See LiveStrong photo set at flickr.com
Some 2,000 cyclists left the Seattle Center on Sunday for the LiveStrong Challenge ride through Seattle and the eastside cities of Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond, Newcastle and Renton.
Together with the runners, the group raised nearly $900,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The most money — $143,963 — was raised by blogger Elden Nelson's team — Team Fat Cyclist: Fighting for Susan.
The cyclists faced a grueling day. Although a partial cloud cover promised to keep temperatures lower, there were plenty of climbs the cyclists had to deal with.
Participants were even greeted by The Devil on the first major climb of the day, reminiscent of the red figure that encourages the Tour de France peloton in the mountains. Later on, the cyclists faced the toughest climb through the Monteaux neighborhood that connected to Lakemont Boulevard on Cougar Mountain. The Devil showed up there, too.
According to the course map, the 100-mile ride featured 3,930 feet elevation gain; shorter distances of 70 miles and 45 miles had climbs of 2,625 feet and 1,525 respectively. Riders reported higher elevation gain totals, however. See comments.
Even the 10-mile course around Seattle had 625 feet of climbing.
Since I lived within a few miles of most of the route, I volunteered for the ride and got to see many of the riders two or three times on the course.
It was very moving to see so many bicyclists carrying the names of people of friends or family who had fallen victim to cancer. I even overheard one rider stop to call a cancer patient as she bicycled along, telling her friend she was thinking of her.
In the morning, I was stationed near the second rest stop and saw many of the bicyclists as they were fresh and excited about the ride.
You'd think some of the luster would have worn off the ride by the afternoon, as the 70- and 100-mile distance cyclists were struggling up a long, torturous climb through the Monteaux neighborhood and Lakemont Boulevard.
But the bicyclists struggling up that hill showed the same resolve and good spirits that they had early in the morning.
Several dismissed the offer of a sag into the finish, even as they seriously fell behind the others and suffered through a cold thundershower on the climb.
One of the sag wagon drivers said those cyclists were the real heroes of the day, and I'd have to agree.
Lance Armstrong update
Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong was in California to race in the 49th Nevada City Classic in preparation for the Tour de France.
Armstrong won his division, lapping most of the 130 riders in the field.
According to the Mercury-News, Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer opened with a scorching attack with Armstrong in his slipstream that decimated the other entries.