One ride, one cause
ASPEN ” Kimberly Baldwin learned five years ago that cancer waits for no one. Not even a young, robust professional cyclist and bride-to-be.
A few weeks before she was set to compete at the world championships and a little more than a month before her wedding, Baldwin finally got an accurate diagnosis on the growing lump in her ankle.
It was a cancerous tumor. Surgery was needed immediately. She couldn’t put it off until after her wedding, or the honeymoon in Hawaii.
“It’s life-changing,” Baldwin said from her home in Boulder on Thursday. “I had all these plans, and I thought maybe we could just schedule the surgery after everything. My doctor said, ‘No, we’re making an appointment tomorrow.’ You realize that your health is the thing that holds the most importance.”
Even on her busiest days, Baldwin never forgets that.
It’s why she agreed to be an honorary cyclist with a former teammate, Aspen resident Jessica Phillips, at Saturday’s Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure. The proceeds from the charity ride through parts of Aspen and Snowmass go to the fight against breast cancer. Last year’s race drew more than 400 riders, each of whom raised at least $500 in pledges.
“Jessica and I are there really just to support the other riders, talk with them, answer any kind of cycling questions they have,” Baldwin said of the ride, which features course options of 10, 30, 64 and 100 miles. “We’re just honoring what everyone is doing for the cause. Just anything I can do to help raise funds just for cancer research in general.”
Baldwin retired from professional cycling in 2006 because she said she wanted to get back to “just riding her bike.” Admittedly, the former three-time national time trial champion said that’s something she took for granted before her diagnosis of a neurosarcoma ” a type of malignant tumor that develops in nerve sheaths ” a little more than five years ago.
Before advances in surgery, patients with the same form of cancer in their ankles had their legs amputated below the knee.
Baldwin, by comparison, had her tumor removed by a plastic surgeon in late August 2003 and was off her crutches just a week before her Oct. 17 wedding. Because of muscle and skin grafts, her doctor told her not to go in the ocean during her honeymoon.
“I went in just a little bit, though,” she joked.
Now a commercial and residential real estate broker, Baldwin, despite years of punishing training, said her favorite hobby is still getting on her bike and going out for a ride.
“I love the freedom of being able to ride your bike,” she said. “Especially up in Aspen, where it’s so beautiful. I just feel so lucky and fortunate.”
Her husband, Chris Baldwin, is a professional cyclist for the Toyota-United team who competes in top-tier domestic races, including next week’s Tour of Missouri. Baldwin, for her part, is content to be done with the non-stop traveling and training of the professional cycling life.
She raced with Phillips on the Saturn team in 2001 and 2002, and was a member of the renowned T-Mobile team from 2003-2006. To go with her national titles, she also won the overall title at the Tour de Snowy in Australia and the Tour of Switzerland in 2001.
Despite the accolades, the best prize from all her years in racing is the bonds she made with fellow competitors and coaches, she said. That includes her friendship with Phillips, who now works as a certified performance enhancement specialist at her own start-up, Aspen Bike Guide.
Baldwin raced in last year’s Tour de Pink in Hershey, Penn., another event to benefit cancer research, and said she jumped at the opportunity to do Saturday’s Ride for the Cure when Phillips called her earlier this year.
“Jessica’s been in Aspen her entire life and she’s part of the organization for Ride for the Cure,” Baldwin said. “She made it happen.”
For more information on the ride or to give a donation, contact the Komen Aspen office at 920-0250 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.