Ultimate Cycling Challenge

I participated in the Ultimate Cycling Challenge at Ridgepoint Community Church in Holland as a part of the Cross Country Cycle MTB team last Saturday. The fundraiser was started several years ago to help raise funds for the LiveStrong Foundation. Needless to say, eyes darted around the room when it was announced at our team meeting that we’d be participating again this year. Fortunately, despite Lance’s recent banishment and ‘coming clean’ (to any extent that can be believed), the place was packed.

Our team had two spots side-by-side which made spending a couple of hours on the bike much more enjoyable as I got to know one of my teammates whom I’ve ridden around, but never had the chance to get to know that well. Here’s a brief video of the venue and example of the activities going on while we rode:


And some pictures:

Jason & I Don & Mark


Ultimate Cycle Challenge: the Afterblog

I’m going to try something here that, admittedly, I’m not sure whether or not it’s socially acceptable. I hope, though, that in the spirit of trying to share exciting news about an awesome event, I might be forgiven. I’m going to post pictures that I’ve found and downloaded from Facebook that were taken at the Ultimate Cycle Challenge (UCC) this past weekend. I’m also linking to the UCC Facebook page which has an additional 360 pictures from the event. One of the things I’m trying to accomplish with this blog is to capture stories and perspectives about biking events, compile it into a more complete story, and then get that story out to as many different people as possible.

For starters, though, let me fill you in on some of the details of the fundraiser. The challenge started at 8pm Friday night and finished at 8pm Saturday night. Over 550 riders participated in this year’s event at Ridgepoint Community Church. When I got there at 9am, the room was packed and buzzing with conversation and energy and there seemed to be just as many people standing, supporting riders as there were riders. Bikes were placed about every 3 feet and were lined up in rows facing the stage where the many various forms of entertainment took place. A Zoomba team was just finishing up when I arrived and about 20 minutes later a musician playing acoustic guitar started his set. Team names and team lists, cancer facts, and motivational quotes were projected on big screens in the front of the auditorium next to the stage for everyone to read while they were riding.

Riders were mounted on a wide variety of spinning equipment. Many people had brought in their own bikes and mounted them to bike trainers. You could find everything from road bikes, tri bikes, and mountain bikes, to cruiser bikes, tandem bikes, and recumbent bikes out on the floor. A couple of hand powered bikes were also present up near my station for a group of paraplegic riders. That is always inspiring for me to see. Stationary bikes were also scattered throughout the room.

In the back of the room Holland’s famous ‘Bike-n-Bar’ was serving up frosty mugs of root beer for participants to enjoy either before or after their shift. Volunteers roamed the room visiting each rider asking if they needed anything and offering up fresh cut banana halves, trail mix, and other snacks. Messages were available to work out tense muscles (provided by Everyday Message & Wellness) and a quiet room was available for those who needed a bit of time to reflect or have time to themselves. Most people know someone who has or has had cancer. With the purpose of the event to raise funds and raise spirits, there can be emotions tied to participation.

Participants received a cool t-shirt and Jersey’s and other swag were available for purchase to help raise funds. So far over $62,000 has been raised for Livestrong, which exceeds last year’s total of around $61,000. A big part of getting to that number is the support of corporate sponsors who donated both money and in-kind items needed for the event.  This year’s financial sponsors included Herman Miller Foundation, Global Parts Source, Inc., Ryder, Lakeshore Family Chiropractic, Osborn Abstracting Services, Inc., Infiterra Sports, LLC, Lakeshore Area Radiation Oncology Center, Cross Country Cycle, Comprehensive Physical Therapy Center, and Lake Michigan Wellness. Entertainment sponsors were Last Call Band, Staff Infection, Joe Johnson and the Bluebacks, Sanger Brothers Band, Andrew Martin, 12th Street Harmony, and Thunder Mountain Music DJ/Karaoke Service. The in-kind sponsors were Two Men and a Truck, Endurance Fitness Centers, Besco Water Treatment, Inc. Evergreen Commons, West Michigan Uniform, The Gilmore Collection, Gentex Corporation, and Center for Good Health (Holland Hospital).

