Sunday was “travel day” first to the Calgary International Airport to drop off cyclists who had flights home and then on the Great Falls, MT for the rest of the team to connect with flights Monday morning.
As of this note $202,175 has been raised by the 2016 ride. This amount surpasses the $187, 200 that was needed to pass the one million dollar mark for funds raised by the AHD cycling trips over the five years beginning in 2012. Just incredible and who would have ever thought!
A $34,000 challenge grant pulled together by members of Andean Health’s Board as a way to stimulate additional support (prior to John Rudolf’s remarkable commitment and leadership) remains in place. As a result, the target for 2016 has now been increased to $250,000. Laurie McKeon, chair of the AHD Institutional Advancement Committee (and fearless rider from 2015) and the rest of her team are leading this effort over the next few weeks.
I close with deep thanks to my sister, Ann Van Sickle, who coordinated and managed this entire affair. None of this would have happened without her. A “shout out” to Pat Sivesind as well who joined the ride for the third year in a row as driver and a member of the support team!
I also want to thank Dave Cutler, Team Captain who has now been on all or part the last four AHD rides including the ride to14,200’ on Mt. Evans and the entire 1500 mile, 50,000’ of climbing on last year’s ride. This all would also have not happened without DC’s leadership and generosity.
A “thanks” to Rob Martin for the design and coordination of the production of the incredible 2016 AHCT jerseys and bibs – first class in everyway!
And most important of all – a thanks to every member of the Andean Health Cycling Team and the everyone who has provided support to Andean Health & Development for this ride and over the years.
All of the work that the team in Ecuador does, all the care provided to the families, mothers, and children at Pedro Vicente and at Hospital Hesburgh in Santo Domingo, all of the training and mentoring that is given to the AHD/Saludesa Family Medicine residents who really are and will be the “rural health care leaders of tomorrow – all of that would simply not happen without each of the AHCT members and without each of you!
So on to the 2017 AHD 20th Anniversary Ride! See everyone down the road!
Day 7: 8/27: Glacier View Inn to Jasper
The original distance was to have been 65 miles with a mostly long downhill run into Jasper, but the day dawned with wind, dark skies, and pouring rain. The team nevertheless geared up and headed out. Fortunately, lodging for the last day was at the Sunwapta Falls Lodge at the 30-mile mark (the pan was to ride all the way into Jasper, have lunch, and then shuttle back to the lodge to provide unique accommodations and “jump start” the next day’s journey to Calgary.) By the time riders arrived at the Lodge, everyone was drenched, cold, and ready to stop. The team captain, Dave Cutler, and the other lead riders held a quick meeting in the warmth of the lodge and decided to call the ride for the day and for 2016 – a wise decision for a cold, tired group that had already faced multiple unexpected challenges that began with Day One.
The rest of the afternoon was consumed with a visit to Jasper by van, lunch in the restaurant at the top of the Jasper Skytram, and then packing/cleaning/loading bikes and gear. The final dinner Saturday evening was a quiet celebration by a tight knit remarkable group of people who had ridden together, supported each other, overcome wind and rain and cold, climbed over 22,000 feet, and all in all had finished an amazing journey!
Day 6: 8/26: Mosquito Creek to Glacier View Inn
Day 6 was another very tough day, covering 63.5 miles with 4286’ elevation gain. The initial 31 miles down to the Saskatchewan River was sunny, fast, good roads, dropping from 6800’ at mile 12 to 4600’ at the river at mile 31. The next 20 miles were basically rolling, mostly flat and then the fun began: a climb from approximately 4900’ at mile mark 52 to 6700’ at mile 59.5 with head winds most of the way and gradients that exceed 9 and 10 % for the big climb up out of the valley. Honestly, Tour de France stuff and everyone made it. Dave Cutler, Pete Nelson, Tom Rolfs, Gage Peterson, and Bryan Dolejsi led the climb followed quickly by “the Allens” (Greg, Mike, and Rachel) as well as the “King & Queen of Pain”, Mark Betourne and Anne Dubois. Matt Rudolf, John Rudolf, Rob Martin set a steady cadence and also did really well, with two of the “Mikes” (“Roamin’ Roemer” and me) bringing up the rear.
