For the past 27 years, participants from avid cyclists to asthma sufferers have ridden the American Lung Association’s Reach the Beach in honor or memory of those whose lives have been touched by lung disease, COPD and asthma. With a goal to raise $750,000 for lung disease research, patient education and advocacy, more than 3,000 riders will pedal Oregon’s scenic backroads on Saturday, May 20, enjoying fresh air, great scenery and camaraderie on their way from Portland to the Oregon Coast along four different cycling routes.
Professional racer Chris Horner will be joining cyclists on the 104-mile route this year. Horner, who lives in Bend, Oregon is a Vuelta a España Champion, seven time Tour de France competitor, 2012 US Olympian, and Giro d’Italia competitor.
We sat down with Chris to learn more about his racing career and his personal involvement with the American Lung Association to help end the lung disease epidemic.
Q: Why are you excited to ride this year’s Reach the Beach?
A: It is great to have the chance to do a large fundraising event in Oregon. I love living in Oregon and supporting local events whenever I can, and Reach the Beach is an event I have heard of many times – great course, fantastic people, and it showcases some our great Oregon scenery. Also, having personally struggled with lung issues, I enjoy being able to help contribute to an organization that helps others in a similar situation.
Q: What is your connection to lung disease?
A: I was diagnosed with asthma in 2009 – and it opened my eyes to how much my lungs and my asthma affected my life. More recently, I got sick during the 2014 Tour de France with a lung infection that just wouldn’t go away. I have spent most of the past three years dealing with chronic infection and inflammation in my lungs, and it has completely changed my life. Even today, I’m not sure if I will be able to get my lungs back to full function, and if that’s the case, my racing career will be over.
Q: This year the event has an important goal of raising $750,000. What will the funds be used for?
A: The American Lung Association is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization that leads the country in improving health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The funds will be used to defeat lung cancer; improve the air we breathe; reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.
Q: As a professional racer, how has lung disease impacted your racing career?
A: The lung infection I have been struggling with for almost three years has completely changed my career. I went from racing for a top European pro team, to not being sure if I will ever be able to race again. Trying to race through the issues has been a struggle, and if the issues can’t be solved, I will be done racing.
Q: How about your personal life?
A: When you are a professional athlete, your health and physical condition can be all consuming, because it not only allows you to do what you love, but it is also how you support your family. So my lung issues have been a major focus for our entire family for the past three years – never ending doctor visits and complicated treatments. I have been coughing for so long that our two year old would cough whenever I did to “be like daddy”. It always stops me to think that I got sick before he was even born and now have been sick his entire life.
Q: I bet there are many people who start to get serious about their riding and develop dreams of perhaps one day becoming a pro racer. What’s your favorite aspect of being a professional in the sport?
A: I love riding my bike, and I love racing. The ability to travel all over the world and compete at the top level still amazes me. Pushing yourself to the limit against the best in the world, and sometimes coming out on top, is a fantastic experience. I also really love the long training days, when it is just me and my bike out for 6 or 7 hours.
Q: You’ve had an impressive racing career. What would you say has been your most challenging race?
A: The 2013 Vuelta a Espana – the Tour of Spain – was by far the most challenging. I was coming back from being off the bike for months – and having had knee surgery to deal with an injury – and felt like it was a battle just to get to the start of the race in Spain. During the race, I had so many small struggles along the way, and to have it all come together in the end was amazing. My race easily could have fallen apart with a small crash or mechanical at the wrong time over the three weeks, so it was really stressful. Also, there would so many issues to battle during the race – internal team battles over leadership, illness, bad weather, nagging injuries, etc. – at the time it seemed almost impossible that I would be able to overcome all of the issues and win in the end. And to have it all come down to the last mountain top finish, with only a few seconds between us all, I think that represented what the race felt like for me over the entire three weeks – and the months before.
Q: You live in such a beautiful region of Oregon. Can you share your favorite Central Oregon ride?
A: McKenzie loop – start in Bend, ride around past the ODOT station past Sisters, then loop around and come back over McKenzie Pass. Long beautiful ride and a great excuse to stop at the Sister’s Donut shop on the way home!
Thanks Chris! We agree, McKenzie Pass is one of the most special rides in Oregon!
Look for Chris out there on this year’s Reach the Beach, an annual Oregon tradition.
REACH THE BEACH
Saturday, May 20
Portland > Pacific City
Routes: 104, 80, 55 or 26 miles
Finish line party in Pacific City
Return transportation available
ROUTES + DETAILS >