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  • Annual Cycling Classic in honor of County worker

    When dozens of bicyclists pedal off October 8 for the Cenpatico Integrated Care 29th Cochise County Cycling Classic presented by Canyon Vista Medical Center they will ride, in part, to honor the hard work, perseverance and courage of Pima County Sustainability Coordinator Alex Oden.

    OdenKnown around the Public Works Building as a friendly face and in the Office of Sustainability and Conservation as a thoughtful and thorough colleague, Oden is recognized in the cycling world as an inspiration and a tireless advocate for the sport. That is why the Perimeter Bicycling Association dedicated this year’s Cycling Classic to the two-time cancer survivor who is now in his fourteenth year of remission.

    Organizers will honor Oden’s contributions to bicycling the night before the race at a traditional pre-ride pasta dinner & dedication ceremony in Douglas. Oden calls it a “huge gesture.”

    “It’s just phenomenal to see some of the people who have had races dedicated to them who have tremendous accomplishments. And to be put on the same level as them is just an enormous compliment. I’m just humbled to have somebody even think to nominate me for that.”

    The Perimeter Bicycling Association previously honored Oden with El Tour de Tucson’s 2002 Jim Elliott Award, presented annually to a rider who exhibits great courage, discipline and determination to participate.

    First diagnosed with germinoma brain cancer in middle school, the now 28-year-old discovered a passion for cycling after reading Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.” He found distance training was his best tool for recovery and even after enduring eight brain surgeries, he set, and met, his goals of competing in his first triathlon.

    “I got into cycling really as a way to, kind of, rehab after treatment; both psychologically and emotionally and physically as well,” said Oden. "I was really in a depressed state at the time and I was also really, really thin from all the treatment and everything else, the depression. I only weighed 68 pounds at the time. I hadn’t grown in years." 

    His small stature made him feel he had fallen behind his classmates.

    “All my peers had grown and I couldn’t keep up in a lot of sports and stuff that I used to do and I started swimming, biking and running because they were things I could do. I also had a tough time with peers and friendships and stuff like that,” said Oden.

    Oden has taken part in dozens of other competitions since - on wheels, on foot or in the water - and made it a mission to help others, mentoring cancer patients and other survivors and raising upwards of $50,000 toward cancer research. Those efforts earned him the first ever Livestrong Junior Spirit of Survivorship Award. He still serves on a committee that awards scholarships for adolescent cancer survivors who wish to attend his alma mater Northern Arizona University.

    This year’s Cycling Classic offers 165-, 95-, 47- or 27-mile races over the scenic rural roads of Cochise County. Oden plans to ride the 27-mile route. Training time has been at a premium lately between his work in Sustainability and Conservation, planning his upcoming wedding and giving every extra hour to a startup bike repair shop in Midtown.

    “I just haven’t had time to get in the long rides on the weekends,” said Oden, who’s taken part once before in the Cochise County Classic. “It requires a lot of time on the bike. But I do love this race. It’s a beautiful, beautiful ride. It’s a great time of year. But every year I’ve ever been down it is windy. I’ve looked at the old weather records for when this race happens and it’s always windy. It’s a challenging ride because of that fact.”

    After finishing up his ride, Oden will then join up with his fiancée Hannah and serve in the chase car for her brother, who is riding the 165-mile route.

    Cycling isn’t just a weekend thing for Oden. He doesn’t just talk the talk, Oden walks the walk: he rides everywhere. He doesn’t even own a car.
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