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Larry Melendez

68 Year-Old Larry Melendrez: This Win's for You!

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 MelendrezLarry 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 surgery and 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.”