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Bill Doupé, left, and Cameron Lokey lead the riders out Mesena Road near the start of a 37-mile training ride through McDuffie and Warren counties Saturday morning.

Cyclists preparing for PaceDay 2021, a ride to benefit cancer research, were in Thomson over the weekend for a training ride.

The signature fundraiser set for Oct. 16 is the creation of Paceline Ride, a non profit which brings together riders and virtual riders to raise funds for life-saving cancer research at the Georgia Cancer Center. The first ride was in 2019. The second ride was set for 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

PaceDay 2021 will start and end in Augusta, however riders on the longer route will pass directly through Thomson. The three route options are 25 miles, 50 miles, and 100 miles.

A local group of cyclists known as the Thomson Toe Jammers took the lead on creating Saturday morning’s training ride. The Toe Jammers are Steve Dwyer, Sara Lokey, Bill Jopling, and Cameron Lokey. Jopling was unable to ride Saturday, but the others were on hand to lead the pack out of town from the starting point at the Thomson Depot.

There were two routes Saturday morning. A nine-mile route went out Mesena Road and looped around to return to Thomson. The longer 37-mile route took riders out Mesena Road and through Camak, Norwood, and Cadley before passing through the historic Wrightsboro community. From there the riders continued back past Belle Meade Hunt then returned to Thomson via Cedar Rock Road. For the longer ride there was a rest stop in Norwood.

“We all did the inaugural Paceline. We’ve gotten to know these guys real well,” said Dwyer.

He and Sara Lokey participated in a training ride in Augusta and decided the Thomson Toe Jammers should host one as well.

“We’re trying to raise funds for Paceline,” said Dwyer. “It’s totally voluntary. If they want to make a contribution they can, but this training ride is free. Now for the Paceline, they do actually raise a certain amount of funds depending on how far you ride.”

Originally the 2020 ride was set to culminate in Thomson, but the plan for 2021 has now changed. James Holmes, growth officer for Paceline Ride, explained the plan has had to change because of the pandemic. The 2021 ride will start and end in Augusta. Holmes said if the ride ended in Thomson then riders would have to be shuttled back to Augusta and with pandemic concerns it would not be practical to put the riders together in vans like that.

“The challenge was how can we shuttle people,” he said.

Although the actual ride will no longer finish in Thomson, there will be two rest stops in McDuffie County during the 100 mile route according to Holmes.

“Another thing is, we are not doing an opening ceremony,” he said, when talking about the COVID-related changes. “Everybody will kind of have the same experience but they will not all be there at one time.”

“We’re thankful for the Thomson Toe Jammers hosting today’s ride,” Holmes said.