So now that we’ve covered that, the really cool stuff that you just can’t capture in words is the energy and thrill of participating in this type of fund raiser. As with the paraplegic riders I noted earlier, the power of the human spirit is always evident at events like this. The determination to fight against a common enemy and overcome hardship creates a bond that just is hard for me to put into words. For that, pictures tell the story:

Ultimate Cycling Challenge

I will be participating in my first bike event of 2012 this Saturday, February 25 at the Ultimate Cycling Challenge(UCC). This will also be the first event that I will be riding as a member of the Cross Country Cycle mountain bike team. I’m excited for both reasons. I don’t have a trainer like many other cyclists because I prefer to ride outside through the winter, so this will also be a something out of the norm for me.

The UCC is an indoor cycling fund raiser that benefits Livestrong, the widely recognized cancer awareness and resource not-for-profit that Lance Armstrong started several years ago. Teams sign up for either the 12 or 24 hour challenge, committing to collectively ride for the entire duration, relay style. The ride starts at 8pm Friday night and ends at 8pm on Saturday night. I’m signed up for the 9-10a.m shift Saturday morning. Individuals can sign up as well and are able to schedule themselves into available reserved individual slots. This year’s ride is being held at Ridge Point Community Church (The Center at Ridge Point) in Holland, MI.

In addition to the entry fee each rider pays, participants are encouraged to raise funds through solicitation of friends, family, co-workers, etc. Donations can be given to teams or individuals directly through the UCC website. On top of that, one of this year’s participants is offering to contribute $10 for every song dedication submitted. No donation is required by submitting a song.  It’s an awesome and substantial gift. The anonymous donor will take the songs dedicated, have someone read the dedication over top of the song, and create a playlist to be listened to throughout the year on various rides. Those that have been following my blog for some time know that I was involved in the Relay for Life fundraiser last year through The Bank of Holland, where I work. Because I’ve been impacted by family and friends who have battled cancer, participating in these events holds a very dear place in my heart. I think of these people all the time while I’m riding and running so I can relate to this individual’s quest.

One really cool aspect of this challenge is that you don’t need to own a bike in order to participate. Teams are provided a location and can choose to bring in their own bike trainers and bikes, or they can coordinate having a stationary bike placed in their spot. And, because each team is responsible for filling their time slots, you can choose to ride for however long you feel comfortable with that works for your team. Finally, everyone can participate, obviously, by supporting a team or rider financially.

There are approximately 55 teams signed up this year in total, which means you’re essentially riding in one big peloton. The only difference is that there are no dropped riders, no one is held back from riding faster, and the terrain is what you envision it to be. The downside is that there’s no drafting. Plenty of entertainment and activities are scheduled throughout the event for riders, volunteers, and supporting visitors alike. This will be the first time I’ve participated in the event so I don’t really know what to expect, but I’ve heard that it is a really energetic atmosphere.

I’ll post more about how it went with some pictures afterwards, so keep posted. In the meantime, check out the website and consider donating to the battle.

2012 Race Schedule

Registration for many of the 2012 bike events are starting to open up now that we’re into February. While registration for the Yankee Springs Time Trial and the Barry Roubaix opened at the tail end of last year, many of the race dates were released in January once various race coordinators were able to meet and decide which weekends to hold their races and if any tweaks had to be made to their events.

It’s great to be able to start registering for these races as winter training can begin to lose steam quickly whether you’re in the warmth of your basement on a trainer or battling the cold of winter outside. Registering for races gives me a boost of energy in my training and reminds me that each ride is helping me achieve my goals. I try not to beat myself up for not riding one day or another because it is winter, but each year I have been more and more consistent in getting in my rides. I made the greatest stride yet, last year.

This year will be my first year riding on a team (Cross Country Cycles) and I’m looking forward to it. I am also planning to nearly triple the number of races that I rode last year to compete in the Michigan Mountain Biking Association’s (MMBA) Championship Points Series (CPS). The CPS includes 10 different races this year, of which you need to race in 5 in order to qualify for year-end awards. The scoring works by accumulating points based on your finish within your division at each race. Accumulate the most points in your division over the race season and you win the series.

There are a couple of different race series’ (leagues) that you can participate in throughout the state. The CPS is one, Tailwind Racing is another. The Tailwind series is made up of 7 races (including one 2-day stage race) which are all organized by one group. The CPS series races are all organized by different groups (like Fun Promotions) but coordinate with the CPS to manage finish results for point accumulation. Both race series’ include races across the state, however, the CPS has 4 of its six races within an hour’s drive of Grand Rapids while Tailwind’s races are almost all more an hour from Grand Rapids (east and north). Peppered into the schedules are also MiSCA (Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association) events for middle and high school riders.

