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Leukemia victim races in Saturday’s Furnace Creek 508

Posted: October 2, 2008 10:07 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Ultracyclist Vinnie Tortorich trains for the Furnace 508 race starting in the Santa Clarita Valley Saturday morning. Totorich, battling leukemia, is raising money for others affected by life-threatening diseases.

While most of Santa Clarita will be eating breakfast Saturday morning, Vinnie Tortorich will be on his bicycle racing 508 miles from the Santa Clarita Valley through Death Valley to raise money for those affected by life-threatening diseases.

Tortorich, 46, was blessed with extraordinarily good health and athleticism but doctors diagnosed the ultracyclist with leukemia in July 2007.

“Life, as I knew it, changed,” Tortorich said. “That afternoon they told me I had leukemia. Suddenly I had to switch gears from preparing and training for the race to intensive chemotherapy.”

Now he is working to raise money for those in need. After he found out he was cancer free in March of 2008, Tortorich said he was looking for a new reason to ride.

Tortorich will race on behalf of the Maximum Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people affected by diseases such as cancer and leukemia. Teaming up with Maximum Hope founder Jill Garrett, all funds raised by Tortorich will go to support a 15-year old girl diagnosed with cancer.

Tortorich, of Los Angeles, will have a picture of the girl on his bike throughout the race to motivate him.

The Furnace Creek 508 is a 48-hour nonstop race scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Saturday in Santa Clarita.

It is known as one of the toughest events in cycling. The 508-mile trek starts at the Hilton Garden Inn and journeys through the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and ends in 29 Palms.

Tortorich raced in the Furnace Creek 508 in 2006, but did not finish due to a knee injury.

“The biggest challenge is finishing,” Tortorich said. Training harder than ever before, Tortorich dreams to finish in less than 35 hours.

Alongside 213 other racers, Tortorich will travel through towering mountains, harsh desert terrain in temperatures near 100-degrees, and long stretches of barren roads.

Tortorich will continue to look for other ways to raise money in an attempt to alleviate some of the financial burdens that affect families dealing with life-threatening diseases.

“I’m not going to stop ultra racing anytime soon,” Tortorich said.

Donations to the Maximum Hope Foundation can be a flat amount or pledged for each mile Tortorich rides. To make donations visit or call (818) 438-8038.


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