Dartmouth resident gets ready for cycling challenge

Jul 29, 2020

Dartmouth’s own Heather Mickool is one of five residents taking part in this year’s virtual Pan-Mass Challenge cycling fundraiser for cancer research on Saturday, August 1.

They will join more than 10,000 participants cycling solo in the socially distanced event to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Institute’s Jimmy Fund.

The traditional ride typically includes 12 routes spanning 25 to 192 miles over the first weekend of August.

But this year, it will be transformed into a virtual experience, with participants asked to ride on their own. The other four Dartmouth residents participating in the event are James Coggeshall, James DiPasqua, Michael Anthony, and Jonathan Barratt.

Mickool — a life-long cyclist — has done the challenge for the past eight years, seven as a rider and once as a volunteer.

“I really enjoy the PMC,” she said. “It’s a phenomenal organization. The biggest thing that I really love about [it] is that 100 percent of the donations go directly to Dana-Farber.”

Mickool said she started riding the challenge when a friend of hers was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has unfortunately since passed away, but Mickool has ridden every year since.

“I’m very proud to say that over the last eight years, I’ve raised almost $60,000 myself,” she said. “I’m very fortunate that I work for a company that does a matching program.”

This year, riders plan their own routes around their neighborhoods to stay safe during the pandemic. 

Mickool has planned out an 89-mile route from Dartmouth High School through Russells Mills to Horseneck Beach in Westport, then back through the UMass Dartmouth campus — twice.

She will be completing the cycle with two friends, registered PMC rider Marlene Cavanaugh of Plymouth and Abigael Sylvia.

Normally, said Mickool, part of what makes the event so special is the support from people lining the streets to cheer on participants.

“That’s what’s so difficult, we’re not gonna have all that camaraderie this year,” she said. “We’re not gonna have people yelling and shouting, spraying us with water and giving us grapes.”

Without the support, this year’s challenge might be extra challenging — although Mickool noted that some friends and family will be there to cheer the three riders on.

Still, she said, even in a normal year, with everybody participating together, it’s a tough ride.

“It’s 89 miles, and you’re riding, and you’re hot, and your legs hurt,” she said. “And then someone rides by you and they have one leg, and it’s like...Huh. Perspective.”