I will cut to the chase scene. Nancy Linn of the PV Bike Chicks kicked in an incredibly generous $2,000 to support the infamous South Bay Cycling Awards in 2018, now in its sixth embarrassing year. The donation was made in the name of the Race for RP Fund. More about that later.
All of this started a few months ago with an email exchange, typical for me in that it was brief. My emails go like this:
Would you have a few minutes to chat this week?
Of course this sounds like a solicitation for something, which it was. As Nancy told me later, “I thought you wanted money for the Wanky Awards.”
Instead, I’d had the idea of putting together a skills clinic with the PV Bike Chicks and working on some of the essential riding techniques whose importance I’d become keenly aware of as a result of riding with Yasuko, a new rider. I’d donate the time and they would buy me coffee. Nancy thought it would be fun and educational, so we began doing monthly sessions after I finished with the Thursday Flog Ride.
And you know, it was!
Cars and stuff
Occasionally Nancy would mention her husband and his interest in cars. Unfortunately, I am dead to the world of cars. Evens Stievenart, our local hammer, former professional race car driver, and car track racing instructor, has in the past talked to me a little about cars, but these are stillborn conversations because, cars.
Whereas other bike racers love to pick Evens’s brain about, you know, cars, I simply am not a car guy. And Nancy knew this the first time we ever met.
“I remember really well,” she said. “I was at the PV Bike Center and you drove up in some horrible old wreck, it was quite memorable.”
All I could think was, “Horrible old wreck? Doesn’t she know that was a CAMRY? Sure it might have had a couple hundred thousand miles on it, and it did make that funny clank when you put it in gear, and it smoked a bit, and vibrated a bit too much, and it tended to drip a bit of oil when you weren’t looking, and the windshield did have a few blind spots where you had to kind of look around the quarter-sized divots, and it did smell like beagle on the inside (especially on a rainy day), and there were some bits of rust peeking out from around the doors, but other than those flesh wounds that was a stand-up, respectable, take-it-to-the-Oscars ride.”
After that I started listening to Nancy a bit more carefully when she occasionally mentioned cars, and one day she was talking to one of the other Bike Chicks and I thought I heard her say her husband raced cars.
“Did you say your husband races cars?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
I thought about that for a while and wondered if racing cars was as expensive as racing bicycles. I mean, there are people out there with $15,000 bikes. “So, what kind of cars does he race?” I asked.
“He’s currently in a Ferrari,” she said.
I’d heard of those, and wondered if it had a lot of carbon in it. I figured it probably did. Then I went home and googled “How much does a Ferrari race car cost” and it turns out that they are more expensive than bicycles. Also, when they break or need a tune-up, you can’t drop them off at Boozy P.’s for half an hour, payable in beer.
Racing for a cause
It turns out that Nancy’s husband, Neil Langberg, does in fact race Ferraris (these are red cars made in Italy), but he and Nancy are also racing something else, and it’s got the awkward, hard to remember, doesn’t-really-roll-off-your-tongue name of “relapsing polychondritis.”
I could tell you what that is, but Nancy has done a much better job than I’ll ever do in this powerful documentary about an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s cartilage. In addition to the relentless pain and damage to the body’s organs that the disease can cause, it is a low-to-zero priority for medical research funding due to its rarity. Less than six people per million are afflicted with it, and research dollars on the national level are devoted to diseases that affect more people.
Nancy, who spent years suffering from relapsing polychondritis without knowing the cause, as it is extremely challenging to diagnose, finally got a definitive diagnosis and decided to do something positive about it. Enter Race for RP Fund, a fund that solicits donations and makes the money available to research, awareness, and advocacy programs through the Community Foundation of Louisville, which itself administers over half a billion dollars in philanthropic funds.
Nancy’s husband Neil put his own twist on the fundraising by sponsoring a racing team whose mission is to promote awareness of relapsing polychondritis.
Relapsing polychondritis and bikes
All of this is another way of saying that Nancy, married as she is to a hard core car racer, has zero trouble understanding the delusions and ridiculousness of bike racers. More importantly, she recognized that what is happening this year with the South Bay Cycling Awards is something that matters.
In short, for 2018 the South Bay Cycling Awards, also known by any number of much more disparaging names, is being held in conjunction with the All Clubs BBQ, a massive barbecue cookoff and picnic being held on August 12 at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. The purpose? To bring together all of the cycling communities, get people off the bike and out of the clown suits, and begin the process of building stronger American communities at a time when the forces of evil are doing everything they can to tear us apart.
The challenge faced by people with relapsing polychondritis is great. The illness is not widely known, research interest is low, and no cures are on the horizon, even the distant one. But like the challenge faced by our diverse cycling communities as we try to get from point A to point B without being maimed or killed, it’s something that will require people working together to fix the problem.
And the best place to start with people is … with people.
Thank you Nancy and Neil.