By Max Papis Racing | April 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

For Papis, sometimes just two tires only way to go
Uses status as driver to deliver a voice against cancer

By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

Like most race car drivers, Max Papis is passionate about what he does.

But that extends to many areas of his life, beyond racing. He talked recently about making an 82-mile bicycle ride to Bristol Motor Speedway and why he loves the sport of cycling so much. Currently a competitor at least on a part-time basis in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series, Papis explained his fondness for the slower form of transportation.

Q: Simple question. Why so serious about cycling?

Papis: I’m an avid cyclist. Training has always been part of my lifestyle. Whenever I can, I’m on a bike or in the gym working out, doing some exercise or whatever I can. Because I feel like my body is like my engine. The guys work on the car really hard and I need to work on my body to make sure I’m fit for the races, as well.

Q: What led to your recent decision to bike to Bristol?

Papis: A bunch of guys in the garage were talking like, wow, did you hear that a couple of years ago [crew chief] Doug Randolph cycled to Bristol? I talked to Doug the week before and asked if the guys were going to Bristol this year. He said, ‘Yes.’ We met at 8 a.m. at the Germain Racing shop, drove to Morganton [N.C.] and took off from there. We rode through the Appalachian Mountains. It was a beautiful ride and I enjoyed every second of it. We rode for 82 miles all the way to Bristol Motor Speedway.

In one way it was actually funny because my wife told me, ‘Dale Jr. and Kyle Busch, they went to Bristol in their helicopters; Scott Speed drove his Forerunner; Max Papis rode his bicycle.’ A different way to see life, I guess.

Q: And which way do you think is the best?

Papis: I can’t talk about them. I can only talk about me. I just enjoyed so much the nature and watching the cows and animals through the Appalachian Mountains. We even did about half a mile of dirt road. It was just an adventure and it reminded me of how fortunate I am to be able to do my job. I mean, without racing I would never even have known where Bristol was.

Q: For you, was going 82 miles through the mountains easy, or was it hard?

Papis: Well, 82 miles is quite a lot. And we were ascending most of the time, so it was huge. We stopped for a lunch break as well about halfway through, but it took us five-and-a-half hours. So it was not nothing; it was pretty hard.

Q: How much training do you do as far as biking during an average week?

Papis: What I do is I try to ride at least two or three times a week when I can, and I do on average 150 or 200 miles a week — as much as I can.

But riding those 82 miles to Bristol, it felt like 50 or 60 of them were uphill. Only maybe 20 of them or so felt like they were downhill.

Q: So how long have you been into cycling like this?

Papis: You have to understand, where I come from in Italy is the mecca of cycling. The little village I’m from [near Como, Italy] stands for cycling like Mooresville [N.C.] stands for NASCAR. I mean, you could be riding around in your car or on your bike and see Ivan Basso or Lance Armstrong — all the great champions — training because that’s the mecca of cycling.

I got to understand the sport. There is a lot more to it than wearing skinny clothes and riding a light bike. … It is more like NASCAR than you think. Ivan Basso, who is like my best friend, he goes in the wind tunnel with his team to figure out bike position, how they have the seams on their shirts, who needs to lead in the pack, who should be second, where they need to have the handlebars, helmet configuration. It’s very much of a team sport, and it reminds me very much of drafting when you’re out on a superspeedway.

What I love about cycling is that running is too slow, and it’s too tiring; driving a car maybe doing the same road that I biked to Bristol, it’s too fast to really see what’s happening. Riding a bike is the perfect speed to be able to go, and around every corner is new scenery. Plus, it’s challenging in a way that reminds me of my racing. Sometimes you’re out there with 30 laps to go and you’re cooked and you don’t think you can do it anymore; you dig deep and that’s how you feel when you’re riding a bike. You really explore your limits.
Q: You’re also a big supporter of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, especially after your father passed away from cancer. Can you talk a little about that?

Papis: He passed away on Dec. 9, 2006. I love the Lance Armstrong Foundation, first of all, because I love the attitude of Lance Armstrong. I feel that we have a lot of things in common. He tells the truth all the time and is very straightforward, very hard-working, unstoppable. I feel I have those adjectives attached to myself, as well.

The reason I support LAF as much as I can is that you have to understand that 50 percent of the people in the grandstands on any given Sunday are going to somehow be affected by cancer. We can’t afford to let that happen without talking loud about what is happening. It is a huge problem in our society and we need to fight it.

With my job as a race car driver, I can reach out to a lot of people and make people aware of the issues — are you aware that a friend of mine who was only 12 years old died of leukemia because there is no cure? Or that my father died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62 because it was incurable? I just like to remind people that, yes, what I do is fun and spectacular — but I’m like the guy who carries the Olympic torch. I’m carrying a message, and it’s a message of life and attitude. I feel like as a race car driver, God made me not just to drive fast and try to be spectacular, but also as a messenger for people who need to know more about these issues. I feel like I have enough air in my lungs to be able to talk about what is the right thing to do.




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