Life Cycles: Livestrong gives boost to 100-mile bicycle ride
By Anthony Siracusa
Monday, September 27, 2010
For nearly 15 years, the Memphis Hightailers have hosted an autumnal bicycle ride offering participants the chance to complete 100 miles in one day. Called a "century ride," the Bluff City Blues 100 is a staple for many recreational cyclists.
When plans for this year's event were announced in July, Memphis Hightailers president Paul Rubin received an unexpected phone call: "We planned the ride for Oct. 2, which by coincidence was the day Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation called and essentially asked if they could sponsor the event."
Rubin said, "Livestrong simply wanted to promote a ride that raises awareness of healthy living. So we were happy to accept their sponsorship."
Livestrong is sponsoring 462 events in 375 cities across 50 countries on Saturday. In Memphis, Livestrong will provide a support vehicle for riders and 100 onsite volunteers at the event.
Healthy living is the recurring theme of the Bluff City Blues 100.
Since 2007, Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center has been the beneficiary of the event. The Le Bonheur Club, originally a ladies sewing circle that created clothes for orphaned children in the 1920s, began tending to orphaned children's medical needs in the 1930s. In 1944, the Pediatric Society approached the women's club about raising money to build a children's hospital. Le Bonheur officially opened its doors in 1952, and has provided medical services to children since then.
"We've made the Bluff City Blues 100 our premier event of the year," Rubin said. While the club hosts two other major rides annually -- the Red, White and Blue 4th of July ride and the Charles Finney Fundraiser Ride for the Church Health Center -- the Bluff City Blues 100 is the cycling club's largest event, with an expected participation of 500 riders.
"Finishing a century ride is a significant accomplishment. The Hightailers want the Bluff City Blues 100 to be a celebration for those who accomplish such a tremendous personal feat. At the conclusion of the event, we'll recognize by name those who finish their first century and provide medals for each rider."
Rubin says interest in the long-distance cycling event is growing. Forty riders, most of whom had never ridden a century, signed up for the Le Bonheur 100 Team. Since July, Susan Struminger and Mitchell Lansky have led the team on training rides that increased in distance from 30 to 80 miles. Cycling coach Clark Butcher provided participants with tips on nutrition, stretching, endurance training and basic bicycle maintenance.
In addition to the 100-mile ride, a 20-mile ride, a 40-mile ride and a metric century event -- a 62-mile ride -- will be available to participants.
The club has asked a few special guests to kick things off. Grizz, the Memphis Grizzlies mascot, will start one of the shorter rides, while Memphis Mayor A C Wharton will launch one of the longer.
"We've never had a mayor come out and support a bike event," Rubin said. "Conditions for bicycling in Memphis seem to be improving."
Anthony Siracusa, a native Memphian and graduate of Rhodes College, has just completed a 12-month study of bicycle policy, advocacy and infrastructure across four continents. You can read about his travels at anthonysiracusa.blogspot.com and communitypoweredcycling.com.
What: The Bluff City Blues 100, to encourage bicycle riding in Memphis and raise money for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
Who: The Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club
When: Saturday; 100-mile ride, 8 a.m.; 62-mile ride, 8:15 a.m.; 40-mile ride, 8:30 a.m; 20-mile ride, 8:45 a.m.
Where: All rides leave from Mud Island River Park at the Old Memphis Belle Pavilion, 101 Island Drive
Cost: $45 for non-Hightailers members, $35 for members; $10 T-shirt fee (in addition to registration)
Register: memphishightailers.com. Advance registration recommended, but participants can register day of event.