GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Thousands came out to downtown Grand Rapids Saturday to check out the inaugural Gran Fondo bike race to raise money for cancer research.
Starting at The B.O.B. downtown, 1,500 riders pedaled one of three course distances of 12, 40 or 80 miles for a life-saving cause.
PHOTOS: Gran Fondo for cancer research
"We have lots of family members that have passed away, so it's very important to be supporting causes like this," bicyclist Stacie Winker of Team BDO USA said.
The Gran Fondo, which means "big ride" in Italian, is sponsored by Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine and raises money for skin cancer research.
"Skin cancer is a major killer and we are very, very close to really effective treatments," Dr. Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine, said. "We're hoping this kind of support, this show of enthusiasm for that kind of research can help us bridge the gap."
Early Saturday, organizers were close to exceeding their goal of $100,000.
The 12-mile participants road as far as Millennium Park and the 80-milers to the lakeshore in Ferrysburg. The Gillmore Collection provided food stops along the way.
At the same time and in conjunction, dozens of riders blazed the short track through downtown for the Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium.
"Some of the best professionals in the world and bikers of all ability who are racing, raising money for skin cancer. It's a local event raising money for the College of Human Medicine," race founder Robert Hughes said.
Afterward, racers were treated to a Sparty Party, complete with food and beer at The B.O.B.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Police say snow made roads "treacherous" Sunday and urged people to stay home if possible.