Riding to Victory

A rider participating in the 2019 Victory Ride rolls past a banner printed with encouraging words from former N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano.

Fran Powell had been searching for her purpose in living with cancer since she was diagnosed with the disease in 2010. When she discovered the V Foundation’s Victory Ride last year, getting back on her bicycle became the answer.

“I’m very excited and very passionate about wanting to help the V Foundation, because I just feel like I finally figured out what I was supposed to do with this, like what I am supposed to do with what was given to me,” said Powell, who lives in Raleigh. “If it can inspire others and motivate others, then that’s definitely what I want to do.”

Powell, 65, has endometrial cancer that has spread to her lungs, but that hasn’t stopped her plan to participate in her second Victory Ride this summer as a rider. The annual V Foundation event raises awareness and funding for research into cancer, a disease that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with in their lifetime.

All of the funds raised by riders like Powell will benefit cancer research — including locally at Duke Cancer Institute, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Wake Forest Baptist Health Comprehensive Cancer Center. Entering its fourth year, the event presented by Braswell Family Farms has raised over $650,000.

This year, the Victory Ride will begin July 28 with “My Victory Month,” a virtual experience where riders can cover miles on their own, leading into an in-person race day that starts at N.C. State’s Centennial Campus Aug. 28. On the day of the Victory Ride, riders can choose how to participate, with a variety of distances to accommodate cyclists of all skill levels, from 10 to 100 miles.

The V Foundation’s first Victory Ride fundraiser was held in 2018.

With in-person and virtual components, the event prioritizes the health and safety of cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Holding a safe and responsible event continues to be our first priority,” said Evan Morris, director of community events at the V Foundation, in a written statement. “In addition, our late summer event date allows more time for riders to train safely.”

Last year’s event spurred Powell to complete 400 miles, completing 10 miles per day. This summer, she aims to outdo her previous total, tallying as many as 500 miles. Spending time on the bike has been an engaging activity that has kept her active, especially during the pandemic.

“It was like it lit a fire under me,” Powell said. “Once I got started, who would have thought that at my age bike riding was so much fun again.”

Participating in the Victory Ride has also given her a connection to meet other cancer survivors and fighters, and also provided an avenue for friends and family to help. During last year’s ride, Powell raised $1,275.

“When you give, you get so much back,” she said. “All I did was say I was riding, and all of these people gave me so much encouragement.”

The V Foundation was started by ESPN and longtime N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano in 1993. That same year, Valvano died of metastatic cancer. In the time since then, the V Foundation has funded more than $250 million in cancer research grants.

To register for the Victory Ride or donate to a rider, visit thevictoryride.org.

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