Most of the team arrived at the Inn in time to take a tour on sno-cats up onto the Athabasca Glacier that Ann (our amazing team coordinator) had a previously arranged. The Icefields Parkway was our route from just west of Lake Louise all the way to Jasper, aptly named for the Columbia Icefield including the Athabasca Glacier. The trip up onto the glacier was amazing, but windy with dropping temperatures and the team was happy to get back to the inn for warmth, and a well deserved rest before dinner.
A major event of the entire trip the unfolded after dinner. John Rudolf was charged with various infractions that accumulated along the way (excessive drafting, failure to maintain his bike, etc., etc.) and was a good sport as a trail was convened with Pat Sivesind as presiding judge, Mike Roemer as prosecuting attorney, and Greg Allen as defense attorney.
Rachel English, Mark Betourne, Ann Van Sickle and others were called as expert witnesses. A tense repartee between the attorneys ensued with multiple calls to order by the presiding judge. The “trial” was temporarily halted when two undercover agents from the Canadian DEA blasted into the room (the manager and assistant manager of the dining room!) looking for one Mr. David Cutler who had been accused of using performance enhancing drugs – the only possible explanation for his impressive daily lead outs. Said Mr. Cutler was asked to provide a urine sample and never missing a beat stood up and was well on the way to doing just that when thankfully stopped by the Queen of Pain! John Rudolf, so the rumor goes, had been onto this possible “trial” instigated by his good friend Cutler (“good friend” – really! J…) and had arranged for the “agents” show of force. It was hilarious!
Needless to say, Mr. Rudolf, despite the stunning performance by his attorney was found guilty of all charges. Sentencing negotiation between the attorneys and the judge resulted in a stay of the initial sentence remanding Mr. Rudolf to federal prison because of his long record of service and philanthropy – and instead opened the way for a negotiated agreement that eventually led to a commitment of $130,000 towards the 2016 goal of $200,000, sparked by JR’s amazing challenge grant (planned ahead of time, but presented as part of the “plea bargain’). $75,000 had been committed by JR, Rachel, and others before the end of the evening. Matt Rudolf led the effort that resulted in an additional commitment of $55,000 by the end of breakfast – just a stunning display of generosity and support for Andean Health by this remarkable group. And a great, fun time for all thanks to John Rudolf, Dave Cutler, Matt Rudolf, and the whole AHCT crew!
Day 5: 8/25: Banff to Mosquito Creek
Day 5 covered 52.3 miles with 3263’ of elevation gain ending at 6005’. More importantly, Day 5 should be renamed “Grizzly Day”. The first group out on the road sent an urgent text back to the rest of the team warning that a large grizzly was on the side of the trail about a mile into the ride.The group stopped pondering “next moves” and when it seemed that the bear was more interested in browsing for food that have any of them for breakfast, decided to crank up to a high speed and fly by as a group. As far as we know, the plan worked! Later in the day Ann Van Sickle came back along the route warning that a large grizzly was again sighted right along the road. Miles away from the morning encounter, larger, and caught on video. I was riding alone at the point and pulled up to a group of vehicles stopped along the road watching this big critter browse for berries right next to the road.
Amazed at the size of the bear, it suddenly occurred to me that EVERYONE else was INSIDE a car, truck, or camper and that I was the only source of filet out exposed on my trusty bike…knowing that grizzlies can quickly accelerate to 40 mph. Hmm…, what to do. After tucking in behind a pickup for a while, I decided that the bear really had no interest in me and so I set the land speed record for acceleration on an open course and flew by the bear heart beating 120 per minute! The bear never looked up…
The team rode through Lake Louise and then headed 14 miles further up the road in order to shorten the route for the next day. Lake Louise to Mosquito Creek was a long steady climb, fortunately on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. For many of the riders, the run back down into the village of Lake Louise was too tempting to resist – so many of them took off and blasted back down the 14 miles into town. I was finishing the climb up and received quick waves and yells from Bryan, Mike Roemer, Dave Thompson, Ken Stover, and others as they blew by. I was lucky enough to see Gage screaming down towards me so quickly did a U-turn, caught his wheel, and flew down the big sweeping turns hooting and hollering all the way to town. Cycling is the closest thing that I can imagine to actually flying and this run proved it once again! Thanks Gage!
