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Originally published Monday, February 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Bicycle season's opener an uphill battle for many

With a color splash of two-wheelers rolling off the morning ferries from Seattle, the local bicycling season officially got under way Sunday...

Seattle Times staff reporter

With a color splash of two-wheelers rolling off the morning ferries from Seattle, the local bicycling season officially got under way Sunday on the meandering roads of Bainbridge Island. Fueled up on bananas and breakfast sandwiches, more than 3,000 cyclists hit the island roads for Chilly Hilly 2008.

"It's the first big ride of the year," said Brier's Connie Irving, who did the 34th annual ride with pal Kathryn Moser of Seattle. "It's getting me stoked for STP [July's Seattle-to-Portland run]."

Under a sunny sky, riders traversed the scenic, 33-mile route over roller-coaster hills and quiet, mossy roads that took them past striking vistas of the Seattle skyline.

Along the way, riders stopped to tinker with their bikes, to partake of free water offered by island residents along the route or to take each other's photographs at Frog Rock, nine miles into the journey.

For tech writer Len Kannapell, doing the Chilly Hilly for the seventh time, it was a chance to spend time with adopted daughter Stephanny, just shy of a year old. The two made a leisurely day of it, stopping at a sheep farm, a heron nest and a log-cabin attraction along the way.

"It's a good thing to do with children," Kannapell said. Of course, he acknowledged, "not everybody wants to grunt up a hill carrying their kid."

The route featured 2,700 feet of altitude change, including several formidable climbs that forced more than a few off their bikes and onto their feet. "I actually came into this ride planning to walk up some hills," said Seattle's Moser, who usually sticks to Seattle's flatter Burke-Gilman Trail. "Some of these hills are like the [Queen Anne Avenue] Counterbalance in Seattle. I mean, when you have to take a break from just walking up the hill, that's a tough hill."

The hills gave some hard-core cyclists a chance to shower compatriots with ridicule. When one rider teased Irving — who had stopped to answer her cellphone — that the real hills were yet to come, Moser had to voice her objection.

"I'm really glad that Kathryn is here," Irving said of her mellow pal. "Some of these cyclists are really competitive. She reminds me that I don't have to do that."

Their only goal on this day was to cross the finish line — OK, if you want to be specific, to cross the finish line in time for dinner.

The cycling masses spelled opportunity for young capitalists like Delaney Wiggins, 6, who stationed her lemonade-and-cookie stand along one of the major turns.

Delaney made the lemonade and sugar cookies herself and woke her parents as soon as she'd brushed her teeth. By 8 a.m., they were all set up with balloons and an eye-grabbing bouquet of flowers.

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A few hours later, Delaney's donation bucket teemed with dollar bills. "We underestimated how big the cookies would be," said her mother, Lisa. "We thought it would pretty much be just lemonade and water."

While Sunday's ride might have been less chilly than in most years — temperatures reached into the mid-50s — it still offered plenty of hill. "At the end, my legs are frequently just rubber," said Seattle's Michael Snyder. "But it's a great ride to shock your system into getting ready for all those summer rides. And it's beautiful."

Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or mramirez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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