Cyclist Spotlight: Andy Benes

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For Andy Benes, cycling is a family affair. Saturday mornings are typically spent riding with his daughter and son from their home in Jenison, through Millenium Park, to the Blue Bridge downtown and over the river.

He got involved with the ride through Priority Health, where he works as a Medical Economics leader. The health insurance provider is a premier sponsor for the MSU Gran Fondo and has been involved since the ride began. Andy is captain of one of Priority Health’s two MSU Gran Fondo teams.

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During his first two Gran Fondos, Andy rode solo. Now his fifteen year old daughter Katelyn rides the Fondo, with this year’s event being her third time on the 40-mile route. This year, they hope to improve their time by 30 minutes and increase their fundraising, as well. The Benes family enjoys the event so much they schedule their vacations around the ride.

The MSU Gran Fondo’s mission is personal for Andy. He rides in memory of his friend Jerry, who died of skin cancer in February 2016.

“We developed a friendship while working together at Priority Health,” said Benes. After his retirement, Jerry was diagnosed with skin cancer. “His treatment was long and difficult, with complications along the way.”

Every year during the MSU Gran Fondo, Andy reconnects with Jerry’s family. He also reaches out to family and friends, asking for their support in the fight against skin cancer. To date, Andy has raised more than $7,500 for MSU’s skin cancer awareness, prevention and research. Click here to support his fundraising for 2018.

On June 23, Andy will ride the MSU Gran Fondo for a fifth time in honor of Jerry.

 

Cyclist Spotlight: Mark Bryson

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Mark Bryson’s love of cycling came from an nontraditional place – a three-year stint in Jamaica while serving in the Peace Corps’ Green Initiative sector.

“I was provided a Fuji Adventure 2.0 bicycle to get around the community,” said Bryson. “I rode almost every single day and learned how to maintain the bike not by choice, but by necessity.”

When he returned to West Michigan, Mark got involved with the local scene through the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, the local IMBA Chapter and volunteering.

“It’s such a close-knit, welcoming and supportive community that I cannot imagine my time in Grand Rapids without it.”

The 33-year-old outdoorsman is a brewer at New Holland Brewing. Through the brewery’s sponsorship of the MSU Gran Fondo, Bryson will be riding the 80-mile route on June 23.

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Mark Bryson, upper left, in his first MSU Gran Fondo in 2015

 

It won’t be his first MSU Gran Fondo, but it will certainly be one to celebrate. In 2016, Mark suffered a bad ACL injury. Luckily, he made a full recovery after surgery and will ride his second 80-mile Gran Fondo in June.

Mark’s favorite part of the event is the camaraderie and support of fellow riders.

“Even a small donation of one’s time and money has a positive impact,” said Bryson. “If you love cycling then I’m sure you’ll be able to find a distance that fits your skill level to make the day an enjoyable experience all around.”

We wish Mark the best of luck at the MSU Gran Fondo, his first gravel race in April and his first marathon in May!

Cyclist Spotlight: PJ VanDyken

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PJ VanDyken will ride his sixth MSU Gran Fondo as part of the Herman Miller Team on June 23. Herman Miller is the presenting sponsor of the MSU Gran Fondo.

PJ VanDyken has participated in the MSU Gran Fondo since the beginning. As a supporter, fundraiser and rider since 2013, he plans on doing the same again on June 23.

He got involved with the ride through Herman Miller, where he has worked as a product support specialist. The West Michigan furniture company is the presenting sponsor for the MSU Gran Fondo.

“Herman Miller has been involved with the MSU Gran Fondo since it started with support and participation touching almost every aspect,” said VanDyken. “There truly is a great cycling culture at Herman Miller and the MSU Gran Fondo is an event our company looks forward to.”

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Brian C. Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Herman Miller (center) rides alongside his employees at the MSU Gran Fondo. Photography by Ross Pennington.

 PJ’s favorite part about the event is the time spent after the ride with friends, coworkers and other participants. “This is a great time for storytelling and celebrating, all while sharing that moment in life with others that have the same passion for riding bikes and giving,” said VanDyken.

Through years of riding the MSU Gran Fondo, he has learned how skin cancer has affected some of his Herman Miller family. The team’s commitment continues to grow.

“The year, we want to have our biggest team and raise the most donations yet!”

 PJ encourages his coworkers and others to get involved with the event.

“While there are so many ways to contribute to our community, I believe the MSU Gran Fondo is a great way to get outside, ride, volunteer and just have a great time, all while contributing to the continued research for the cure to skin cancer,” said VanDyken. “Not to mention all the fantastic food, drinks and entertainment that participants and volunteers get to enjoy!”

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MSU Gran Fondo is proud to partner with our presenting sponsor Herman Miller