After dinner, the team loaded into the vehicles and drove up to the actual Lake Louise. There was no room in the dining area of the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel that sits right on the edge of the lake and looks out on the mountains and glacier that surrounds the lake – until the notorious Greg Allen went to work, charming the hostess with his amazing version of an Irish brogue and suddenly there were table for the whole crew! No idea how he does it! Coffee, hot chocolates, and good company later – everyone headed back into town for a much needed, deserved rest.
Day 4: 8/24: Kananaskis Village to Banff
Day 4, the ride from Kananaskis Village to Banff was 53 miles with only 1,857’ of climbing. The day began in the rain during the long downhill run to the Trans Canadian Highway. After turning west/northwest and beginning the run up the Bow River Valley, the rain finally turned to sunshine, which lasted the rest of the day. After lunch, the rest of the ride was 15 miles along the rolling Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail. Riders were split into small groups and rode lines into Banff just rockin’ and rollin’ all the way into downtown.
Our route coordinator, Mark Betourne, (nicknamed the “King of Pain” because of his endless, high cadence pace that just wears other riders out!) had added a little bonus “fun ride” at the end of the day for those team members who clearly lost any sense of good judgement – a 3.3 mile climb up out of Banff that began at 4615’ and ended at 5571’. A number of AHCT members took the challenge and were rewarded with a terrific ride and an even more terrific view of Banff on a clear afternoon! The ride down, as promised, was “fast and furious”, total fun, around two or three tight hairpins that required discipline to stay off the brakes! Not easy!
Dinner was at the Juniper Hotel Bistro, billed as the “best food and best view of the mountains in Banff”. The food was excellent, the view was amazing as the setting sun sent a deep golden glow onto the eastern face of the soaring mountains. The camaraderie, laughter, and stories from the day were even better.
Days 2 and 3: 8/22 & 8/23
Everyone is fine all we are all doing well, but Day 2 and Day 3 have been two of the hardest days we have ever had on an Andean Health Cycling trip.
Day 2 from St. Mary on the east end of Glacier National Park was sunny but high, gusting winds were predicted and that is exactly what happened but with winds gusting to 40 to 45 mph. Riders were being blown 3 and 4 feet from side to side and very quickly team members decided to come off the bikes and load into the trailer for safety. Dave Cutler, Tom Rolfs, Matt Rudolf, and Ken Stover were able to fight through and ride all the way over the big climbs and into Canadian customs and then beyond to Waterton and the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel. A group of AHCT riders were able to get back on the bike a few miles east of the border and then ride the rest of the way in – with continued gusts 20 – 25 mph winds. Roamin’ Roemer came within 15 feet of a yearling brown bear and speaking of Roemer, he and Greg Allen had an adventure that only Greg can tell so that will come as an addendum to this blog later today. As a sneak preview I will just say you need to dig out an old version of Arlo Guthrie singing “Alice’s Restaurant” and then Greg will add new lyrics. The scene takes place at the border where they had a little encounter with customs, but wait – Greg can tell it far better than I!
After a late lunch at the Prince of Wales we loaded up and shuttled 120 miles north to our stop for the night, getting us in position to begin the ride north up through the Kananaska Valley on Day 3.
Day 3 was billed as a 64 miles of riding up through the stunning, soaring Canadian Rockies with the first 33 miles an “easy” 2-3% grade. The second half was then a long downhill run into Kananaska Village. Surprise!!! First of all, the garment was steeper, far steeper at some points plus there was was a headwind from the north ALL DAY long plus it was COLD. Winds were blowing with rain that was close to sleet at the 7200+ summit. The winds were so strong that excellent cyclists like Dave, Tom, Greg, Anne, and Mark had to peddle DOWN the descent at times because of the wind coming up the valley.
Nancy Rudolf, John Rudolf, and Nancy’s son Gage joined the crew on the road yesterday. Gage was just amazing, rode strong all day. JR who has been ridiculously busy this Spring and Summer and really has not been able to train just climbed on the bike and road like he had been on the bike everyday. He really did well. And Nancy – well Nancy might be the best natural athlete in the group, but she has been dealingwith some health issues plus an also ridiculous schedule. She was not sure she would even come not to mention ride at all. What happened? Nancy took off with Gage and road the whole day with no trouble. Amazing.