Race attendance varies by event, but one race to keep an eye on is the Barry Roubaix. This is the 4th year for the race and they had to cap registration at 1,500 in order to manage it well. It’s already sold out. This race in particular has broad appeal because it is open to mountain bikers and cycle cross riders. In fact, this year the race will qualify for the Ultimate CX Series. I also think this race has appeal because it is one of the first outdoor races giving all of us bike riders an opportunity to get out and see how well we did on our trainers over the winter. Because it is so early in the season, there aren’t a lot of other races in the Midwest to compete with, either.

If you’re going to ride in some of these races, check out their websites (or Facebook pages) for registration info and then make sure you find out how quickly spots are taken to make sure you don’t miss out. The perfect example is Iceman where if you don’t register in the first few hours you’ll be stuck begging for a transfer in August.

Ultimate Cycling Challenge – Indoor cycling fundraiser for Livestrong (non-competitive)

Barry Roubaix – March 24th

Yankee Springs Time Trial – April 22nd (CPS)

Fort Custer Stampede – May 6 (CPS)

Fat & Skinny Tire Festival (Tentative)

State Games of Michigan at Cannonsburg Ski Area – June 23 (CPS)

Sweat Shaker – June 30th (CPS alternate for me)

Boyne Challenge Marathon – July 14 (CPS)

Holland Hundred – July 21

Ore to Shore – August 11

Pando Challenge – September 23 (CPS)

Iceman Cometh Challenge – November 3

Link to more Michigan Mountain Bike Races:   http://crosscountrycycle.com/articles/mountain-bike-races-pg21.htm

Riding With Purpose

When Scott Vanderstelt found out that his dad had Parkinson’s disease in 2010, he reacted as many others do, thinking: “What can I do to help and support my dad?”  Although Scott is not a professional fundraiser, his determination led him to explore every option to help raise awareness and money for Parkinson’s research, and finally led him to mix his passion for cycling with local nonprofit Van Andel Institute (VAI).

Scott is the captain of Team Troll, a group of cyclists who are raising awareness and money for Parkinson’s research at Van Andel Institute.  Team Troll originated several years ago when a group of friends went smelt dipping and trout fishing at the Mackinac Bridge. Some locals dubbed the group trolls because they spent so much time under the bridge. Until 2010, Team Troll was a group of people that had a common interest in hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. When Scott found out that his dad had Parkinson’s, he saw an opportunity to take the team’s focus in a more serious and purposeful direction.

According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 1 out of every 100 people in the world over the age of 60. This equates to about 1 million people in the U.S and 5 million people worldwide. While it mostly affects people over 60, people have been diagnosed as young as 18. The most commonly recognized symptoms of PD are resting tremor, slowness of movement, balance problems, and rigidity. This chronic degenerative neurological disorder is very difficult to diagnose because there are no known biological markers that indicate the disease is present. The exact cause of PD is unknown and treating PD is limited only to symptomatic relief. There is no cure.

And that’s what Scott wants to help change through Team Troll. As more and more research is being done, more is being learned about what PD actually is, what genetic and/or environmental factors might raise the risk of acquiring PD, and how to treat it or eliminate it. Van Andel Institute is quickly becoming a globally recognized research facility and already working on PD research, so the partnership was a natural fit for Team Troll. VAI also recently recruited Dr. Patrik Brundin, an internationally renowned expert in the field of Parkinson’s.

Team Troll is biking to raise awareness, which Scott hopes will translate into dollars being donated to VAI for their research. The 2012 team currently is comprised of 10 cycling enthusiasts of varying skill and experience who will ride at various events and races throughout 2012. By attending these events, they will promote their fundraising effort for research at VAI. They will also be securing corporate sponsors to help offset the cost of their cycling jerseys (the personal billboards used to market their campaign) and entry fees to the various events. Through a gift from GoPro, a point of view video camera manufacturer, Scott will also be video documenting his season to help share his story beyond the bike track.

You can help, too. Keep up with what Team Troll is doing through facebook (www.facebook.com/TeamTroll) or follow them on twitter (@TeamTroll1). They also have a page on VAI’s website for people to donate directly to PD research:  http://www.vai.org/News/Events/2012/Team-Troll-for-Parkinsons.aspx.  Learn more about VAI at www.vai.org.