In the last full week of July, tens of thousands of bike riders will cross Iowa for the 47th edition of the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). And for supporters of the Davis Phinney Foundation and Team Pedaling for Parkinson’s, this edition will be a very special ride, especially on day three of the seven-day event.
On that Tuesday, as the event makes its way 40 miles from Winterset to Indianola, RAGBRAI will honor the Parkinson’s Community by designating the ride, “Parkinson’s Awareness Day, honoring Davis Phinney.” The day will recognize Davis’s contributions to both the cycling and Parkinson’s communities as well as RAGBRAI’s significant link to Parkinson’s.
“I always say that RAGBRAI is more than a ride. Each year we look to partner with charitable organizations and causes that are special to us and our riders. We are beyond honored to work with the Davis Phinney Foundation and Pedaling for Parkinson’s for RAGBRAI’s Parkinson’s Awareness Day. The connection with RAGBRAI and Parkinson’s is special because of Dr. Jay Albert’s breakthrough discovery that exercise and cycling can actually improve symptoms. Around the same time of this discovery, cycling legend Davis Phinney formed the Davis Phinney Foundation to help those diagnosed with Parkinson’s live well! We look forward to celebrating living well as we welcome Davis to RAGBRAI!”
– J. Juskiewicz, RAGBRAI Director
The Davis, Cycling and RAGBRAI Connection
In 2003, Dr. Jay Alberts, who was born in Sanborn, Iowa, was riding RAGBRAI on a tandem bicycle with Cathy, a person with Parkinson’s. After a vigorous day on the bike, Dr. Alberts observed that Cathy’s handwriting had improved dramatically. That simple observation led to groundbreaking research, which was funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation. The outcome of this research completely reversed the common practice of prescribing rest for Parkinson’s. Doctors now routinely prescribe physical activity as part of Parkinson’s therapy, leading to a much higher quality of life.
“I am pleased and honored that RAGBRAI is recognizing Parkinson’s disease and Davis Phinney. In 2003, exercise and Parkinson’s disease were rarely spoken in the same sentence. I think our discovery on RAGBRAI has transformed how neurologists and patients now view the role of exercise in their treatment. Initially, I thought maybe it was the pie and ice cream – the best in the world – eaten on RAGBRAI that could be the reason for improved symptoms during tandem cycling. However, after completing multiple studies, we now know it’s the pedaling, not the ice cream. This serendipitous discovery would have not happened had it not been for our participation in RAGBRAI.”
– Jay Alberts, Ph.D.
Davis will be the first to tell you how hard-fought his 328 career cycling victories were. And how memorable and meaningful it was to score victories ranging from the venerable Coors Classic to the Tour de France and an Olympic medal. However, he will also tell you, with a great big smile on his face, how the work he has done in the Parkinson’s community over the last 20 years is his true life’s calling. And that one of the greatest victories of his life is getting the chance to spread the message that exercise in general and cycling specifically truly can help you live well (and better) with Parkinson’s.
If you’d like to join us in celebrating Davis on Parkinson’s Awareness Day at RAGBRAI, there’s still time left to register (and train!). Learn more about this legendary ride and how you can join here.
If you’d like to learn more about Team DPF, but a seven-day ride isn’t in the cards this summer, you can learn about all of our upcoming events here, as well as information on how you can create and host your own.