Courage Classic at Copper Mountain raises money for the Children’s Hospital |

Courage Classic at Copper Mountain raises money for the Children’s Hospital

A Courage Classic cyclists wears an event jersey with pride at the 2012 bike event at Copper Mountain. The annual fundraiser for Children's Hospital in Denver attracts more than 2,000 cyclists annually, many of whom are doctors and nurses at the hospital.
Special to the Daily |

Behind every participant in the Children’s Hospital Colorado Courage Classic bike ride is another person — a family member, friend, patient — who has been affected by cancer. Sometimes those people are literally behind them, on a regular or a tandem bike, or their photo is pinned to the back of their jerseys.

This was the case with Silverthorne resident Wesley Knight, riding alongside his daughter Amanda Stevens. The two had a large photo of their family friend, 14-year-old Ian Tuthill, pinned to their backs. Tuthill lived next door to them for about 10 years when they lived in the Denver. He was diagnosed with and succumbed to osteosarcoma last year, so Knight and Stevens dedicated their ride to him.

This is the 22nd year of riding in the event for Knight, who pedaled in the very first ride back in 1990. In fact, he was the top fundraiser for that first event, bringing in $6,000. Last year, his fundraising efforts put him at 98 of 2,000 other riders.

“It’s such a great cause,” Knight said. His purpose for attending the event is to do what he can to help the Children’s Hospital. “That’s my main goal — just to get out and ride with Amanda and do something worthwhile.”

“I think almost everybody has at least one special person they’re riding for.”
— Jodie Mathie

Years of courage

Last weekend marked the 24th year of the Courage Classic event, in which 2,000 riders from all over the state and country gathered in teams or individually, on all sorts of bikes — from road and mountain bikes to recumbent bikes and tandems — to ride 155 miles over three days to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver.

Over the years, the event raised a total of $28 million dollars. This year pulled in one of its highest amounts — $2.24 million so far, with fundraising continuing until Aug. 31.

This was the first year that Copper Mountain has hosted the event, with the ride starting and ending at Burning Stones Plaza, and featuring live music and a bike expo. A shorter route option was also added this year for families or people who didn’t feel up to the longer ride. Day one featured an 80-mile course starting at Copper and passing through Leadville and Vail, then taking riders up over Vail Pass on the way back to Copper. A second ride led bikers through Silverthorne to Ute Pass and back for a total of 58 miles. The second day included a 31-mile family bike ride from Copper to Silverthorne and back along the recpath and a 42-mile course around Dillon Reservoir to Keystone and back. Monday finished the event with a 33-mile ride to Breckenridge and back to Copper.

“The physical challenge is climbing up the mountain, climbing up in elevation and just pushing yourself,” Amanda Stevens said. “There’s a lot of support, a lot of volunteers that help you through the race with encouragement, and the other riders are helpful too, as they’re passing you,” she said, laughing.

Though many of the riders came from Denver and the Front Range, they weren’t too worried about the climb in elevation.

“What altitude?” shouted one member of the Med Head Gear ’Eads team from Denver.

Doctor Jodie Mathie, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital with Cherry Creek Pediatrics, has been involved in the event for 21 years. In the first year, Mathie noticed that only a few Children’s Hospital doctors came out.

“So I made it my mission to get more hospital people involved and more doctors,” she said. That led to the creation of the Spin Doctors team, which became one of the event’s largest teams, “until the lawyers arrived,” Mathie said with a laugh, referring to the Wheels of Justice team, made up of attorneys, which is now the largest team. The doctors’ team, now called Gears of Courage, is still large, with about 140 members.

“That makes me smile,” Mathie said.

She remembers one Courage Classic event in particular, back in 1994, when the doctor team dedicated its ride to a patient they called “Wonder Boy Greg,” a 10-year-old diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who had a 10 percent chance of making it. When TV reporters interviewed team members, they mentioned Greg, who happened to be watching it during his chemotherapy treatment. According to Mathie, he turned to his parents and told them that he wanted to ride in the event next year. Eventually, he recovered, became a lawyer and has been along on many rides since.

“It was a really special thing that I have just never forgotten,” Mathie said.

Chris Hugget, a Denver resident and 7-year participant, is just one of many people inspired by the children behind the ride.

“When you see this many people get together for a common cause, you just feel that there’s a chance for mankind,” she said. “Just the concept, kids with just a limited amount of time and they choose to be here. I mean, time is priceless and these kids are out here raising money, these kids are out here riding … The fact that they’re out here doing it, it’s unbelievable. If these kids can do this, we have a responsibility to get out here too.”

Children and doctors weren’t the only hospital workers at the event, either. Representatives of the Youth And Pet Survivors (YAPS) program, which pairs children with cancer together with dogs with cancer, had several riders and animals along with them. Spree, a three-legged Lab mix, drew plenty of glances as she galloped happily through the lunch break area at Trent Park in Silverthorne on Saturday.

Each person on each bike had his or her own story of personal connection, commitment, suffering and love.

Mathie summed it up best.

“I think almost everybody has at least one special person they’re riding for.”

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