Juneau cyclists complete Seattle to Portland ride

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

Ten Juneau cyclists were among the nearly 8,000 who participated in the 2002 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic last weekend.

Bob Wysocki, Jessica Menendez, Joe Sorenson, Bernie Sorenson, Dani Jo Sorenson, Cheryl Levitt, Michele Schindler, Chris Chiles, Drew McDougal and Rob Welton made the trip for the 200-mile ride, with all but Welton attempting to complete the trip in one day. Seven of the riders were able to meet their goal.

"I can't believe I rode 200 miles in one day," Levitt said. "At the lunch stop in Centralia (Wash.), I thought 'OK, I've just done 100 and now I have 100 more to go and my longest training ride was 100.' For the most part it was what I expected - although I didn't realize there would be so many riders, nor did I realize how much I would have to focus on the wheel in front of me."

"Surprisingly, I feel pretty good," McDougal said. "I have a few aches and pains, and I don't think I will get up and ride my bike tomorrow. But for now I am happy to be off the bike. I basically got through it by breaking it down 50 miles at a time. I definitely had moments where I questioned what I was doing, but once I refueled with food I came back around. It's amazing how fast we did it as a group and how just having different scenery and no rain in your face makes for a more pleasant ride."

The Juneau riders had varying experience levels before they started the annual ride, which is sponsored by Seattle's Cascade Bicycle Club. Last year, 5,520 of the 6,832 riders took two days to complete the ride.

Joe Sorenson, Chiles and Welton are regular competitors in Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club events, while Wysocki and Menendez are training for an Ironman-distance triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). The others are recreational cyclists, although a few have competed in the annual Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska. Several of the Juneau riders participate in a spinning class taught by Menendez early each morning at the Juneau Racquet Club-The Alaska Club.

"Our actual riding time was 12 hours, 11 minutes - we made it to the finish in just over 14 hours," Menendez said. "It was a huge confidence boost for me. Bob and I are five weeks away from our first full Ironman-distance triathlon, so to do this was great training. Seven minutes into the ride, my tire caught in a seam on the road and I went down. Luckily, I just got a bit of road rash and was able to hop back on my bike."

"Amazingly, I feel great," Wysocki said. "I've been nursing a knee ache these past few weeks so I had some questions about how far I would actually make it. The ride was definitely another way to measure where I am in my training for Ironman Canada (in Penticton, British Columbia)."

Of the Juneau cyclists, only Joe and Bernie Sorenson had recently ridden the STP event before, riding last year, and this year their daughter, 16-year-old Dani Jo, joined them. Dani Jo said her legs gave out after 102 miles, but she "still had fun and was glad that I had my dad to pull me (up) some of the hills."

"It was a lot more fun this year doing it with a group and our time was faster," Bernie Sorenson said. "The drafting helped significantly. I had some moments, but what kept me going was knowing that I had friends in front of me to catch me up."

"The ride was awesome," Joe Sorenson said. "We managed to keep the group together and as a result made it in at a faster time. We averaged 19 miles an hour, didn't have much headwind, nor did we get overheated. The weather was expected to be in the mid-80s, but actually was a bit cooler."

Menendez said Joe Sorenson and Chiles helped set the pace for the group, going fast enough to complete the ride without burning out the less-experienced riders.

"My approach to the ride was to keep the group together," Chiles said. "I knew it would be easier for everyone if we set a reasonable pace and kept our heart rates low. I did this ride 10 years ago - then I was a poor student and only had a mountain bike - so this time being on a road bike made a huge difference."

Besides Dani Jo Sorenson and Welton (who did the ride in two days), Schindler was the only Juneau rider to not complete the STP event in one day. Schindler developed a sore knee and was forced to stop riding.

"It was great to be part of the Juneau team and have the support of so many riders, too," Schindler said. "This was definitely a new challenge for me. Cycling 102 miles is my new longest distance and I am looking forward to coming back next year and doing it all."

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