Cyclists create their own Culpeper mosaic of color

Marshall Conner
Nearly 300 cyclists turned the pedals on their bikes of various colors, designs and shapes at the start of the 5th Culpeper Cycling Century just after 8:30 a.m. last Saturday morning.

The cyclists created a mosaic of colorful bike jerseys gliding down Main Street toward courses of 35, 65 and 100 miles through the scenic Culpeper countryside. There were varying degrees of experience among the masses ranging from beginners to seasoned cyclists and professional athletes.
However, what all the cyclists had in common is a love of cycling, building a bit of sweat equity, love of the Northern Piedmont in fall and a willingness to knock out mileage while most people were content under a blanket or having a cup of morning java.

All the riders started their courses in the street in front of the Bike Stop on West Culpeper Street, the epicenter of the local cycling community and favorite stop for visiting cyclists.

“The Culpeper Cycling Century is now in its fifth year and it’s grown into a really fun event. We have perfect weather here and an excellent turnout,” said Bob Leftwich, a guru of the mechanics of bike gears and owner of the Bike Stop. “It is a bigger, better ride and it is great for riders who may be beginners or regular cyclists.”

In the hour before the start, groups of cyclists registered, picked up commemorative T-shirts, stretched, gobbled a few donuts and browsed the Bike Stop.

One notable cyclist had nothing but praise for the ride, the Culpeper area and the local cycling scene.

He is professional cyclist Ted King, 29, hailing from Brentwood, New Hampshire and according to his self-styled bio he’s a “culinary adept, two-wheeled philosopher, photographer, writer, brother, son, and a legend in his own mind.”

Turns out that this year marks King's seventh year of professional racing and his second with the ProTour squad, Liquigas-Cannondale. For as many as 10 months of each year he resides in Italy training and competing on the European cycling circuit.

“I’m always scoping out new areas to ride,” said King before taking part in the ride. “A fellow cyclist told me about how great the cycling is in this area of Virginia.”

He appeared to be sold on Culpeper as a premier cycling location.
“Looks like a great place for year-round riding, good roads, beautiful hills and weather,” King added. “Fall riding is the best—it’s something that professional riders look for.”

As a professional cyclist, King has logged many miles and sweat equity in some the world’s most competitive cycling tours in Europe and the United States.

In the toughest moments of a race he likes to summon his courage and gain motivation from his father.

“My father...he had a stroke and still rides and that motivates me to push through the tough parts of a race,” added King. “He inspires me.”

Across the street in front of the Bike Stop a true veteran of the local cycling scene prepped for the 65-mile course and snapped a few photos of friends.

He is Don Baldwin, 69, a retired teacher, and if you’ve lived in Culpeper for any period of time you’ve probably seen him gleefully pedaling along its side streets and rural routes.

“I bought a new bike seven years ago from the Bike Stop and so far I’ve logged 45,000 miles on it,” Baldwin said. “I get from point A to point B, but I like to move a little slower. I’m not out trying to race like there’s a pot of gold at the end.”

“I’m no Lance Armstrong, but I have met the man,” added Baldwin. “I even have a photo with Lance on one side of me and (former presidential candidate) John Edwards on the other from a cycling event in my home state of North Carolina. You can make your own judgments on these men but it was a unique photo to say the least.”

Inside the Bike Stop, the start and finish for all the courses, the early morning chaos gave way to calm as cyclists scrambled to prep for the start of the ride.

Once the cyclists were lined up the conversations continued.

One of the volunteers who helped with parking was Geana Wray, the always cheerful and active president of the Culpeper Area Mountain Biking Organization (CAMBO).

“I’m helping out today, but I’m going to test run the Rogue Runner obstacle course today so I won’t be biking,” she added. “I still love this event and want to help out. We usually have about 22 members of CAMBO here for the ride.”
For another rider there was a combination of personal satisfaction and business.

“Awesome day for a ride,” said Charlie Barrell, a local attorney and president of the Culpeper Recreation Foundation. “Parks and Recreation’s planning and organization is very smooth this year and we have great numbers. I’m doing the 65 mile course. It’s a tough course especially around the 46-50 mile mark on Drogheda Mountain Road. After the race, I usually end up helping to clean up and pack up with the other volunteers.”

The event’s proceeds benefited the Culpeper Recreation Foundation, a 501c non-profit, that promotes recreation within the county and provides funding and support for the Culpeper Sports Complex.

Cyclists, volunteers and organizers thanked the Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers, who worked hard to make the entire event run as smoothly as possible. Staff and volunteers manned the registration tables, made sandwiches, covered supplies, mapped the routes and operated the support vehicles.

“This is my first long ride,” said a passing cyclist in colorful blur. “Next year I’ll have a story to tell.”
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