Backs of the Crush Challenge jerseys

7th annual Crush Challenge bike ride supports cancer research and camaraderie


The 7th annual Crush Challenge bike ride raised more than $75,000 for UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The funds will advance research into non-toxic treatment for lymphoma.

Crush Challenge starts with the 25- and 37-mile bike rides through the beautiful Napa Valley as part of a series of day-long events held Oct. 9, hosted by the deLeuze Family Charitable Foundation and ZD Wines.

Norman deLeuze, founder of ZD Wines, was the inspiration for Crush Challenge. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, the iconic Napa winemaker sought treatments beyond traditional radiation and chemotherapy with UC Davis oncologist Joseph Tuscano, who specializes in cancers of the blood.

As ZD Wines President Brett deLeuze explains, “My father, Norman, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After the diagnosis, he went in search of non-toxic treatments. Along his journey, he met Dr. Tuscano. The relationship resulted in the UC Davis deLeuze Family Professorship focused on researching non-toxic cures for cancer. Today, Crush Challenge continues to support that research and the UC Davis Health Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

Crush Challenge activities include the Food & Wine Marketplace at the North Yountville Park.

Tuscano researches alternatives to treating lymphoma and discovered a naturopathic remedy that shrank deLeuze’s tumor and extended his life. Although deLeuze eventually died from his cancer, ZD Wines and the deLeuze family continue Norman’s legacy through the establishment of the deLeuze Endowed Professorship and the annual Crush Challenge.

Top teams earn recognition

This year, the ZD Wines cycling team Zero Defects earned their stripes as the top fundraising cycling team, generating about $25,300 in donations.

The 55-member UC Davis cycling team, which was co-captained by UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky, raised $16,554 from the ride.

“We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way, so it’s great to team up with others who have similar experiences and train together, as we work to complete the Crush Challenge and raise money and awareness for the important research that may save the lives of future cancer patients,” said Lubarsky. 

Tuscano cycled with the UC Davis team and is grateful for the growing interest in the Crush Challenge, which not only raises funding, but awareness regarding the critical importance of cancer research.

“I see the faces of the victims of lymphoma and other blood cancers daily, but I also carry with me the kindness of those whose faces I will never see and yet they support us in this challenge to ‘crush cancer’ and I’m grateful because we cannot do it alone,” said Tuscano. 

Tuscano rode in honor of Gustavo Barisone, a researcher in the Tuscano Research Lab who died from pancreatic cancer this year. Barisone was honored at the event with the annual The Power of Influence Award, given by the deLeuze family.

“Dr. Barisone dedicated his life to battling a disease that eventually took his life and is one of the many anonymous research heroes that are fighting cancer every day,” said Tuscano.

Female cycling club honors member who passed away from leukemia

Joining the Crush Challenge this year was a women’s bike club from the Sacramento area called Bodacious Biking Babes, which raised nearly $3,000. The group rode in honor of fellow cyclist Sandy Bussey Cole, a longtime member of the club who was a breast cancer and then leukemia patient at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Pictured (left to right): Nancy Cabral, Colleen Rich, Kathy Degroof, Michele Tackett, Pam Lee, Tuscano and Tim Lee.

“Dr. Tuscano was Sandy’s favorite oncologist and she hoped to join him on the Crush Challenge ride. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer last year, so we decided to ride in her honor this year,” said close cycling friend Colleen Rich.

The “biking babes,” as they call themselves, made photo buttons of Sandy to wear on their bright pink jerseys.

Tuscano wore her photo button on his UC Davis Health jersey, too.

“Sandy is a perfect example of why we ride and why we need more research funding,” said Tuscano about the wife, mother, cyclist, and businesswoman from El Dorado Hills.

Food and wine for all

Non-cyclists enjoyed the after-ride fundraising events, supporting the Crush Challenge by buying tickets to a Barrel Tasting at ZD Wines in Rutherford and the lively, music-filled Food & Wine Marketplace at the North Yountville Park.

There was also a Lobster Boil & ZD Wine Dinner in the evening, but it sold out quickly.  Next year it would be wise to get tickets as soon as they are available!

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit