The father of cyclist Davis Phinney and grandfather of Taylor Phinney, Damon Phinney, created an organization called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) before he died from prostate cancer. CCC historically has been the largest single group raising funds for the Livestrong Foundation.
Spokes of Hope has grown out of CCC as an action group visiting cancer patients and spreading hope. I first met some of the Spokes of Hope last year at RAGBRAI.
|Valley Preferred Cycling Center|
I was invited to Trexlertown to ride on the Velodrome during the last Friday night races of the season at the velodrome. This was a UCI (International Cycling Union) event with an international field.
The day kept unfolding with surprises and kept getting better as the day grew older.
|Pros Warming Up on the Track|
I arrived at the velodrome around 3:45 p.m. for a practice session on the track. Riding on the velodrome is unlike the normal riding we do. This was a 333 meter track with 28 degree banked curves.
|Pediatric Cancer Survivors|
We joined seven pediatric cancer survivors including Duncan Micheltree who was being honored. Cindi Hart gave us a quick lesson in terminology and track riding and we all rode off practicing on the track. The kids stayed down on the apron and Cindi took us newbies (me?) in a pace line up on the track.
|Paceline on the track|
Wild. The bike of choice is a "fixie" which is a fixed geared bike with one speed. When you pedal it goes forward. When it goes forward the pedals rotate. There is no coasting. And there are no brakes.
My very limited experience tells me these bikes are actually safer than a typical road bike. Once on the track if I crept up on the rider in front of me in the pace line my options were to overlap wheels or brake. Braking was out of the question so I overlapped wheels which can be very dangerous on those 28 degree curves. Riding a fixie one can just slow down the pedals.
As I went on to the track I heard my name being called. Very strange because I knew no one here. I did a double take and heard my name again. I saw a woman and went over to her. "I'm Andrea Mitcheltree," she said. "I'm friends with Stacey and Gary (Gravina)."
|Barry with Duncan Mitcheltree|
Then I remembered. I met Andrea last year in New Jersey at Jake's funeral. I am guessing that Trexlertown is less than 30 miles from Phillipsburg, NJ.
And it was Andrea's son, Duncan, who was the feature of the night. This was so cool.
|Duncan with his parents, Andrea and Eric Mitcheltree|
After our practice sessions we left the track. I then sent Stacey a message to "come see Duncan and me ride tonight." She was confused.
|Three Colors of Spokes of Hope|
I left the velodrome and went across the street to the "track." They have a one mile cycling track which is very cool. This is not an oval but a meandering road with three lanes - one for fast cycles, one for rollerbladers, and one for everyone else. What a great park.
|The Track at Rodale Park|
The people started coming in to watch the races. Once the events started I took a position at the top of the boards on Curve 1. I was shocked when Stacey tapped me on the shoulder. Although I had called her it certainly sounded like they would not be able to make it on this special night.
|The Fast Lane|
Before the last (feature) race of the night, we were introduced. Spokes of Hope with the pediatric cancer survivors. The crowd cheered heavily and for a minute I inhaled it all but I know it was for the kids - not me. I rode high on the wall and in the back stretch a number of kids held out their hands for me to "Low 5" them. I did.
|Pros at the Start of their Race|
The last event was the 120 lap "Madison." Teams of two riders would tag team. The "resting" rider would sweep down from one of the high curves and catch his partner from behind. As he did the front riding would grab his hand/arm then pull him ahead -- a sling shot move, really. Then he would safely maneuver up to the wall and wait for the next lap to change places.
Keep in mind there's no coasting or stopping with these bikes. So if one wants a rest they have to pedal farther during their rest period so they have longer in between their shift at riding all out. Stacey, Gary, and I stayed for all 120 laps. It was an exciting event.
|Riding in the Countryside|
On Saturday our Spokes of Hope group met at the velodrome and went for a 25 mile ride out to Topton and back. It was a great day for a ride and I think I saw more cyclists on the road than I did cars. This was a special weekend of riding and am looking forward to next year.
|Spokes of Hope at a barn in Mertztown|
Ride in the Country