Riders in the 2017 Pelotonia bike through Granville, just one of the stops between the route from Columbus to Gambier. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

An “icebreaker,” or a short introduction of yourself, generally consists of a name, major and a short something-or-other about yourself. When asking Pelotonia riders for their brief biography, they state the name of the friend or family member they ride for in support of cancer research.

Some people ride Pelotonia, an annual bike race in Columbus that raises millions of dollars for cancer research, to support a friend battling the disease, a survivor or simply to raise money for the James Cancer Research Center on Ohio State’s campus.

Siblings Gracie and Teddy Parsley ride in memory of their father, who died of brain cancer a little more than eight years ago.

“Everyone who rides Pelotonia or who supports Pelotonia has some connection to cancer,” said Teddy Parsley, a first-year in exploration. “There’s always a story to tell with each rider.”

Team Buckeye Riders Parris Miller, Cristin Sutliff (left of Brutus), and Teddy and Gracie Parsley (Right of Brutus) pose for a photo at a Pelotonia event. Credit: Courtesy of Teddy and Gracie Parsley

Gracie Parsley, a second-year in speech and hearing sciences, said after her father’s death, her mother started the family tradition of riding together each year.

“It’s something that we’ve always done as a family, and there’s no questions asked. We always sign up, we always do it together,” she said.

Teddy Parsley said he and his sister have always ridden together. They first rode with their mom and other adults when they were younger. Now they ride with Team Buckeye Student Riders.

“We both have been very active in the past, and we’ve found the Pelotonia Team Buckeye Student Riders organization here,” he said. “It connected for us, and we both love it.”

Although 18 months apart in age, they both made the decision to enroll at Ohio State almost simultaneously, since Gracie Parsley was transferring to Ohio State when Teddy Parsley was making his college decision in his final year of high school.

Because of their shared interest in Pelotonia and other student organizations, she said they get to spend time together and remain close.

“I think it’s so cool to have your brother [on campus],” she said. “People always say ‘Aw, cute,’ and yeah, OK, it’s cute, but it’s also fun because he’s my best friend.”

Now co-executive board members of the Team Buckeye Student Riders peloton, Teddy and Gracie Parsley continue to honor their father’s memory when they ride through their hometown of Granville, where family, friends and neighbors come out to cheer them on.

“The amount of support [in Granville] is unreal. It’s something that you want everyone to experience,” Gracie Parsley said. “I can’t even put it into words, and you just have to get on the bike and do it, and actually experience it.”

Another rider from Granville is Cristin Sutliff, who is a co-executive board member, and a second-year in financial math.

It’s something that we’ve always done as a family, and there’s no questions asked. We always sign up, we always do it together. —Gracie Parsley, a second-year in speech and hearing sciences, and Pelotonia rider

In addition to sharing a hometown with Teddy and Gracie Parsley, Sutliff shares pain with them — she lost her mother to cancer.

“My mom was first diagnosed when I was 6 years old,” Sutliff said. “She was re-diagnosed when I was in the eighth grade, and then it came back in her bones, and spread to her lungs and her brain. That was more so the power that drove me to eventually do it.”

She said her mother’s battle with cancer was the reason she decided to raise money and ride for Pelotonia and become involved with Team Buckeye Student Riders.

“Last summer, my mom ended up passing away right before, not even a month before the race,” she said. “That was pretty emotional for my family. They all came down to see me when I was riding through town, which was really special.”

Flags hang along the Pelotonia route in Granville to remember family and friends who have been affected by cancer. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Similar to many small towns, Gracie Parsley said everyone knows everything about each other, which she hated growing up.

“But, for that one particular day, I don’t mind knowing everything, and everyone knowing things about me because you’re all coming together for one reason,” she said.

Teddy Parsley and Sutliff both said there are people along the way who hold up signs encouraging riders, and one man in particular always holds a sign reading, “Thank you for saving my wife.”

When Sutliff first saw that man, it “was the moment for me that I said, ‘This is so worth it.’ And so ever since then I have continued to do it,” she said.

Gracie Parsley said the executive board members of Team Buckeye Student Riders held a retreat, during which they were asked, “If you had to describe Pelotonia in one word, what would it be?”

“My word was love, because we all ride because we love someone. We loved someone.”