Today’s guest post is by Leigh Pate, a writer and photographer here in Seattle. She recently biked across India and wrote about the experience for the Great Outdoors. Get more of Leigh at www.LeighPate.com
Peek-a-boo views of snowy mountains reflecting in the aqua-blue lake tease the thousands of antsy cyclists who have been training for months for the ride grandly billed as “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride.”
For some of the fifteen Seattle area cyclists on Team in Training’s (TNT) Washington/Alaska team who traveled to Lake Tahoe for the June 3 event, riding 100 miles around Lake Tahoe seemed unattainable as they started their rainy February practice rides around Mercer Island. For other Seattle riders, Tahoe beckons year after year for its beautiful scenery and challenging cycling. Some join in a quest for fitness. Others join because someone they know has been diagnosed with a blood cancer.
Those who do the training and make the trip are not disappointed. Lake Tahoe immediately lives up to its reputation for glorious views and gritty climbs.
Within a few miles of the starting line, cyclists round a bend and angle up the first climb of a one hundred mile day to Emerald Bay State Park, the first of many spectacular views of the lake surrounded by the High Sierra Mountains.
Welcome to a destination bike ride that surpasses expectations and lives up to its name. The route circumnavigates Lake Tahoe through Nevada and California and includes a thirty-mile out and back to historic Truckee California to make the full hundred miles an official “century.” Riders will climb over 3,000 vertical feet at a sustained altitude of over 6,000 feet, making training and teamwork essential.
America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride sells out early not only because the location, Lake Tahoe, is one of the most beautiful alpine regions of the country. This ride is also special because teams of cyclists from across the country come together to achieve personal cycling bests as they raised over $5 million to support life-saving blood cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training.
Michelle McLeod of Federal Way is back in Tahoe for the second time with Seattle’s TNT Cycle Team. “It’s not just a beautiful bike ride. I feel like I’m part of something bigger. You see the collective effort of TNT chapters from around the country. You are part of a community.”
The Seattle TNT Cycle Team starts training with short rides and gradually builds their mileage every weekend leading up to the event. Participants receive coaching in cycling technique and nutrition along with fitness tips and help with bikes and gear. Friendships last beyond the big events. Many cyclists go on to complete triathlons, marathons and long distance bike touring thanks to the confidence, training and solid start they get through TNT’s support.
For McLeod, riding with the Seattle TNT cycle team lets her give back. This year she rode with two first-time Tahoe riders.
“Everyone comes here for different reasons,” said McLeod. “Helping people reach their goals is very satisfying, whether that goal is to complete the event or to raise money for cancer research. Both new Tahoe riders finished with smiles.”
The 2012 Seattle Summer Cycle team has 66 riders who will raise over $150,000 for cancer research. Summer team members will also be riding the Northwest’s iconic 204 mile Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP), and 12 riders are traveling to Italy for the 127-mile Granfondo Pinarello in Treviso, Italy.
Nationwide, Team in Training has prepared over 500,000 participants to complete a 100-mile century ride, a marathon, a triathlon or other event and those participants have raised over $1.2 billion for blood cancer research and patient support. This lifesaving research has increased childhood survival rates from Leukemia from 3 percent to over 90 percent today. Survival rates from those diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma have doubled, and in the past ten years survival rates for patients diagnosed with myeloma have tripled.
While the summer team is closed, the fall cycle team will be accepting riders for the Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo September 22. This ride offers a 118- and a 72-mile course that takes cyclists through the Vegas Strip and out to the beautiful desert parks at Lake Meade, Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam. The deadline to sign up for the fall team is July 20. Training rides for Viva Bike Vegas are underway.