, but then Covid hit and put a stall on the event. For the next two years the PMC was reimagined and when it finally got back to being the original ride to the Cape, Gerber decided to only ride one day from Wellesley to Bourne.
With the majority of the team residing in the Cohasset area, Gerber and two other riders are miles away, which makes it rather tough to train. The Ashland resident also noted that the team is also much younger than his age of 73.
“That first year was really hard for me, the first 40 miles have a lot of hills and people think that it’s much easier once you get to the Cape, but there are a lot of hills there too,” he said. “Although it is tough, once you start riding through the towns and see all the people thanking you, it makes you feel important.” Gerber use to think of himself as someone who was in good shape, but to take part in the PMC was something totally different and somewhat difficult at the beginning. It took the Ashland resident a few years of training for the event before he found it getting easier, but he says it was all worth it.
“While you’re riding, you start to think of all the family members and friends that you have lose to cancer (Gerber has lost a brother-in-law, his wife’s sister, her son and now her daughter who is battling cancer),”
Gerber said, “As I’m riding I’m focusing on those individuals (this year he will have those deceased family members and a friend, who was also a co-rider photos on the back of his jersey as he treks along the PMC route), and it gets me through. The PMC is a well-organized ride and an amazing event that raises so much money to help those in need.”
Gerber also added that the volunteers are also a very important aspect of the entire weekend, and they are the ones that make the PMC what it is today.
In addition to all the family members who have been afflicted with cancer, Gerber has a good friend who is going through some hard times and although Dana Farber is doing all that they can, he is suffering terribly, and the Ashland rider thinks about him all the time.
Gerber’s wife continually asks her husband why he keeps taking part in the ride, especially at his age.
“I’ve got to do it. I’ve cut down from the two-day ride to only riding one day and people are still donating because it is a very good cause,” he said. “There are so many types of cancer, and it just doesn’t go away like the common cold after a few days. We must never stop pedaling, there are way too many lives that are still battling this deadly disease.”
At 73 years young Gerber has no plans of giving up the ride anytime soon. In fact, he said he knows that he definitely wants to do at least another 7 years as he enters his 80s.
“No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but at least for now I have the opportunity to take it one year at a time and try to help all that I can,” Gerber said.