The FIRST Annual Hearts for our Hospital Bicycle Challenge presented by The Villages Regional Hospital and organized with the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club went off without a hitch! This two-day event started with a Cycling Expo on Friday at La Hacienda Rec Center featuring the latest gear in cycling and safety. See our Facebook post for more on the expo. The Friday epoo was followed by a ride challenge and health fair for cyclist on Saturday. The first thing you see is the Raffle prizes waiting to be won from a beautiful Pink Beach Comber bike to a handmade Rocking horse that goes for up to $8,000 and many things in between.
Around 600 people typically attend the expos, ride and bike fair; some who usually ride on their own and there are those who simply enjoy the safety of a club. “Promoting safety is our number one goal” says Howie Johnson the President of the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club. “We are holding seminars on biking safety, as well as, health topics such as joints, heart, chiropractic and other issues cyclists have common interest in. Pretty much any area that we can help educate.” He attributes the level of group participation to the fact that “People are happy to be here so they find ways to live longer and enjoy it. Cycling helps them live longer and enjoy it.” He and the other riders of Sumter Landing Bicycle Club ride 5 days a week. With around 600 members, 200 of them ride on different days and are separated into groups based on pace and distance, this helps everyone.
The morning of the big race started crisp and cool, however that did not deter this large and ready group. With the pace set, each and every cyclist were well on their way; coasting through Spanish Springs and for some, all the way out to Lake Panasoffkee! Refreshment rest stops were well equipped and catered to the riders every need. The Villages Cheerleaders were out in full support cheering as each rider came through the finish line. Riders were full of positive exclaim “What an Amazing ride”, “Weather was great”, “Very well organized”. This riding challenge was definitely one packed with a variety of riders, all of them full of passion for the sport that they enjoy engaging.
Sue Christopoulous, moved to the Villages a short 3 weeks ago, loved coming out and enjoying the ride. Coming here from Arizona, she loves the Florida weather and the friendliness of the people. She has been riding for 10 or 11 years, and so does her family. Her son in-law even works for Iron-Man (The Triathlon company not the Metal robotic suited Super Hero). Just how passionate do some riders get? Bob Jordan has invested over $20k in 3 years in his tandem bike that he shares with his wife Rose, whom he has been riding tandem with for over 10 years.
Mark Hall of Village Cycles, sponsor of all the new gadgets and gear at the Expo on Friday, commented on new riders he knew in the challenge. Riders have 3 options in ride choice 17 Miles, 32 Miles or 68 “Most riders who have not been on a bike for a while and find that the same bike they rode 20 years ago might not work for them now. We make sure riders get each need addressed and match the bikes to the need. Road, recumbent, trike, our mission is to see everyone cycling, the benefits are priceless, and in cycling you can see the benefits and enjoy it. Fitness extends your life. Cycling is low impact and a ton of fun. Not to mention it is highly addictive.”
Amidst the cycling fun there was also an engaging Health Fair located in the center of it all. This was a great opportunity for cyclists to come and get all checked out and even educated on common health issues. There were glucose screenings, blood pressure check stations, memory screenings, body mass indexing, dermatologists, chiropractic representation and so much more. This surely was an all-inclusive focused on the people event!
Monique and Ron Robitaille who have been active riders in two Bicycling Clubs in The Villages for many years told us how that for the last year Monique has been very sick and has not been able to ride due to chemotherapy and is just now beginning to ride again. She came out to ride having had very little conditioning beforehand and indeed did finished the 32 Mile Ride! As her friends Anne and Ed Hankwitz said “She is a hero to us and many others who ride.”
Ed, who is a prior President of the The Villages Bicycle Club, assists in holding a very special event every year collecting old bikes. He works diligently to help clean and do minor repairs to them so that they can be redistributed in the area to needy youths as well as some adults. The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and The Village Bicycle Club will be holding their annual bicycle drive this Friday, December 4, 2015 at Lake Miona Recreation Center from 8:00 to noon. They will even come pick up the bikes from you. No bike goes unfixed, even the really bad ones go to prisoners to fix. Ed says “This is the most rewarding thing we have done. We see ladies who used to ride who now have cancer give them up to people who can ride. Some people who have a sick spouse donate their bikes for other to be able to ride and enjoy. Last year through this effort, over 200 bicycles were collected and distributed to those in need in the Sumter County area.”
All in all, having starting off in light jackets, crossing the finish line they lost layers along the way and were a bit exhausted, but were full of excitement and enjoyed this riding challenge! Looking forward to next year’s event coming from The Villages Regional Hospital. Stay tuned for upcoming cycling logs from this event! If you have a Cycling story be sure to go to our Your Story page, upload it and YOU could have your very own spotlight feature.