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Son, nephew ride to honor late John Cassidy

Iron Horse veteran gave it all he had for eight years

Steve Hageman, left, will ride the 2013 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in honor of his uncle, John Cassidy, who participated in eight Iron Horse rides while battling colon cancer. His illness prevented his participation last year, and he died June 9, 2012, three weeks after the race. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Scott Cassidy

Steve Hageman, left, will ride the 2013 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in honor of his uncle, John Cassidy, who participated in eight Iron Horse rides while battling colon cancer. His illness prevented his participation last year, and he died June 9, 2012, three weeks after the race.

A Montrose man will ride with a group signed up for the 42nd annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in May as a tribute to his father, who exhibited classic courage by competing eight consecutive years despite the colon cancer that took more from him every time.

John Cassidy, 64, registered to ride last year but was so weak that he watched from the sidelines. He died June 9, three weeks later.

“Dad’s cancer spread aggressively last year, and he was ravaged,” Scott Cassidy wrote in a letter that made its way to Gaige Sippy, director of the Iron Horse Classic. “Renegade cancer cells took this fierce, quiet, cycling soldier and reduced him to a wobbly skeleton in a pair of sweats and white sneakers.

“Riders and spectators wouldn’t have recognized the sickly old fellow propped on a cane, but he was determined to stand and watch, which he did, with more effort than he ever used to ride the race,” Cassidy said. “With a grin pasted on his bony face, he soaked up the cheers and smells of craft beer, road food and chain lube.”

Scott Cassidy asked if his father’s unused 2012 registration could be transferred to him for this year’s Iron Horse.

Absolutely, Sippy told him.

“We have 50 to 60 registrations a year carried over,” Sippy said recently. “We have quite a few injuries, and people carry over for other reasons.”

John Cassidy finished the ride to Silverton every year, 2004 to 2011, bettering his time each year by a couple of minutes, his son said.

Stan Grigg, a longtime friend, recalled in an email that he and other members of a tight-knit group rode the Iron Horse six times with John Cassidy.

“Our team name was Never Again because every year we said we’d had enough,” Grigg said. “But three of four weeks later we’d be looking forward to the next Iron Horse.

“I started riding with John in 1992, and we figured we rode 30,000 miles together,” Grigg said. “John and I did two Ride the Rockies, and I know he did another. We did two Courage Classic rides, and he did three or four more.”

To train for the Iron Horse, Grigg said he and Cassidy would cycle from Ouray to Durango to meet their wives and spend the night.

Scott Cassidy, 38, recalled riding with his father 15 to 20 years ago.

They rode at least a couple of times the three-day Courage Classic Bicycle Race to benefit The Children’s Hospital in Denver. He, his father and his mother, Berni, rode in the MS 150 in Eugene, Ore., to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and treatment.

“I hadn’t ridden seriously since the mid-1990s,” Scott Cassidy said Thursday. “But I was inspired by my dad’s fierceness and determination, so I bought a used carbon bike late last summer and began to train.

“I’ve been doing two to three hours a week, but I anticipate stepping up the pace to four or five,” Cassidy said. “I’m also working out on a loaned spinning bike.”

In Durango, Cassidy, Grigg and David Gann, who also rode with his father, will share quarters.

“We’ll be staying in the same hotel room that the three of them used,” Cassidy said. “But I’ll be taking the place of my father.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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