July 30, 2012
Cyclists complete 350 mile trek
565 riders pedal through Finger Lakes on annual Bon Ton Roulet
Riders on the 16th annual Bon Ton Roulet arrived at the Cortland County Fairgrounds Saturday wet and dirty but proud of having completed an approximately 350-mile journey.
Cortland YMCA Executive Director Don Kline said the Finger Lakes tour was a great ride for the 565 participants who took to their bikes this year to finish the two-week journey.
The event benefits the Cortland and Auburn YMCAs, with proceeds above the expense of the ride going to fund the YMCAs’ scholarship programs, enabling programs to be underwritten so that people who cannot afford to participate can attend, said Kurt Kramer, CEO of the Auburn YMCA.
This year’s course was marked by heavy rainfall on the final day.
Bikers rode through deep puddles, splashed by cars and gripping their handlebars firmly on the final stretch along Homer Avenue approaching the Cortland County Junior Fairgrounds in Cortlandville.
Brian Bueche of Grand Rapids, Mich., took respite from the rain after he arrived, his biking gear soaking wet.
Bueche said his Cannondale carried him over the terrain that he described as “fun.”
Sue Whyte and Jenn Poole of Cobourg, Ontario, were two of a number of Canadians who participated in the Roulet this year.
Whyte and Poole stood under shelter at the fairgrounds eating snacks and getting warm since they had changed into dry clothes.
The pair was going to pack up their bikes and stop in Watertown to shop on their way home, adding they felt great to be done with the ride.
The most important thing during the long journey is to keep hydrated and fed, participants said.
“You have to eat every hour and drink every hour,” said Poole, who rides a Gruccioti road bike. Whyte rides a Specialized.
The hardest part was cycling in the rain, Poole said.
“Visibility is low and it’s slippery and cold,” she said.
Whyte said she was ready for a glass of wine.
Winery tours are a feature of the ride, which traverses the Finger Lakes region known for its vineyards.
Volunteers man vans and Penske moving trucks that carry riders’ luggage and purchases from stop to stop along the route.
Each day there are two rest stops for riders, spaced out about every 25 miles. Each night riders were lodged at college campuses or state parks.
Riders could choose from a long or short route each day, with the short route being about 50 miles to the next destination and the long ride being about 70 miles.
Twice during the trip an even shorter route was offered, running about 30 miles, which many participants took advantage of on one day that the weather was bad, said organizer Manny Lann.
Lann said he has participated in about 13 of the Bon Ton Roulets.
Throughout the year he regularly rides about 100 miles weekly so the tour is not an assault on his body.
Most of the participants are recreational riders in their 50s and 60s, said Kramer. This year the oldest rider was 78 and the youngest was 9, he said.
There are bike mechanics and trucks carrying spare equipment and gear to fix mechanical breakdowns along the route.
One rider made it about 10 miles into the journey before breaking his collarbone on a fall, curtailing his trip.
Kramer said accidents are par for the course but overall riders were enthusiastic about their experience.
“I really enjoy riding and there are very nice people and it’s challenging, too,” said Romy Ruebesam, who came from Germany to do the tour.
Her friend Murray Priest of Cambridge, Ontario, said the weather cannot be helped but he praised the tour for being well run and organized.
“They do a great job here looking after things,” said Priest.
Priest said he told friends in Canada about the ride and the result was a large showing from Ontario.
The tour’s popularity is largely attributable to word-of-mouth, said Kramer, who said the YMCA does not even widely advertise the event. Still it regularly draws over 600 people each year, he said.
“It’s archetypal of the Y programs. It does good for the Y and people feel well about the benefits,” said Kramer.
Not only do people get to be healthy, active and out in the environment, but they are part of promoting an organization that helps those who need it, he said.
One of the YMCA’s messages is that people will not be turned away because of an inability to pay, so the proceeds from the ride help make real the belief that the YMCA is for everyone, he said.
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