Pelotonia helped Dublin's Matt Briskey cope with grief, aid others

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
Dublin's Matt Briskey and his fiancee, Megan Dudte, rode in the 2019 Pelotonia charity bicycle tour. He said volunteering to help with the 2018 event helped him deal with grief after the death of his mother and motivated him to ride last year.

Matt Briskey's mother, Cathie, died two years ago from cancer.

After her death, Briskey, 26, said he was in denial about his loss and didn't want to talk about it.

But the Dublin resident said the time he spent with family and friends volunteering in 2018 for the annual Pelotonia charity bicycle tour helped change his perspective about the grieving process, giving him an opportunity to talk about his mother with family and friends, something he doesn't think he would have done otherwise, he said.

After his first year volunteering for the charity event, Briskey said, he knew he wanted to ride in Pelotonia.

Last year was the first year that Team Cathie -- the peloton Briskey and his sister, Jennifer Hair, created in memory of their mother -- rode in Pelotonia.

Briskey, despite never being much of a cyclist, opted for the 100-mile route, from Columbus to Gambier.

At one point, his bike chain came off while he was riding. Within a minute or two, a fellow rider helped him.

Pelotonia is a supportive community, Briskey said.

"You're not doing it yourself," he said.

Pelotonia participants this year are finding creative ways to connect to their peloton communities because the event will be virtual.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Pelotonia in May canceled its annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated Friday, Aug. 7, to Sunday, Aug. 9.

But a reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org to continue the mission of supporting cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

This year's format includes a unifying event in the spirit of Pelotonia's traditional opening ceremony: a special broadcast called Legends LIVE! that will be streamed on pelotonia.org/rise, Facebook (facebook.com/pelotonia) and YouTube (youtube.com/ridepelotonia) from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

"As we've had to pivot away from our traditional mass physical gathering this year, our priority has been to create new opportunities for our community to engage and continue to raise critical funds for cancer research," said Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Pelotonia. "The My Pelotonia platform and upcoming Legends LIVE! broadcast on Friday, Aug. 7, allow anyone, anywhere to play an important role in Pelotonia's mission this year.

"Legends LIVE! will be a celebration of what we've accomplished so far and the important work still to come -- featuring moving and uplifting stories of survival, research successes, musical performances and many special guests."

The virtual Pelotonia will not mean isolation for Briskey, he said.

He and nine riders from Team Cathie are planning their own 50-mile ride together, he said.

He also planned to ride 100 miles by himself Aug. 1.

"I think that I just like a challenge," he said.

Briskey was never really into cycling, but when he and his sister, Hair, created Team Cathie, he "dove head first into all things biking," said Hair, a Plain City resident.

Briskey began cycling indoors and outdoors for hours at a time, Hair said.

"I think in some ways, it was a way for him to deal with all of the pent-up grief that men don't often express verbally," she said.

Pelotonia also influenced Hair's own grieving process, she said, by allowing her to realize something good can come from such a horrible situation.

"Prior to my mom passing, I had never been involved with Pelotonia, and with her passing, it gave me a sense of community and a bigger purpose," Hair said. "It made me realize that there are a lot of families out there that are going through the exact same thing that mine went through, and if I can help even in a small way, I wanted to do that."

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah