Cycling team holding a banner for this year's event

Cycling with a cause

Linda Votey adjusts her bike helmet and prepares to greet the road like an old friend. This ride, among countless others, is not only for recreation but also for a cause. Votey, an avid cyclist for over three decades, is a leading member of the Bearden-Josey Women’s Cycling Team.

Votey’s dedication to the team stems from personal experience. As a cyclist, Votey enjoys participating in rides to promote physical and mental health for women. And as a six-year breast cancer survivor, she understands the day-to-day struggle of those confronting the disease.

In 2014, three years after her diagnosis and treatment at the Bearden-Josey Center for Breast Health, Votey was invited to join the fledgling cycling team by fellow cyclist and team founder, Rene McCurdy.

“[McCurdy] saw that Spartanburg needed a women’s cycling team, and she recruited women, no matter their ability or skill level, to take part in an incredible opportunity. We are here to raise awareness about breast cancer and serve our community,” Votey said.

Today, Votey is one of 25 members of the Bearden-Josey Women’s Cycling Team, whose mission is to inspire and encourage women to reach their fullest potential through cycling and active community participation.

The team welcomes women from all backgrounds and walks of life. The team creates a safe way for women to ride free of judgment and at their own pace – whether joining in weekly rides organized by partner cycling club The Freewheelers, or competing in the grueling Assault on Mount Mitchell.

“It’s an honor to be part of such an amazing support system,” Votey said. “Proceeds from our rides go to the Gibbs Cancer Center Survivorship Program or to a local individual in need. It’s refreshing to see how our fundraising efforts directly impact lives close to home.” 

When Melanie Thomas, MD, a hematology oncologist with Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute, moved to Spartanburg in 2015, she was excited to see an active cycling community. Dr. Thomas, an outdoor enthusiast, began riding with the Freewheelers to explore the beauty of the Upstate countryside and meet new people in the area. During these rides, she noticed the lavender jerseys worn by members of the Bearden-Josey Cycling Team. Soon she acquired her own jersey.

Dr. Thomas is grateful to combine her love of cycling with her lifelong dedication to helping treat cancer patients. As a team member, she sees herself as an ambassador for her work with Bearden-Josey and Gibbs.

“For patients struggling with cancer or any serious illness, getting on a bike can provide a feeling of great accomplishment and control, things that cancer can often take away,” Dr. Thomas said.

Connecting to the community is a significant motivator for Dr. Thomas, who rides more than 75 miles per week. On a personal and professional level, Dr. Thomas encourages everyone to try cycling.

“This is a wonderful sport that almost anyone can enjoy,” she said. “Fancy expensive equipment is not necessary. It’s a way to be outside, enjoy nature, meet people and get exercise.”

Dr. Thomas said cycling raises endorphins in the brain, which are the ‘feel-good’ hormones that help fight depression, sleep better and improve self-esteem.

The Bearden-Josey Women’s Cycling Team is powered by strong women, like Linda Votey and Dr. Thomas, who have pushed their love for cycling above and beyond a hobby. They are dedicated to their craft and use it as a means for community outreach and health education. Saving lives one mile at a time.

To find out more about the Bearden-Josey Women’s Cycling Team and upcoming events, follow them on Facebook.