Given the forecast, the mild conditions Saturday were a welcome surprise to the thousands of riders, volunteers and organizers who made the trek from the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex to New Braunfels in the 24th edition of Bike MS: Valero 2013 Ride to the River.
Riders cheered at the starting line when it was announced their fundraising had surpassed the $1 million mark. Some riders rode 50-plus miles to the lunch spot in Seguin and then hopped a ride to overnight accommodations in New Braunfels. Most rode the 70-mile, back roads course to New Braunfels, while the most ambitious riders added on the scenic, 30-mile, out-and-back along the Guadalupe River to claim a Century Ride.
I was lucky enough to serve as the Rivard Report photographer, so I left my own bike at home and did my work behind the camera. If you’ve been thinking about training for the MS ride, these images will give you a good look at the event. If you rode Saturday, I hope you find yourself in one of my photos.
Sunday, Day Two, was a different story. The weatherman finally got it right, and this time weary riders bedded down Saturday night knowing they would awake to rain. And they did. Too much rain for a safe ride, so event organizers called off the ride south back to San Antonio, and people began the morning scramble to find a way home. Some called friends or family, some teams shuttled riders home, and others took a seat on one of the buses provided by the organizers.
That made it easier for me to manage my regrets at not riding with the Third Street Grackles, a team I joined last year. Rivard and the 3rd Street Grackles were on the ride this year, again, and Gena Hyde, regional communications director for Bike MS, generously served as my guide and driver as I took photographs along the route. It was a long day, starting t 6:30 a.m. and ending long after dark.
What follows is a photo journal of the days events.
Please be sure to scroll to the bottom for a more comprehensive gallery of the day.
The pre-dawn sea of bikes at the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex was impressive. More than 1,100 riders started this year’s Ride to the River.
While most of the teams are mainly male, the 3rd Street Grackles (sponsored by several local San Antonio businesses and the third largest fundraising team this year) has a large contingent of women.
Team America, comprised mainly of wounded warriors and their friends or fellow service people, traditionally lead the riders from the start line.
Team Velo Valero earns the number two spot on the line up by being the largest fundraising team at this year’s event.
More than $1.2 million was raised during this year’s Ride to the River. There are five more Bike MS events in Texas. Director Tony Ralf is fond of remarking that he hopes there won’t be a need for another MS ride next year.
Orange and grey “This is Why…” jerseys are worn by those with MS who participate. This is just one of several riders on Day One proudly wearing the jersey.
Riders of all shapes, sizes, ages and skill levels ride the route. Day one is either a 40 mile “lunch ride”, a 73-mile single day or a 100-mile Century Ride down River Road. Roads are not officially closed for the more than 1,100 riders. At most controlled intersections local police and deputies control traffic in the cyclists favor. Only authorized MS and volunteer vehicles are permitted to drive the route with riders. Other traffic is encouraged to drive around and grant them room.
Top fundraisers Team Velo Valero keeping a smooth pace and working together.
The day ended at the Comal County Fairgrounds in New Braunfels. Some riders were there as early as noon. Century Riders and those who chose a different pace rolled in until 3 or 4 p.m. There was no time limit on the ride and it isn’t viewed as a competitive event.
What else would you want after a 100-mile bike ride on a muggy Texas day? Cold beer at the finish line was provided by Perdenales Brewing Co.
It was truly a privilege to be able to ride along and capture some moments for this extremely worthwhile cause. Below is a gallery of the remaining shots I think encapsulate Day One. Stay tuned tomorrow for Day Two and a wrap-up piece.
(learn more about the Bike MS events at http://biketxh.nationalmssociety.org/)