Go for the Gorge! | SummitDaily.com

Go for the Gorge!

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SUMMIT COUNTY ” Donna Mitchel still remembers the moment the full impact of the annual Great-West MS 150 Bike Tour set in.

Three years ago, the Summit County resident was riding in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s (NMSS) annual event, nearing a pass called Devil’s Gulch in Estes Park. She had already biked 70 miles. Her legs were fatigued.

Just as Mitchel was beginning to complain to herself about the grueling climb, she rounded a turn and found a woman with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in a wheelchair. As Mitchel biked past, the woman thanked her for riding for the cause.

“That really hit home,” Mitchel said. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. I have legs that can turn the pedals on this bicycle.’ It’s not just that I was riding for a cause, but the people that have the disease were involved in the event as well. That’s what makes it so profound. It makes it such a powerful statement. “

This weekend, more than 2,000 riders like Mitchel will be taking to their bikes once again in the name of MS. This will be the NMSS’s 20th annual Great-West MS 150 Bike Tour.

This year the NMSS expects to raise over $2 million, 60 percent of which will stay in Colorado to fund local research programs.

“In our 20 years of touring we’ve raised over 17.6 million dollars,” said Christy Strauser, Director of Development for the Colorado Chapter of the NMSS. “(Beyond Colorado) every state now has a tour. It’s really become a staple within the MS society.”

The need for fundraising in Colorado, however, is particularly acute. One out of 625 Coloradeans is afflicted with MS, one of the highest incident rates in the country.

“Since it’s personal it’s even more important for us,” said Chris Love, leader of Summit Riders, one of two teams participating in the event from Summit. “When you’re riding for a cause and have a personal attachment to it, it’s kind of nice.”

Summit Riders consists of 18 riders who range in age from teenagers to self-acclaimed “older folks.” Some of the riders, like Love and his wife Kristin, have participated in the event for seven years running, while others are riding this year for their first time. Donna Mitchel, who is a physician living on the Front Range, is part of the team with her husband and daughter.

Summit Rider’s sponsor, High Country Cleaners, will be providing them with uniforms and a support vehicle.

“Our goal is to raise about $10,000,” Love said. “Last year we raised 5 thousand. We have a team phrase. Team Summit Riders ” Helping the cure by caring.”

The tour will lead the participants on a two-day, 150-mile route from Castle Rock to Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge.

In Colorado Springs there will be a special Woodstock on Wheels concert waiting for the participants as they ride into town. Bands from around the state of Colorado will be performing. There will also be festive rest stops every 12 miles along the route.

“This isn’t just a ride,” said Strauser, “it’s an experience.”

Andrew Tolve can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 251, or at atolve@summitdaily.com

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