Breakaway From Cancer again swept the podium at the legendary Redlands
Classic criterium and dedicated the big win to a big man who could use
a big boost right now – Larry Melendrez, a 68 year-old retired machinist
who has malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.
Larry and Mary Melendrez, who have been married 46 years and live in La
Mirada, California were living the good life until the recent cancer
diagnosis. Larry was a standout high school football player. He loved football so
much that when his Catholic prep school dropped it’s program in
his sophomore year, Larry transferred to Bishop Cantwell High in Montebello
and happily rode the city bus each day over one hour each way.
Four decades later, years after watching his own boys play, Larry is still
driving to nearby high schools with a buddy to support the local football
and baseball prepsters.He’s a devoted Notre Dame Golden Domer and
Angels fan. His dedication to sports is second only to his loving devotion
to his wife, family and church. After spending 25 years working as a foreman
in a pipe company, he had “retired” to doing “handy
man” chores at his church for the past decade.
His mesothelioma diagnosis knocked him down but with the help of his family
Larry got up. He was planning on aggressive treatments that included
chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Larry recently learned that his mesothelioma tumor had
spread to the point that surgery was no longer an option.
This will be a rough time for Larry and his family. Breakaway from Cancer,
which learned of Larry’s plight before the race, dedicated the race
to Mr. Melendrez. “The guys were fired up, “ said Steve Strickler.
“We knew Larry was hurting. We wanted to go the extra mile to win
this race for the Melendrez family.”
With a lap to go in the 25 lap race on the .8 mile, 5 turn course, BfC
charged to the front. Strickler dove down the backside with teammates
Richard Meeker and Aron Gadhia on his wheel. Out of the final turn Gadhia
and Meeker slungshot off of Strickler’s wheel and ramped the final
sprint for a 1-2 finish. A very fired up Strickler put off the pain long
enough to cross the line in 3rd place – an amazing feat for a lead out man.
“We love the strategy, speed, skill and teamwork it takes to win
a bike race, “said a jubilant Richard Meeker. “But not for
a moment do we think winning a bike race is anywhere near as hard as breaking
away from cancer. We know the road ahead for Larry Melendrez will be uphill
and full of hazards. We hope our little win will help boost their morale
as they soldier on.”