Three days, three mountain passes in Courage Classic

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The Courage Classic winds up on Monday, meaning there is still a Cascade pass — namely the 4,061-foot elevation Stevens Pass — to climb for 425 bicycle riders.

The cyclists already have topped Snoqualmie Pass (at 3,022 feet) and Blewett Pass (at 4,100 feet).

By the time they roll into the finish in Skykomish, the cyclists have climbed 7,068 feet on their 172-mile ride through the Cascades east of Seattle.

Courage Classic veteran rider Ed Szymanski told the Tacoma News-Tribune that he had shipped his bike out from his home in Park Forest, Ill., to ride.

 “I like riding in the mountains. We just have flat land in Illinois. It's a nice change of pace.”

The 14th annual three-day ride organized by the Rotary clubs of Pierce County raises about a half-million dollars for programs to aid the victims of child abuse. Participants must raise $400 in donation pledges to ride, although some raise thousands every year. One rider, Steven F. Fitzer, has been the top fund-raiser every year but one between 1998 and 2004, when he brought in more than $22,000 in donations.

I've never ridden the Courage Classic myself, but classic veterans I've interviewed rave about it. The mountain passes are nice long grinds, but not killers. The rest stop food can't be beat. The route, elevations, photos from previous years are all available at the Courage Classic website.

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