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Pedaling through challenges

Shauna Farnell

LEADVILLE – A bike ride covering close to 200 miles is an ambitious endeavor for anyone, but it is particularly challenging to children undergoing or recovering from treatment for cancer, serious injuries and other critical health conditions.

The 13th annual Courage Classic Bicycle Tour kicks off Saturday in Leadville, and through Monday will travel to Copper Mountain, Frisco, Keystone, Fairplay and back to Leadville. Individual cyclists and teams riding in the tour must raise at least $200 in pledges and all proceeds from the ride benefit Children’s Hospital in Denver.

“We have some really inspirational families doing the ride,” said Lalena Luba, Courage Classic public relations director. “There’s Team Courage, which is basically a team of kids with disabilities who are still actively being cared for at Children’s Hospital. It’s definitely a challenge for them, but it’s a challenge that allows them to focus on something else. It helps them get oriented with challenging themselves physically rather than being challenged by their physical condition.”

Most of the 2,000 cyclists involved in the Courage Classic are no stranger to challenges.

Blair Mueller,11, of Denver weighed two pounds when she was born and entered the world with multiple heart problems. She has undergone four open-heart surgeries and uses a pacemaker and two artificial valves.

“She was a very sick little girl,” said Deb Mueller, Blair’s mother. “It’s nothing short of miraculous, the care she’s gotten and all of her recoveries. We’re very grateful for the hospital.”

Pete Mueller, Blair’s father and an avid cyclist, organized “Blair’s Buddies,” a team of about 20 cyclists who have been riding together in the Courage Classic for the past eight years and, for every ride, collectively raise thousands of dollars in pledges. The entire family comes to Summit County each year to watch Pete ride, and next year, Blair is aiming to join her father, riding in the tour as part of Team Courage.

“She’s doing extremely well,” Deb Mueller said of her daughter. “She’s not in acute condition at all anymore. I used to not be able to bring her up to the mountains to watch her dad bike. The altitude really bothered her. She used to not be able to run next door. She’s a swimmer now. She can do fourteeners. She loves to ride bikes. She will some day do this ride. It’s a personal goal of hers.”

Meaghan Cusack, 12, will be one of the riders for Team Courage this weekend. She was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 9 and has been riding a tandem bike in the Courage Classic with her mother, Anni, for the past couple years, through her chemotherapy treatments. She is now in remission and going stronger than ever. Zach Hobbs, in his early teens, is being treated for Hodgkin’s Disease at Children’s Hospital, and will be riding in the Courage Classic with his father.

“Last year, the top pledger raised close to $40,000 for the ride,” Luba said. “It’s amazing for people that have someone close to them in treatment or recovery, that they can do something like this for them. People take the ride pretty seriously. Some of the little kids take their time and make as many stops as they need to. It’s a big success for everyone at the end.”

There are still a few spots available for the this weekend’s Courage Classic. Individual cyclists or teams can register at http://www.couragetours.com, or by calling (303) 456-9704.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at sfarnell@summitdaily.com.


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