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Jul 5, 2016 10:46 PM

1 day away from cross-country bicycle ride for ALS, Concord brothers welcomed home

CONCORD - Two brothers are one day away from completing a 4,500 mile bicycle ride across the country in the name of a former local high school principal.

Derek and Dylan Thomson of Concord started their cross-country trip nearly a month and a half ago. They started in San Francisco and are working their way to Seabrook, officially completing a coast-to-coast ride.

“In the first couple weeks kind of in our head we were planning this day, and then it finally came,” Derek said.

“Since we left we’ve been planning it, and it’s finally here, it doesn’t feel real,” Dylan agreed.

The pair and their team arrived in their hometown of Concord just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday. A large crowd of family and friends outside the State House welcomed them as they completed the 43rd day of their journey.

“It means a lot that people came out today to support us and Mr. Connolly,” Derek said.

The entire ride was for Gene Connolly, who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS Connolly was a principal at Concord High School for 14 years before having to retire because of his diagnosis.

The Thomson brothers decided to make the ride a fundraiser to help Connolly and his family financially. They originally set a $20,000 goal and made the phrase “Connolly Tough” their mantra as they embarked on their trek.

When they arrived in Concord Tuesday, they were excited to say they had officially surpassed that goal.

“It means a lot that people have stepped forward and did it for such an amazing person,” Derek said.

But a cross-country ride isn’t new to the Thomson family. The brothers’ father, Doug Thomson, also made the trek when he was about the same age as Derek.

“I was always hoping that one of them would do it, never expecting both of them to do it,” he said. “I was pretty pumped they did it, and there was no question in my mind they were going to finish, and they did.”

Doug was originally supposed to join his sons for the ride starting in Keene but couldn’t wait any longer once they hit Niagara Falls.

“From the day they left, I’ve been jealous,” he said. “I wanted to be with them the whole time. “It was a great trip with them. I’m proud of them.”

After being away for so long, both Derek and Dylan were thrilled to be home.

“We’re going to jump right in the pool when we get home, sleep in until noon tomorrow, and maybe take a couple little bike rides to keep in shape,” Dylan said. “It’ll just be a little time to relax.”

Both of them laughed, saying they’re looking forward to sleeping in their own beds and eating the foods they’ve been craving most over the last month.

“Captain Crunch, oatmeal cookies my mom makes, just some good, home-cooked meals are on our list,” Derek said. “You see things that you want when you’re biking that you really shouldn’t be having, and those are the things that we want the most.”

The pair will have a few days to rest before embarking on the final ride of their journey on Saturday. They’ll be departing Memorial Field in Concord at 8 a.m. and are welcoming other cyclists who want to join.

The Thomson’s said they’ll also keep their website open to donations at least through Saturday. For more information on the journey, visit the Cycling the U.S. for ALS website or Facebook page.

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