Riders outdistanced a rainstorm and the coronavirus on Saturday during the second Pedals for Compassion bicycle ride through Columbia County.
Just over 140 riders traversed one of the five courses created by organizers, starting early Saturday morning at Square Park.
The ride raises essential funds for the Compassion’s Foundation Domestic Violence Shelter. Margaret West, executive director of the Compassion’s Foundation board, said she thinks the event likely raised about $10,000 although final numbers have not been calculated yet.
Lesley Thompson, director of the ride, said she thinks the event went as well as it possibly could have.
“I don’t think I have anything negative to say,” she said. “Considering the COVID situation, we still had people excited and energetic about the event.”
Thompson said she and the riders wanted to give a special shout out to city and county law enforcement, and volunteer fire departments, for ensuring a safe ride. Arnold-Baker Chevrolet provided chase vehicles as backup for riders who may have needed help.
However, no riders struggled enough to need an ambulance or any assistance throughout the race, she said.
Options for the ride include routes of 15 35, 62 and 100 miles. This year’s event also included a short family ride from the square to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on North Jackson Street. The family round trip is about four miles, but Thompson said the participants enjoyed it, had a police escort and used bike lanes to get there.
The weather was overall favorable for the event, Thompson said.
“You know it got a little toasty this morning and then fortunate enough to have cloud coverage the rest of the day that helped others enjoy the day,” she said. “There was a rainstorm that rolled in at the very end but it was almost a welcome cooling effect and we still had people sticking out on the square waiting for the final riders to come in.”
Eleven people signed up for the 100-mile ride, but only two completed it. The rider with the fastest time was Magnolia’s own Jeff Neill.
“It definitely is a win, a substantial feat. That is something, a milestone of completion,” said Thompson.
Another person with really fast time in the ride was Emily Jordan-Robertson of the Postmaster Grill who knocked out the 35-mile route in quick time.
Louis Cooker from Christ Fit in Shreveport finished the 62 miles quickly, Thompson said. Christ Fit is a Shreveport group of about 40 people who come every year and have a lot of fun and have a great attitude that everyone enjoys, she said.
Riders who participated enjoyed snacks to refuel at the rest stops managed by volunteers wearing masks and serving wrapped foods to ensure safety. Water with electrolytes was donated by MK Distributors. Rest stops had themes like the Tiki Room where pickle juice was served to help riders avoid leg cramps.
When the race was done, riders got to come back to Square Park and enjoy a delicious meal provided by Postmasters Grill in Camden. The meal consisted of a grilled chicken sandwich with homemade chips and bread pudding. Ice cream sandwiches were also enjoyed, Thompson said.
Spectators and participants alike were treated to entertainment by such bands as Tuesday Knights, 79 South and the X Band. These bands and others played from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the event finally was winding down, she said.
Riders including a large group from Little Rock said they planned to participate next year, she said. One of the main reasons was the fun they would have at the rest stops. Thompson thanked Village Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Ultimate Fitness and Serenity Day Spa and 24 Hour Tanning Salon for hosting the rest stops.
“The riders love the energy at any of these stops and they are cheering them on,” Thompson said. “They say it is better than on some of the bigger rides,” she said. “They also say the community response is phenomenal with police and support of that nature. One of the things we are probably the proudest of is that our riders feel like this is one of the safest rides. The rest stops and how safe it is just make people want to come back.”
Although volunteers are exhausted after pulling off the fundraiser, they are already looking forward to putting it on next year’s calendar and hoping COVID-19 will not have an impact, with a goal of doubling participation and and the amount raised to combat domestic violence.