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'This Is For Her': Pan-Mass Challenge Riders Honor Loved Ones Who Died From Cancer

BOSTON (CBS) -- Starting out dark and early, the 2021 Pan-Mass Challenge officially got underway Saturday morning.

The riders began peddling in Sturbridge and Wellesley, using staggered start times to keep people at a safe distance from each other.

16,000 riders are registered for this year's weekend ride along 16 different routes. The PMC is a tradition that stretches back 42 years, when a small group of riders set out to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Since then, the event has grown into a remarkable juggernaut.

It's a ride that bring both smiles and tears.

"I recently lost my wife, Norma. So this is for her. She died of cancer recently," said rider Jim Bauer.

His wife Norma was diagnosed in May, losing her battle just eight months later in January.

It's a loss nearly every rider feels with each mile pedaled, as they remember their own goodbyes. Kennie Taylor couldn't help but think about his father Robert.

"Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad passing away from cancer," Taylor said. "His favorite saying is, 'You rust out before you wear out.' So I keep moving."

Volunteers like Stephen Siegel eagerly awaiting some familiar faces.

"There were people that had cancer that was death sentence. And they put the money to such good use that these people are still surviving today," said Siegel.

Founder Billy Starr crossed into Bourne with a smile.

"We found a way for the bike to serve as a metaphor of turning the crank in the progress. We are raising money for cancer research and Dana-Farber. Starr said. "If the world cooperates, we'll be back in bigger numbers next year."

The pandemic ended up being no match for these riders because there's only one challenge their facing this weekend: the Pan-Mass Challenge.

"It's amazing what this organization does. Hopefully, someone else will have a better chance," said Bauer.

A majority of the riders that crossed the finish line in Bourne Saturday will be making their way to Provincetown bright and early Sunday. So far, riders have raised more than $42 million, getting closer to raising this year's goal of $52 million.

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