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Charlotte`s new bicycle race to benefit brain tumor

Posted on: 05/08/2004

Charlotte's new bicycle race to benefit brain tumor

CHARLOTTE – Superstars in football as well as bicycle racing will kickoff the inaugural Bank of America Invitational Criterium which will draw professional riders from around the world to Charlotte.

Roger Staubach, former football star and owner of a national real estate firm, will speak at the pre-race banquet and Eddy Merckx, a five-time winner of the Tour de France, will officially start the 60-mile competition in uptown on August 7.

Organizers hope to raise more than $1 million for the newly created Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas (BTFC). Dr. Tony Asher, director of the Brain Tumor Program at Carolinas Medical Center, leads the BTFC along with Jim Palermo, a former executive vice president at Bank of America, now executive vice president of community relations for Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte campus.

Palermo’s son survived a brain tumor and is a doctor in Winston-Salem.

Most of the money raised will remain in Charlotte, Asher said, going to the Carolinas Medical Center Brain Tumor Program and to the Buddy Kemp Caring House, named for a former Bank of America executive who died of a brain tumor.

Some funds will be allotted to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong is the American bike racer who survived testicular cancer which spread to his brain and lungs. He won his fifth Tour de France in 2003.

The Bank of America Invitational Criterium will be an annual event and organizers anticipate it will raise $5 million for the BTFC in its first three years. The group will split proceeds between tumor research, treatment technology and family/patient support services.

The race received a big boost when Bank of America signed on as corporate sponsor, Palermo said, praising Chief Marketing Executive Cathy Bessant and Graham Denton, the bank’s Charlotte marketing executive.

Sanctioned by the U.S. Cycling Federation, the race has a purse of $125,000, making it the world’s richest criterium. Much of the 1.3-mile course stretches along Tryon Street, Charlotte’s main drag.

The Saturday evening event will start in twilight and end under the stars. Among teams committed are the U.S. Postal Service, of Great Britain, SRM of Germany and Bodysol Belgium.

Heisman Trophy winner Staubach will launch 10 days of festivities when he speaks to a July 29 pre-race banquet sponsored by Presbyterian Healthcare. Other events include a community-oriented endurance ride July 30-31 in Charlotte’s scenic Myers Park neighborhood and a cycling time trial August 4 on the Lowes Motor Speedway NASCAR track.

Besides starting the race, Belgian Merckx will participate in presenting the winner’s check.

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