In a professional bike race like the Tour de France, a peloton is fraught with politics - a pack of riders drafting, vying for position, aiding team leaders and controlling the pace. It's tight. It's tough. It rests on the verge of collapse.

In a professional bike race like the Tour de France, a peloton is fraught with politics - a pack of riders drafting, vying for position, aiding team leaders and controlling the pace. It's tight. It's tough. It rests on the verge of collapse.

Examined another way, a peloton is a group of riders with different styles, diverse skill sets and unique backgrounds working towards a common goal. They have a shared vision. Unless they work together, they get nowhere.

That's the spirit behind Pelotonia, a groundbreaking bike tour between Columbus and Athens set to raise millions for Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. The first event runs Friday through Sunday, Aug. 28-30, with champion cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong leading the way.

Executive director Tom Lennox said the idea makes perfect sense: People love biking and hate cancer.

"A friend of mine gave me the Lance Armstrong book It's Not About the Bike, and I was inspired by Lance and his story," Lennox said. "I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, and one way to get in shape after surgery and chemotherapy was to ride."

Once he started cycling, Lennox rode in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon through Massachusetts that since 1980 has raised nearly $240 million for cancer research. He soon wanted a similar event in Columbus - an annual charity ride that would have people taking off work to celebrate, biking long distances, volunteering and raising awareness.

The Pan-Mass changed culture in New England, Lennox said. It's already starting here.

A ride and a not a race, Pelotonia offers routes of 25, 50, 100 and 180 miles between the two cities starting Saturday at 7:15 a.m. Long-distance riders stay the night at Ohio University, and shuttles are provided for the three shortest legs. Each route has water and food stops along the way.

Already more than 2,000 have registered, each pledging to raise at least $1,000 by Oct. 31. Founding sponsor NetJets donated $12.5 million to underwrite operating expenses for the next five years, so all money raised heads straight to science.

"A year ago, we sat at one of the bike shops in town, and the manager told us we'd be lucky to get 200 riders, let alone 2,000," Lennox said. "Our competitive advantage is that cancer affects everyone. You've heard it before, but it really does."

The disease will afflict one in two men and one in three women in the United States, with the number of new cases nearly doubling by 2050, according to a National Cancer Institute study.

Some will ride in memory of loved ones who succumbed to cancer or in celebration of those who survived. All ride with the hope that a grassroots effort, coupled with scientific research, can beat it for good.

Individuals are coming from across the country to ride. Teams have formed among friends and through local businesses like Rubino's Pizza, Bob Evans and Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"We take care of a lot of children, unfortunately, with cancer, and we want to help with the good fight," said Steve Allen, Nationwide Children's CEO, who's leading a team of 20 coworkers. "We're excited about it. We're glad the community is putting on an event like this."

A veteran of charity rides for multiple sclerosis in Texas, Allen will complete the 180-mile leg. Others in his team will opt for shorter routes, which end in Groveport, Amanda and Athens respectively

"Regardless of what happens on event weekend, we've created something that will last for many years," Lennox added. "Pelotonia isn't an event - it's truly an experience. It's positive for Columbus."