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Challenge Yourself, For the Sake of Others

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The CT Challenge Bike Ride, for cyclists of all levels, raises funds for cancer survivors

Well, it looks like coastal Connecticut is really not an equatorial climate zone. Despite three weeks of tropical heat, humidity and Hades-like living, our weather’s finally, thankfully, hopefully returning to normal. And just in time to gear up for next weekend’s CT Challenge Bike Ride , the 9th edition of the annual cycling event and significant fundraiser to benefit thousands of cancer survivors. Regardless of your pedal-biking prowess—novice, weekend warrior or obsessed hill climber—the CT Challenge Bike Ride, July 26 and 27, promises not only great outdoors exercise but also great camaraderie, food, music and fun, all for a great cause.

There are several distances to choose from, all but one starting and finishing at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, CT, next Saturday (7/27):

charts_30dec12_registration• 10-mile ride: This easy, family-friendly loop is designed for beginning riders young and old, occasional or time-pressed exercisers, and even cancer survivors ready for some activity.

• 25-mile ride: This relatively flat route through Weston and Westport, and along the beachfronts of Southport and Fairfield, is perfect for not-so-serious cyclists and those not quite up to longer distances.

• 50-mile ride: There’s some climbing along the first half of this route, which winds through Weston, Georgetown, Redding, Bethel, Newtown and Easton before steadily descending back to Southport and Fairfield. It’s for more experienced cyclists used to regular rides of at least 25 miles.

• 75-mile ride: A new distance this year, it’s a hilly course, up and down through three counties, designed for cyclists who’ve been consistently training and are ready to spend between 4 and 6 hours in the saddle.

• 100-mile ride: This route, billed as “New England’s toughest century,” kicks butt. Only the strongest and best-trained riders should take on the multiple ascents and descents along this beautiful but challenging route.

• 2-day ride: This unique option, newly added to the CT Challenge Bike Ride and open to only 200 riders, starts on Friday (7/26) at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, CT, and finishes 81 miles later at the Hunt Club in Westport. These stalwarts will stay overnight and then join everyone else on Saturday for any one of the distances they’re up for. (Note: 2-day riders can choose to meet at the Hunt Club on Thursday (7/24) and shuttle, with their bikes, to Lakeville. Accommodations for both Thursday and Friday are available.)

charts_30dec12_fundraising.1The festivities actually begin on Friday evening, with a pre-ride pasta dinner at the Hunt Club from 5:30 to 7:30 pm ($16 for adults, $8 for kids 5-12). Riders will also be able to check in early for their ride and pick up their packets. On Saturday, check-in and same-day registration starts at 6:00 am, along with team photos and breakfast. Opening ceremonies commence at 7:35 am; riders pedal off at 8:00 am. The post-ride lunch and other festivities will run from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Event organizers have enlisted a legion of dedicated volunteers to greet riders at several rest stops, where free food, water and sports drinks will be available. Zane’s Cycles—the world-famous bike retailer in Branford and Fairfield (zanes.com)—will provide SAG (support and gear) vehicles and mechanical experts along the various routes.

All riders can register beforehand on CT Challenge’s website or on the day of the event. A registration fee is required. Riders can sign up as an individual or as a team of two or more. Last year nearly 1,200 riders, including 98 teams, participated. Refer to the accompanying chart for the varying registration fees according to the distance chosen.

It’s important to understand that the CT Challenge Bike ride is a required fundraising event. Riders are committed to the cause of cancer survivors and to raising money that will support programs to empower cancer survivors. Everyone who registers to ride has a required minimum amount to raise before September 27, 2013. On or after that date, any remaining balance of that commitment will be charged to the credit card used at the time of registration. Refer to the accompanying chart for the varying fundraising requirements according to the distance chosen.

CT Challenge (ctchallenge.org), the event’s sponsor and organizer, is a 501 (c)(3) public charity formed in 2005 by two friends—Jeff Keith, a pediatric cancer survivor, and John Ragland, a serious cyclist and business entrepreneur. They initially established a survivorship clinic at the Yale Cancer Clinic and Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. Last October, CT Challenge opened the Center for Survivorship, the first standalone survivorship program of its kind in the country, in Southport, CT. The organization has since created the CT Challenge Survivorship Network as a valuable resource. Last year, more than 54,000 cancer survivors were impacted by CT Challenge programs.