Courage Classic bike fundraiser brings thousands of cyclists to Copper Mountain |

Courage Classic bike fundraiser brings thousands of cyclists to Copper Mountain

Leo Wolfson
Special to the Daily
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 |

The Children’s Hospital Courage Classic

What: A three-day bike tour fundraiser The Children’s Hospital of Colorado, a Denver-based institution that provides cancer treatment and other high-level support for youth

When: Saturday to Monday, July 18-20

Where: All tours start at Copper Mountain (Saturday: Vail Pass or Leadville tour; Sunday: Keystone or Hoosier Pass ride; Monday: Half-day ride to Breckenridge)

Cost: Free to volunteer and attend. Tour registration is closed.

For more information on course maps, volunteering, or donating to The Children’s Hospital cause, visit or call 720-777-7499.

Jessa Salvador has gone through challenges in her young life that few adults ever experience.

At age 3, Jessa was diagnosed with leukemia. After three long years she won this battle, but still hadn’t won the war. In 2011, Jessa received a tough blow when her leukemia returned for a second time.

Despite more than 25 hospitalizations, Jessa refused to hang her head and decided to kick back by joining the Courage Classic, a three-day, high-mountain bike tour that benefits Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“I was asked to speak at it to help motivate people, and I had so much fun that it made me want to bike in it the next year,” said Jessa, who is now 14 years old. In training for the tour, Jessa experienced serious fatigue due to her on-going chemo, but she wouldn’t let this stop her pedals. She not only made it to the tour — she also successfully finished the three days and 113 miles of biking while raising $1,700 in donations.

Crank for the cause

The Classic is as much a bike tour as it is a fundraiser, as each adult rider must raise a minimum of $300 to participate and kids must gather $150. A suggested donation goal however is $1,000. These stipulations help each participant become invested in the event and fully represent the cause. Last year’s tour alone brought in a total of $2.9 million for the hospital through its nonprofit branch, Children’s Colorado Foundation. This money went to support 200,000 infants, kids and teens throughout the state.

“Individuals go above and beyond for this,” said Monique McCoy, senior communication manager for Children’s Colorado Foundation. “Last year, Bryan Warnecke, a 15-year-old kid, rode 1,000 miles before the race and raised over $250,000.”

For the first time this year, every person who raises $1,000 is put in a drawing for a free European biking vacation.

Many people also bike the Classic as teams, which adds an element of camaraderie. Mike Lynn, a 16-year veteran of the Classic, boasts one of the largest teams in the field. Last year, Lynn’s team boasted more than 125 riders and raised a total of over $100,000.

“We have a lot of patient’s parents who heard about this just through word of mouth and want to get involved,” Lynn said. “It’s very therapeutic and fun to be riding with a group of like-minded people.”

Lynn has a special place in his heart for the tour because he was directly helped by its cause. His daughter had scoliosis for over six years, but Children’s Hospital helped her conquer the disease and she now lives a normal adult life.

“She gave me motivation to help the best way I know how,” Lynn said. “Riding these tours has been very rewarding for me and become one of the biggest things I’ve ever been a part of.”

A tour, not a race

You don’t need to be a Tour de France-level cyclist to ride the Classic, as a number of different route options exist. Copper Mountain Resort is again the race headquarters, hosting the start and finish for all three days of cycling.

On Saturday riders will choose between a ride to Vail Pass and a longer route to Leadville. On Sunday there will be a Keystone ride or longer Hoosier Pass option, and Monday will feature a half-day tour to Breckenridge. Event organizers will also allow for shorter rides at the biker’s discretion.

“It’s a tour, not a race, so everyone’s a winner,” McCoy said. “People just love the opportunity to get away from the city and be connected with others who have been touched by the hospital.”

The tour is proof that Children’s Hospital touches many different walks of life.

“There are doctors, nurses and patients, and those who just want to come and contribute to the cause,” McCoy said. “You’re looking over a sea of people of 2,000 people and every last one of them has a unique story about the hospital and how they’ve benefited from it.”

When Jessa returns to ride this year, she’ll have plenty of support.

“My main nurse rides, and I got to ride on the last day with my doctor’s mother,” she remembers.

Even with thousands of riders, one thing ties them together, and that is a desire to help ailing children find better health. It’s just an added bonus that they get to do this while doing something healthy themselves.

“These children don’t ask for it,” Lynn said. “They’ve battled through things most of us could not imagine. Their struggle motivates me to stay active, and all the friends I’ve made at these have made it fun for me to stay on the bike.”

As for Jessa, she is now cancer-free and will once again ride in this year’s tour with her team, “Spicy Hot Cruisers.”

“It’s a good feeling helping people,” Jessa said. “Now I’m into road-biking, which has helped me stay healthy.”

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