I’ve been riding le Tour de Femme since 2009 and to me it is so much more than a one day ride. It is a community of heart, compassion and hope. Seeing many of the same people every year, coming to volunteer, sponsor and ride, I wondered why the tour is so special to them. In these series of interviews, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to some of our sponsors, riders, volunteers and finding answers to some of the burning questions. How did the tour start? Who lives in the house at rest stop #1? Where do those cookies come from? Why is it an all women's ride?
Have you ever wondered how the first rest stop at le Tour de Femme came to be? Meet Tom & Nancy Bland. It all started in 2004 with Ron Hamner, the Livestrong Foundation and the Ride for the Roses. Ron wanted to ride in Nancy's honor and came by to tell her about this and about the Livestrong Organization. This is the story of love, compassion, heartache and resilience. Nancy lost her battle with cancer but Tom has carried on, found a passion for cycling, empowering women in cycling and supporting people living with cancer through his family business sponsorship and volunteering of le Tour de Femme.
You see, Tom’s wife Nancy was Ron Hamner’s (one of the founders) inspiration to start le Tour de Femme. In 2004, when Nancy was battling cancer, Ron told them about the Livestrong Foundation and that he was riding in Nancy’s honor in Austin. They were touched by this and she looked forward to riding with him when she was stronger.
Nancy never got to take that ride but six months after she died, Tom decided to take up bicycling. Ron helped him select a bike and learn the rules of the road. Bicycling helped him feel better and honor Nancy, but he wanted to do more. He volunteered with the first le Tour de Femme in 2006, working on logistics, marking the course, anything they needed.
Pictured above: Tom shares a photo with Nancy at one of her favorite places from their RV travels and another of his first Ride for the Roses with Ron.
Not only did his company, Bland Construction become one of the sponsors, he offered his home as the first rest stop, rallied his neighbors to cheer the riders in with cow bells, to bring friendly horses in the front paddock and to have an impressive array of goodies and of course, plenty of porta of potties.
All event photos courtesy of Gerald Dukes, Gerald Dukes Photography
This year, rest stop 1 will be a little different. Tom has married Beth Bushman Bland, and together they've created a beautiful patio which includes, of course, a bike rack, to welcome all of their cycling friends.
Soft spoken and humble, Tom shares the story of his wife's journey with cancer, their determination to embrace the time they had, and his journey beyond her death.
Meet Tom Bland
Tom talks about his wife, Nancy, and how her journey with cancer lead him to start bicycling and volunteering with le Tour de Femme.