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.
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 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.
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.
“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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