Club fundraiser draws 2,500 cyclists
By DAVE SCHAFER
For more than 30 minutes, the cyclists left Rhodes Stadium in packs of 200. As the sun climbed into the clouds at their back July 18, the 2,500 cyclists from throughout Texas all were part of the 23rd annual Katy Flatland Century ride.
One of Northwest Cycling Club's two big fundraisers, the ride offered cyclists the choice of six distances on a mild but humid day: 24, 40, 50, 62, 84 and 100 miles. According to ride director Jessica Saxe, 870 cyclists rode the century.
That 2,500 is more than we expected," she said.
I'm almost 60, so it's good to prove to myself that I can still ride the 100 miles," said John Gregorcyk, who came up from Refugio for the ride. They just don't have many rides like this anymore down where I live."
Like the other riders, Gregorcyk stocked up on Gatorade and ice water before setting out on his custom-make Scarab trike. He also packed energy gels.
Laura Jennings, 50, started consuming water and carbohydrates two days earlier in preparation for the ride, and she trained by riding her bike long distances in the heat every weekend. She has ridden the 62- and 84-mile routes before. This year, she decided to ride the century.
This is a good way to see if your body can do it," she said. See how far and fast you can go.
It's also good for charity and a good way to raise awareness."
Riding for charity
The ride netted about $30,000 for NWCC, a nonprofit that gives money to the Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association, Bicycle Texas, League of American Bicyclists, three Boy Scout troops, and the Alkek velodrome, Saxe said.
This really enables us to make donations to worthy advocacy organizations," Saxe said.
With the proceeds from the flatland ride and the spring Bluebonnet Express ride, the club will be able to give those organizations $62,000 total.
This is a good ride because it's so well-organized," said Marc Laviage, riding in his fourth Flatland Century.
NWCC's race team organized the ride this year. NWCC is the only club in Texas that provides complete financial support for its junior and adult race teams, Saxe said.
Riders left at 7 a.m. and followed signs along their routes. Volunteers from NWCC and Boy Scout troops 73, 202, and 1,001 staffed the start
finish area and the eight rest stops that offered food, drinks, ice and port-a-potties.
Mechanics from Houston Cycling Centres were at five of the eight rest stops to respond when a rider needed bike work, and 12 support-and-gear vehicles swept the routes watching for riders in distress. Forty ride marshals also rode with the groups to set a good example, remind other riders about safety tips and help when needed.
There was one significant crash, resulting in some bruises and a broken collarbone for an unregistered rider.
When riders returned, free barbecue sandwiches and drinks were waiting in the air-conditioned gym, and bananas, snow cones, Fig Newtons, cookies and Clif bars were available outside.
When you ride enough of these, you get a sense of which rides are worth it," Saxe said. We're very detail-oriented, and we work to make everyone happy. I think that's why every year, the numbers increase."
Crossing the finish line
About 50 cyclists were still on the 100-mile route when those sun-blocking clouds started dropping rain at 1:45 p.m. The last rider arrived at 4:05 p.m.
Miriam Terc and Cesar Alvarez considered riding the 84-mile route, but Alvarez, a marathon runner who had never ridden that far, suggested they ride 100 miles.
This seemed like the next step," he said between breaths. It was a little hot, but it was good. We stayed with the group, and we made it. So it was good."
Now, Alvarez was looking forward to a few beers and some relaxation.
Nery Hernandez, who was riding his first century as a member of the Nick Lopez Cycling Team, was ready to go home and watch the Tour de France.
Then, a big nap," he said.
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