Friday, July 20, 2012
- Saturday, July 28, 2012, 7:30 a.m.
- Steamboat Ski Area, Mount Werner Road, Steamboat Springs
- Not available / $75 - $100
I envy what Steamboat Springs has. Much of Colorado can boast tremendous scenery. Quite a few places have high-altitude recreation. There are excellent cycling opportunities in any number of towns. And Colorado is home to a collection of really interesting and innovative small businesses. Steamboat certainly has all of these things, but what really struck me was how so many residents and businesses gel on one particular weekend into a cohesive, supportive community.
July 28 marks the third annual Ride 4 Yellow mountain bike event and fundraiser, when more than 120 riders will take on the Continental Divide Trail. This is no gimme. Twenty-six miles of trail may not sound like much, but mountain biking up about 10,000 feet over that distance is not to be underestimated.
In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was absolutely exhausted all the time, and the chemotherapy wasn’t exactly a shot of energy, either. I spent a lot of time in bed, staring at the ceiling contemplating the shortness of life and wondering what I’d do if I ever got healthy. I wanted to ride my bike. Not for racing glory, personal bests or extremes of distance, all of which were unlikely anyway, but because I missed my riding buddies, and I missed being out in the fresh air in beautiful places.
As I started to recover, my wife found me a new mountain bike. I hadn’t ridden in years. The whole point was to have fun, and the only rule I made for myself was to not use a bike computer. There would be no training, no goals and no tracking distance for the year — only fun rides. I’d be done when I had my fill of fun or got back to the trailhead.
At the time, we also were becoming more involved with Livestrong and had met some great friends through the organization. We were looking for an opportunity to become involved in a Livestrong event, and we soon learned about Ride 4 Yellow. This sounded perfect for my renewed mountain biking interest. I knew it would be a challenge, but finishing chemotherapy and being declared “clean” provides a tremendous amount of subjective energy, even if the anemia persists. I was very excited to sign up.
The trip to the start area requires a shuttle ride up Rabbit Ears Pass to Dumont Lake. I ended up sitting next to a local rider who happened to be an anesthesiologist with plenty of experience working with cancer patients. What struck me was that the whole town was invested in this event and really seemed united in the fight against cancer and the support for several local survivors. It was terrific to see.
For the inaugural 2010 event, Lance Armstrong and Leadville biking legend Dave Wiens spoke to the riders before they took off. Armstrong and Wiens also participated in the ride. As expected, both finished very quickly and at the front of the pack. I was fortunate enough to ride with my buddy Scott.
The ride is beautiful and features a variety of terrain to match the variety of vistas. There were some quick technical climbs, but many of us took our time and worked our way through. I was in no hurry because I was enjoying the day and getting some great pictures, too. The ride ended at the top of the gondola with a party, a speaker and some auction items.
As it turned out, Linda Armstrong Kelly (Lance’s mom) was the keynote speaker, and she turned out to be the highlight of the event for my wife and myself. She spoke about the “obligation of the cured,” with which I fully identified, but also the hardships faced by the entire family. Put simply, it wasn’t that I had cancer, but “we” had cancer — meaning my wife and me as well as my close friends and family. It was a special message to hear, and it really touched my wife and gave me a new appreciation for the other side of that equation.
What is special about the Ride 4 Yellow event is that it raises money for local and global cancer causes. Livestrong receives half of the event proceeds, and the other half is granted locally to Yampa Valley cancer initiatives. Even though I live in the metro Denver area, that was really nice to see and encouraging to support.
Ride 4 Yellow is a special event, and I’d encourage mountain bikers of any level to take advantage of it.