Popular ride pedals into 30th year
The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic is celebrating its 30th year sending thousands of riders on the 202-mile course. This year's event includes 10,000 registered riders.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
The only year Jerry Baker missed riding his bicycle in the 202-mile Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic was 1980. That year Mount St. Helens erupted, covering the roads in volcanic ash and forcing organizers to cancel the event.
He won the inaugural race in 1979, the first and last time the now-recreational ride was a time-trial race.
The 67-year-old has slowed down a bit since that first year, but he still rides every year and finishes in a day, taking 12 to 14 hours, depending on conditions, he said.
As for training, "I don't do anything that special," he said. "This is year 30, so I've sort of got it figured out."
So does the Cascade Bicycle Club, which this weekend is celebrating the ride's 30th anniversary. The ride, known as STP, has grown from its first competitive year with 69 finishers to a sold-out recreational ride with 10,000 registered riders. This year's ride has drawn cyclists from 46 states and Washington, D.C., and countries including Australia, Bermuda, Canada, England and Sweden.
The riders take off today — some as early as 4:45 a.m. — from a University of Washington parking lot north of Husky Stadium and wend their way down south, stopping at rest stops for sandwiches, cookies, bananas and oranges as they make their way to Holladay Park in northeast Portland. The 202 miles include an altitude of about 1,951 feet. About 25 percent of the riders will finish in one day, with most electing to take two, a spokeswoman said.
Riders of all ages, some clad in cycling clothes, arrived at Seattle's flagship REI Friday to pick up race packets tucked into bright-yellow bags. They spread throughout the store stocking up on energy bars, buying spare inner tubes and examining cycling shorts.
Drew Houck, of Ellensburg, left with a 4-½ pound canister of the powdered energy drink Cytomax, which he and two friends most likely will polish off by the end of the ride, he said.
Houck, 45, entered his first race several years ago, and the training got him hooked on cycling. This year is his fourth ride.
He did his first STP in two days, but now finishes in one, which is manageable, he said.
"Sitting on a saddle 11 to 12 hours is the hard part," he said.
First-time rider Lauren Vitalie, of Portland, started riding last summer and is doing STP with friends. Although still new to cycling, Vitalie, 25, viewed the ride as akin to a marathon: with the right training, anyone can do it.
"I'm just going to have a comfortable, mellow — I think — ride," she said.
Veteran Baker said most people struggle learning to eat and exercise at the same time. Half the training is distance and the other half is learning to eat while riding and also when stressed, said Baker, who carries Fig Newtons with him.
Baker, who starts slow and tries to get faster with each 50-mile leg, also comes up with a riding schedule based on three weather scenarios: head wind, tail wind or somewhere in between.
This year, the conditions look hot in Portland, requiring more stops and liquids, but there's also a tail wind, he said. He thinks it will be a faster ride. And at the end, "I'll hang out at the finish line, tell a few lies, have fun."
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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