HARPSWELL — As part of its 10th anniversary this weekend, the Dempsey Challenge has devised a new cycling route that includes Brunswick and Harpswell.
The Dempsey Challenge Sept. 29 and 30 is an annual two-day, non-competitive run, walk and cycling fundraiser. Proceeds go to Dempsey Centers, an organization founded by actor Patrick Dempsey to help Mainers and their families impacted by cancer.
The Lewiston native founded the center after his late mother was diagnosed with cancer. The organization has locations in Lewiston and South Portland and offers counseling, family support, and other services such as massage therapy, reiki, and acupuncture to eligible cancer patients and their caregivers.
Nancy Audet, communications manager for Dempsey Centers, said the organization does not typically change its cycling route from year to year, but staff wanted to “offer something new” after a decade of holding the event.
In addition to a 5K and 10K run/walk, participants can choose from a 10-mile, 25-mile, 50-mile, 65-mile or 100-mile bicycle route.
Because the event is not competitive, Audet said her organization does not track times.
For cyclists who opt for the “century,” or 100-mile ride from Lewiston, Audet said their turnaround point will be the end of Route 24, also known as “land’s end” on Bailey Island, before they head back to Lewiston.
“We wanted a scenic coastal route to showcase the beauty of the Maine coast, especially for our out-of-town participants,” she said. “Harpswell seemed like a beautiful choice.”
Audet said Dempsey is “probably doing the 25-mile route,” so the actor will likely not be heading to the coast.
Whether the route will change again next year, she added, will depend on feedback from people who complete this year’s ride.
Although the event will pass through Harpswell, it will mostly be business-as-usual in town, according to Art Howe, the fire administrator and emergency management agent.
“We’re not changing anything (or) doing anything significant because of this – no road closures – it doesn’t impact us in a significant way,” he said.
Howe added there will be a medical unit for cyclists stationed at the Harpswell Town Office on Mountain Road, with parking just for medical personnel, and medics will likely also be present at land’s end.
He said medical services will not be provided by the town, but by Lewiston-based United Ambulance Service.
On their way to Harpswell, cyclists will also pass through Brunswick, following the route along Pennell Way, Mere Point Road, Maquoit Road, and Bunganuc Road, among others.
The route in both towns will be marked by cheer stations. The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust website lists the stations as designated groups of people showing support for participants by “cheering them on and having fun.”
The BTLT will have a cheer station at its Farmers Market Green at Crystal Spring Farm, 277 Pleasant Hill Road. Volunteers will also be at the corner of Church and Pleasant Hill Roads; both are from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
The BTLT website says cheer station participants are welcome to come for the entire time or a short stint, but the organization asks everyone to sign up beforehand.
Despite the lack of interruption the challenge is expected to cause, Audet said her organization works with state police and local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of cyclists.
“We are pleased that people in the Harpswell area seem to be aware of the event and are informing others to watch out for cyclists on the road next Sunday,” she said. “Thank you, Harpswell.”
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Dempsey Challenge this weekend, a new cycling route will pass through Brunswick and Harpswell. Above, actor Patrick Dempsey leads a pack of bikers during last year’s challenge.