Sunday Cyclists Pedal Through Clarke

Over 1600 bicyclists pedaled across Clarke County on a Sunday tailor made for cycling. Peddlers feasted their eyes on scenic Clarke vistas and then satisfied their stomachs with hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade barbeque provided by the Clarke County Band Association. Potomac Pedalers, event sponsor, deemed the day a success despite one biker being transported to Winchester Medical Center after suffering a broken rib in a non-automotive accident.

Cyclists review their route at the Potomac Pedalers's safety station - Photo Edward Leonard

The approximately 1645 peddlers claimed Clarke’s rural roads for most of Sunday choosing courses ranging from 25 to 100 miles. The Back Roads Century event, held annually in Clarke County, is sponsored by the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club of Washington, DC.

“We offer rides for all ability levels – 25, 50, 65 and 100 miles.  While many of our members will ride the full 100 miles, you don’t have to” said Back Roads Century Chairman Mark Albert. Riders in colorful jerseys and riding shorts circled the county for most of the day with Clarke County High School serving as the base camp for the event.

The tour scheduled to end at approximately 6:00pm.

The logistics necessary to make the event both safe and successful required a small army of volunteers and professionals.

Clarke County Band Association past president Kathy Twigg (l) and 7th grader Meredeth Kruza - Photo Edward Leonard

Clarke County Sheriff Deputy Gary Lichliter spent much of the day managing event traffic that filled the Clarke County High School and D. G. Cooley Elementary parking lots before overflowing into fair ground parking.

Potomac Pedalers provided radio teams and trucks to assist riders in need of help. David Cottingham, a District of Columbia citizen manning the event’s safety tent, reported that only one serious injury had been reported as of 4:00pm.

“One of our bikers broke a rib earlier this morning when his bike went off the road” Cottingham said. The injured man used his cellphone to contact 911 and was transported to Winchester Medical Center by ambulance with non-life threatening injuries according to Cottingham.

Cottingham said that given the high number of miles logged during today’s event, incurring only one injury is remarkable.

“Most of the problems today involved flat tires due to bikers crossing railroad tracks too quickly” Cottingham laughed. “With 120 pounds of air pressure in these tires they go “POP” pretty easily.” Cottingham said that most cyclists carry their own spare tire inner tubes and CO2 cartridges that allow quick repairs.

Bill Veilleux (l) and Dr. Charles Twigg provide hot dog grilling support services for hungry bikers - Photo Edward Leonard

While bike safety is the event’s main priority, feeding the hungry cyclists at the end of their long, hot tour takes a close second place.

“The food here every year is just fantastic” said CC, a rider who traveled from Woodbridge for today’s ride. “After riding 65 miles my hot dog was delicious” she laughed.

Clarke County Band Association past president Kathy Twigg managed the myriad of details necessary to satisfy the visiting bikers. Twigg and nearly 75 volunteers spent most of Friday and the weekend ensuring that the food and hospitality offered to Clarke’s cycling guest was top notch.

“There was a lot of work and preparation that happened on Friday and Saturday” Twigg said. “A lot of my time was spent shopping and organizing volunteers. Several people took home Crockpots of BBQ last night to cook.”

Twigg said that the biggest challenge in feeding the hungry bikers is trying to guess just how many people will select hot dogs, hamburgers or BBQ while still trying to make a profit for the Clarke County Band.

“We’ll probably raise between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars but we won’t know the exact amount until next week” Twigg said.

Twigg and her volunteer team donated 10-hour work days on Friday, Saturday and today. Many student band members and their siblings also contributed time to make the day a success.

“I’m helping to support my older brothers who are in the band” said Clarke County 7th grader Meredith Kruza.

All the visiting cyclists interviewed for this article expressed warm thanks and gratitude for the hospitality and beauty that they encountered in Clarke County.

“We drove out from Alexandria this morning” said Madeline Miller. Miller, and her husband Tom, remarked that they were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful countryside and picturesque small towns so close to metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Tina Chi (l) of Arlington along with Madeline and Tom Miller rest at the Burwell Morgan Mill - Photo Edward Leonard

“It’s so beautiful here” Miller said

Likewise, Tina Chi was making her first visit to Clarke County from her home in Arlington. “I can’t believe that I’m only 90 minutes from Washington” Chi said as she rested at the Burwell Morgan Mill in Millwood. “I’m totally bringing my family back here to visit” Chi said.

Although Chi and the Millers had not met before coming to Clarke County, it seems that cycling can provide the foundation for easy friendships.

“The water can’t be very far from here” Madeline Miller said as she and Chi looked over a map of possible cycling routes. “Do you want to ride with us to the river?”

“Yeah, that would be fun” Chi replied.

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  1. “Sunday Cyclists Pedal Through Clarke”

    In the middle of the road, I might add…

  2. It was a Sunday, big deal. Where you gotta be in such a hurry on a Sunday?

  3. I think Crunch is speaking to an ever increasing issue, which is that many of today’s cyclists don’t seem to have a grasp of some of the primary rules for riding bicycles on the road – notably the rule that stipulates that multiple riders are to ride in single file. It’s a common occurrence, and a serious safety issue.

  4. Bicyclists crack me up. On one hand they insist that they are the same as a car and demand they be treated that way on the road. That is, until they get to a stop sign or a line of traffic, then they seem to magically revert to bicyclists again.

    Most of the riders I came across yesterday were courteous and rode as far over as they safely could. I, in return, rode behind them until I could safely pass them without running them into a ditch or going head on into an oncoming vehicle. But there were a couple of militants that rode right in the middle of the road, even going up hill towards the fairgrounds.

    That’s the attitude I can’t stand about them

    • I was one of the cyclist over to the right of the road – and I was very annoyed when I yelled “CAR” to have people move out of the middle of the road and they made no effort to get out of the way – So I just kept yelling “CAR” until they moved. So thank you for not running us over – most of us appreciated your effort.

      • Thanks for your efforts Rose, and further illustration of the ignorance or arrogance displayed by so many riders – after all, what were they doing as a group in the middle of the road that would require your reminder? Maybe we needto start smacking them in the helmet with stcks as we pass to remind them of the single file rule?!! 😉

  5. Michael Roy says:

    Thanks for the story. I just rode the century for the third time. It’s a great ride, made all the more so by the many volunteers who man the course and the rest stops, and make the food. Hats off to the Clarke County HS Band members for the fine food.

  6. Ahh the hospitality of Virginia.

  7. Most of the cyclists I encountered were riding safely to the side and I as a driver appreciated that for not only my safety but theirs. I did see a few however that clearly felt that they owned the road and made it impossible to pass. Luckily it’s a small group that show such ignorance. Unfortunately they continue to give the rest of the safe cyclists a bad name.

  8. Mary Veilleux says:

    So happy to host all the cyclists in Clarke County on September 19- a boon for tourism! Many of those 1600 had to fill up their cars before returning to DC, PA and MD. I overheard many who want to return to our welcoming, lovely community. I think next year, Berryville businesses might want to engage more of these out-of-town cyclists. And I hope our leaders will allow for more cyclists. ( The Potomac Peddler organizer was told to put a cap on the entries). After all, it only occurs one Sunday a year! And the benefits, in my opinion, outweigh the liabilities.
    Many thanks to all the parent and student volunteers from the Clarke County High School Marching Band, who gave up the day to feed the cyclists.