Riders tackle the River Ride in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Riders tackle the River Ride in Eagle County

SPT CO River Ride 1 KA 07-25-09

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Ron Barton of Centennial says that his favorite part of Saturday’s Colorado-Eagle River Ride is the section north of Wolcott.

“Probably along the gravel road. It’s a lot of wilderness, a lot of river flowing through there, a lot of trees,” Barton said at The Dusty Boot in Beaver Creek after completing the 100-mile ride. “It’s beautiful country up here.”

Barton is blind, yet his disability has not stopped him from pedaling around the country. He’s participated in the Race Across America, no less, and this was his second River Ride.

Barton rode with his pilot, Nate Dick of Estes Park. The two met nine years ago in a race up in Wyoming, where Barton put a note on a bulletin board, asking for someone to be a volunteer.

“A lot of it is communication,” Barton said. “We’re always on the same track as to where we’re going to un-clip and when we’re going to stop, where we’re going to shift gears and going around a corner and all those things.

“Of course, if I have a good pilot, he will describe the scenery to me, so I can actually visualize what we are doing.”

Barton and Dick were just two of 910 riders, according to SOS Outreach executive director Arn Menconi, who came out for the eighth edition of the River Ride, benefiting the organization which gets at-risk children on the slopes during the winter.

Cyclists took on three different routes – 100 miles, 100 kilometers or 42 miles – taking them from Beaver Creek to Dotsero, or even further, out to Wolcott and points north before coming back.

The long trail

Riders received a green SOS Outreach cycling jersey for doing the expedition and it was clear that the charity was very close to Bethany Haygood’s heart. The Vail resident is a sherpa in the winter for SOS Outreach.

That makes her a mentor figure for, in her case, third- to fifth-graders who come up once per month to learn snowsports.

“We work with them on the mountain,” Haygood said. “We work on skills, but we are really just mentors. It’s one of those things that is uplifting. It was once a month throughout the season and we had such good fun. You get to see their skill levels increase and watch them become more mature and work together.”

Haygood used her students as motivation during Saturday’s 100-mile ride.

“You know that this is supporting all those wonderful kids, that we make a difference in their lives,” she said. “You think of them and then you think of the beautiful scenery around you. It’s gorgeous. It just kind of lights your fire.”

This was year No. 5 for Vail’s John Milligan and his wife, Diane. They work their cycling season around the River Ride, using it as the peak for the season.

Like most of the riders in Saturday’s event, there is a time when energy runs low and it’s hard to continue.

“It’s fun if the weather’s nice, like it was today,” John Milligan said. “It’s more mental than physical because you’re sitting on the bike for so long. Your butt’s sore. Your muscles are aching a bit. I think it’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing. There’s always a wall out there you’ve got to punch through.”

Good eats

Yet the riders find the energy to keep rolling.

“I love to eat,” Baron said.

Barton started the day with a protein shake down in Centennial. Once he and Dick arrived here, Barton chowed down on a major pancake-and-sausage breakfast. After the ride, two large plates of pasta at The Dusty Boot were in order.

“I don’t have to worry about putting on weight as long as I keep riding.” Barton said.

Haygood found to perfectly-positioned aid stations along the route to have strawberry and pineapple popsicles.

“They were delicious,” she said.

And after the ride, the cyclists basked in the satisfaction of having completed such a long trek.

“Being here hanging out and then I’m ready to go. Sure, let’s make it tomorrow,” Haygood joked when asked if she was ready for another 100 miles.

“A few minutes ago, we were bragging we were (going to), but maybe not,” Milligan said.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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