Sports Figure of the Month: Jack Bianchi

Barney Berglund was instrumental in bringing the Amgen Tour of California to Santa Barbara (Courtesy Photo)

Jack Bianchi was instrumental in bringing the Amgen Tour of California to Santa Barbara (Courtesy Photo)

After taking some time off, Jack Bianchi is piling up the mileage on his bike and running again.

There’s a big race coming up and Bianchi is getting ready for it.

Bianchi, 70, is an outstanding senior endurance sports athlete and a survivor of advanced stage cancer.

Jack Bianchi

Jack Bianchi

He’s also quite the humanitarian. Just as he does in workouts and in competitions, Bianchi pours his energy and passion into supporting worthy causes. He’s started and organized events that have raised more than $1 million to support the Santa Barbara Cancer Center’s Wellness Program and cancer research.

Bianchi will be at it again when the Amgen Tour of California professional cycling stage race comes through Santa Barbara next week.

Presidio Sports is honored to name Jack Bianchi as its Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month.

The fourth stage of the eight-stage “America’s Greatest Race” is an 83.6-mile ride from Santa Clarita that finishes on Cabrillo Blvd in front of the Fess Parker Doubletree Hotel on Wednesday at around 3:45 p.m. On Thursday, the riders will reassemble on Cabrillo Blvd. for the start of Stage 5, an 115.6-mile trek to Avila Beach, at 11 a.m.

Bianchi is a co-chairperson for the local organizing committee with Susie Willett and Barney Berglund. Bianchi and Willett stepped up to assist Berglund, who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. [READ MORE ON BERGLUND HERE]

Among Bianchi’s responsibilities is setting up a VIP tent, where the public can enjoy food, cold drinks and a prime viewing location at the finish line. Entry to the tent is $75 (or $100 if purchased after May 12).

“We turned it into a fundraiser for the Julie Main Endowment,” Bianchi said. “My wife and I helped set up an endowment for her a few years ago. The money raised from the VIP tent and beer tent will go toward that endowment.”

Julie Main was a champion in creating and promoting cutting-edge health and fitness programs for cancer patients before she passed away from the disease in 2009.

The money from the endowment goes to the Cancer Center’s Wellness Program, which offers a variety of classes and services at no charge to patients.

“It’s been so successful,” Bianchi said. “Five thousand people have gone through this program.”

The Santa Barbara stop on the Amgen Tour of California also will include the Breakaway from Cancer Walk. Santa Barbara was one of four cities selected to hold the walk that celebrates cancer survivors.

Working with a sport he enjoys and raising money for the Cancer Center is a perfect match for Bianchi, who owes his life to local cancer doctor and devoted cyclist Lindsay Blount. The two met in 1992 when Bianchi was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his throat and tongue.

“I wasn’t given a good chance to make it,” Bianchi recalled.

He said there was a “tumor board” at UCLA, where the doctors would discuss the survival chances of cases. Blount was on the board.

“Lindsay was right out of UCLA and he says, ‘I want him. I’ll save him,’ ” Bianchi said of the story he was told.

He said when they met, Blount noticed the type of watch he was wearing and knew immediately that Bianchi was an endurance sports athlete.

On the conversation Dr. Blount had with him before beginning treatment, Bianchi said: “He told me, ‘We’re going to beat you up and you’re going to want to die, but I’m going to save you.’ Those were his exact words.”

Bianchi doesn’t have a big S on his chest, but the speed of his recovery after chemotherapy, radiation and surgery is nothing short of super.

“I ran a marathon 11 months after I first started radiation, which I did twice a day,” he said. “I ran 3:28 and I just started to pick it up, and I got to 3-0’s (under 3:10). I won my class a few times.”

Dr. Blount encouraged him in cycling and talked Bianchi into “doing this crazy race in Death Valley.”

He later got into doing run-bike-run duathlons and made the U.S. Duathlon team in his mid-50s. He traveled all over the world for competitions and earned a world ranking.

Bianchi took a break from competition last year, but his “older buddies” are calling him back into the fold. He’s increased his training regimen, averaging 40 miles on his rides and doing 6-mile runs.

The longer workouts have helped him handle all the responsibilities and small details that go into preparing for the Amgen Tour of California’s stop in Santa Barbara.

“It’s actually really picked up my motivation,” he said of doing the greater distances.

Bianchi admits that even though he’s in a leadership position for a high-profile event, he prefers working behind the scenes.

“I like the event, don’t get me wrong, but I’m on the backside of things,” he said. “I’m always interested in income stream, how this works, how that works, how can you make it better. It requires so many volunteers and how you treat those volunteers and make them feel really appreciated.”

He definitely knows how to make people feel appreciated.

Bianchi said there is a need for more race-day volunteers. Interested persons can find out more information by emailing atocsantabarbaravolunteer@gmail.com.

SANTA BARBARA SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH


This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community.It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in our sports community, whether it is an outstanding athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.

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