WASHINGTON, DC — A team of about 30 airmen and government workers jumped on their bikes and hit the streets and paths around the Washington, DC area to enjoy bicycling and raise money for various causes. They call themselves the Blue Suit Pacers.
The team has rookies and “hammers” — the more experienced cyclists. Gloria Padilla is a hammer. Five years ago, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. The 11th Wing human resource worker at Bolling Air Force Base, DC, beat the disease.
Joining the team one year ago was one of the best decisions she ever made, she said. Padilla said her teammates are “great people to ride with” and are always cheerful and supportive.
“They are my wingmen,” she said.
The group has raised money for cancer research in the past along with money for diabetes research and the Red Cross. Recently, the team received pledges for every mile they rode and raised more than $1,000 for Air Force Hurricane Katrina survivors.
“People really connect more through their passions,” said Master Sgt. B.L. Lawrence, who works in the Air Force Senior Leader Management Office at the Pentagon and is a member of the team. “Cycling is our passion, and it gets even better when we are able to help others by doing what we love.”
Padilla and Lawrence proved that last October when they flew to Texas to ride with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong at his Ride for the Roses event that commemorates cancer survivors. For Sergeant Lawrence, the trip to Texas was more than another cycling event; it was a return to his cycling roots, his wife Laurie said.
“He actually started riding when we were stationed there (in Texas),” she said. “It was the [former Air Force] bike test that got him started. He had a hard time passing it, so that's when he got on the bike. Things took off from there.”
While living in Texas, the sergeant began riding in charity events. When the Lawrences moved to Washington, DC, he began meeting other cyclists and decided to turn the hobby into a legitimate team open to others. Hence, the Blue Suit Pacers.
The Blue Suit Pacers is more than a team — it's family, which includes spouses and children, Laurie said. During rides, family members drive in a van behind the team to pace and keep riders on track. Though the name implies Air Force, an Army medical student is among the team's ranks, as are government civilians and retirees.