2,000 different races, one finish line | VailDaily.com

2,000 different races, one finish line

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Darren Nakos begins the ascent on the west side of Freemont Pass Saturday morning while riding in the annual Courage Classic, which started in Leadville and finished in Copper Mountain.

Some, like Dan Nowowiejski of Broomfield, rode for the challenge. Others, like 11-year-old Andy Richardson of Boulder, rode for fun. Some, like Mary Curto of Aurora, rode by themselves. Others, like Doreen Rogers of Centennial, rode with their spouse, while still others pedaled along with friends or siblings or their grandparents. Some wore matching team outfits. Others wore small beanie babies atop their helmets or fake plastic butt cheeks over their spandex shorts. There were even some like Ted Hibbs of Westminster, who, after pedaling on unforgiving pavement in the mountains for three days, sang his way across the finish line.Everyone rode for the cause.At the 15th annual Courage Classic Saturday, Sunday and Monday, approximately 2,000 moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandmothers, granddads, friends, acquaintances and teammates pushed their pedals for a number of reasons, but none more important than raising money for Children’s Hospital. The 162-mile race started in Leadville on Saturday and wound its way down Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain for the first of three legs. On Sunday racers set out to Frisco, then onto Breckenridge, Keystone and Lake Dillon before ending up back at Copper Mountain. On Monday cyclists trudged their way up and over Vail Pass, then took a left on Highway 24 and pushed over Tennessee Pass before finishing in Leadville.At the post-race party Monday afternoon, held under tents and a steady downpour in Cloud City, a number of participants shared their respective reasons for riding.”We’ve been riding for four years now, but it even had more special meaning this year because our grandson spent three days in Children’s Hospital right after he was born this year,” Phil Rizzuto of Parker said as he waited for his wife to come across the finish line. “The first two days were kind of rough because of the weather, but we got an early start this morning. We came with some friends and were just along for the ride. It was a good time.”Even though she felt she hadn’t trained enough, Rogers decided to ride in this year’s race because her husband is an avid cyclist and she works for Children’s Hospital.”This is my first year doing it,” she said. “I’ve never really been a road biker. But, my husband started about two, three years ago and he’s done Ride the Rockies and a couple of other ones. He just wanted me to join in, so I did.”And the thing that the smiling, tired Rogers was most proud of after riding 162 miles in three days?”I feel great that I actually did it without sagging,” she said. “I really went into it thinking that third day is going to be so hard. And, I didn’t train properly for it. But, I was fine. It took me a while to get here – five hours – but, I made it.”

The singing Weight WatchersHibbs, previously mentioned for his unique finish-line singing act, had plenty of accompaniment during his ride. The Westminster resident was a member of the five-person Weight Watchers Team, put together by Katharine Frederick of Boulder. “I’m the Weight Watchers leader at the Wednesday night meeting in Boulder and the Monday night meeting in Westminster,” Frederick said. “I did it last year with one of my other Weight Watcher members. She talked me into doing it. This year, I was like, ‘We need a team.'”Through e-mails, Frederick organized the group and got them training on the weekends for three months before the big race. The team was made up of co-worker Lena Jantz of Erie, and Weight Watchers group members Jessica Ritchie and Erin Welch of Boulder, as well as Hibbs.Frederick said the race took a little longer this year, with more people to keep together, but said the experience was undoubtedly better the second time around. “It was so much more fun,” she said. “It takes longer to get to the end because you’re waiting on each other, but it’s more fun and it’s easier.”Hibbs and Welch actually took the extra option of going over Loveland Pass on Saturday, putting their total distance at 182 miles for three days. “This one was fun to ride with all the way up Loveland Pass,” Hibbs said, gesturing toward Welch.”Yeah, there was a lot of hooting and hollering and singing ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen,” Welch said. “People were very surprised that we were still hooting and hollering and singing,” Hibbs said laughingly.

Easy answers from an 11-year-oldAsked how he felt after finishing such a long race, 11-year-old Andy Richardson of Boulder kept his reply short and to the point. “I feel great,” he said.”Were there ever points when you were really tired and thought about quitting?” Richardson was asked.”Yeah,” he replied.”What kind of training did you do to get ready for the race?” Richardson was then asked.”I usually ride my mountain bike a lot,” he said. “This is the longest bike ride I’ve done so far, though.”OK. Good enough.If Lance can do itDan Nowowiejski of Broomfield, who rode the race with a long time friend, had a different answer when asked if he ever thought about quitting during his three day ride.”Having a friend along just helped with motivation,” Nowowiejski said. “At night we’d talk about it and we’d watch Lance Armstrong on the TV. That was a motivator. It was like, ‘If he can go 120 miles through the mountains in one day, we can do 50 or 60.'”

Nowowiejski also said that he’s not the type of person to start something and not finish it.”Just coming up here, you want to complete it,” he said. “The first day was tough because my knees were bothering me. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to complete the second day. But, the second day was an easy day and my legs felt pretty good. My butt felt sore, but I just thought, ‘We’ll see what happens today.’ It’s a push. You get to certain point where you see other people going and doing it and you almost have to do it. It’s a good feeling to complete it.”Some might call it courageCurto, an older women, had done the classic the last two years, but being able to complete this year’s classic wasn’t a sure thing for the Children’s Hospital volunteer from Aurora.”For me it was really special, because in October I had a mastectomy,” Curto said. “Then, I had another surgery about three months ago, so I had three months to the day when I could start riding again.”Curto was resolute in her goal to finish her third race, though, once she set out on Saturday. It was something she felt she needed to do for the kids whom she visits in the hospital during the year.”I volunteer with my dog at Children’s Hospital,” she said. “That’s how I heard about the race for the first time. My dog is a prescription pet. We go around and visit the kids. I kind of felt like I knew some of the kids, and I wanted to do it for them.”After finishing Monday’s final leg in the late afternoon, Curto sat by herself under one of the tents and ate her lunch.She wasn’t alone, however, in displaying courage for a worthy cause.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com

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