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900 bikers invade Marion

Managing editor

They came in all shapes, sizes, and ages — the youngest 9, the oldest 85. Some were seasoned veterans with tanned skin and toned legs. Others were weekend warriors.

Bike riders — more than 900 in all — rode into Marion last Wednesday as part of Bike Across Kansas. Many planned to make the entire 450-mile west-to-east trek across the state.

They rode into town beginning at 9 a.m., gathering at Central Park for water, rest, and nourishment from organizations offering food. By early afternoon, they were gone — on their way to their next destination, Cottonwood Falls.

Sharon McQueen of San Francisco was assisting her housemate, Sharron Miller, who was a rider. McQueen was known as the race’s “SAG” — support and gear — a person who organizes equipment and beverages and drives a vehicle.

“I’m the one who drives ahead, and I better have cold water on the way and a cold beer ready for her at the end of the day,” McQueen said with a smile.

A recreational bicyclist herself, she’s done this before — as has Miller, who is marking her sixth year for riding across the state.

Seventy-year-old Bob Easson of Topeka looks forward to the event every year. He’s not an avid rider but does some preparation for this long of a trek. This is his sixth year to participate.

“I like the challenge,” he said. “It gives me something to think about during the winter.”

While the majority of the riders rode traditional bicycles, some were on tandem and recumbent bicycles. Easson rode a three-wheeled recumbent.

Danielle Delamaide, 19, of Wichita grew up on the trail. Her parents met on a BAK excursion. She rode the entire route when she was 16.

“It was a tough day yesterday,” she said. “The wind was in our faces, and it was hot.”

The adventure began June 4 at the Colorado border near Tribune. They rode only 16 miles that first day but have steadily increased the number of miles each day.

The following days they rode 56, 67, and 74 miles per day. On June 8, the group came from McPherson, where they had spent the night.

Each overnight stop had facilities for the riders to take showers and opportunities to sleep indoors — primarily school gymnasiums. Many chose to sleep in tents outdoors.

After Cottonwood Falls, the group stayed at Burlington and Garnett before they reached the Missouri border at LaCygne — a total of 474 miles in eight days.

Promoted as a recreational and social rally for cyclists, the trek is not an endurance contest, a race, or a test of stamina. Each rider is encouraged to set a pace agreeable to his or her degree of expertise.

The route is purposely designed to show riders rural Kansas.

“It’s great coming to small towns and meeting people,” one SAG said. “It’s great in Marion. We really appreciate the welcome signs.”

Last modified June 16, 2011

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