Thank goodness, everyone made it in. At dinner, we were all running on fumes so we decided to scrap the schedule and have an easy morning. The group is gathering in the restaurant and after breakfast we will head out to Banff. 53 miles and 1850″ feet of climbing so amuch easier day. Blue skies at this point, but in the Rockies you just never know, so we will keep out fingers crossed. We really need an easier day!
Great news that will help the whole team for all sorts of reasons: we are now at full strength. Mike Allen, Rob Martin, Dave Thompson, Pete Nelson, and Bryan Dolejsi all arrived last evening so the “band is back together” with Bryan new to the group but a friend to Rob and others already here. It is great to have them all with us.
Mary Runger and Nancy leave today. Mary rode the entire way yesterday as well and we will miss both of them.
So as I close, please send this note on to as many people as you can. We are all out here because we love to ride. We are also out here because we, as you, are deeply committed to Andean Health and we want to meet our goal of $200,000 for this ride. If we can do that, we, all of us, will have raised a million dollars over five years riding bikes. Go figure!
~ Mike Heisler
Footnote: after going over the pass yesterday, Dave Cutler and I now have ridden over the highest paved roads in the U.S. (Mount Evans in Colorado at 14, 200′ on ride in 2014 -and- yesterday over Highroad Pass at 7239″) and lived to talk about it!!! :-)…what people will do for Andean Health!
Day 1: 8/21: Going to the Sun
The first part of the team arrived on Friday and Saturday. Saturday evening we had our first team dinner at the Tamarack Lodge in Hungry Horse. It was great to see everyone again and to welcome Ken Stover to the group.
After dinner we met to go over plans for the first day’s ride – the truly iconic “Going to the Sun Road” ride up over Logan Pass. Ann, Dave Cutler, Tom Rolfs, and Cole Forrest had taken one of the rental cars and scouted the route up the west side of the climb to the pass. The discussion was not just about 4000′ of climbing over the last 12 miles before the pass, but also about impressive, at times unprotected drops off the side, the traffic, the hairpin turns, etc. We were especially concerned about the descent with the same unprotected drops, traffic, and large drainage grates off the edge of the road.
We decided to eat at 6 am and leave for West Glacier so we could be on the bikes by 7 am, partly to be out ahead of the traffic and because cyclists have to be at the pass by 11 am or come off the road until 4 pm.
We were actually off and riding by 7 am, the start of what turned into a spectacular day. The weather was perfect, glorious sun, cool in the morning on the way up, warm with a moderate wind on the way down.
The team was superb; there is no other word to use. Dave Cutler, team captain, and Tom Rolfs, as always, lead the way up followed shortly by Bill Igoe, Matt Rudolf, and our new team member on loan from Team Sky, Ken Stover. OK well I am kidding about Team Sky, but close!
Rachel, who had been thinking of only riding to the Pass and then taking the van down, was just cruzin’ pending the pedals all the way with her loyal sidekick brother, Greg Allen. At the summit the day was so beautiful, blue skies, bright sunshine – that she decided to go over the pass and ride down. She, Greg, Mike Roemer (“Roamin’ Roemer”), Mary Runger, and I headed down together and had a blast!!! Just an amazing, fun, run down with all the due caution that this road demands, but still a blast!
Mary Runger was off the charts! She was riding her new Bianchi that she has seen for the first time the night before. She had intended to ride only to the “Loop” just before the real climb started. At “the Loop” she felt so good and in the face of overwhelming encouragement from the team, she decided to head up. She sat at a steady cadence, turned the crank at 6 mph and just motored on up to the pass! Incredible performance! And then she got caught up in Rachel’s enthusiasm and lead and decided to do the decent as well. And off she went, first at 15 mph, then 18, then 25 – NOOOO problem. She road into St. Mary on FLAT road at 21.5 mph – all the while laughing, enjoying every minute. And for that, Mary was the first recipient of the inaugural “Moose Award” given daily to a member of the team who has had an exceptional day (positive or not!!! – in this case, clearly positive). So congrats, Mary!
Ann Van Sickle and Pat Sivesind – our amazing team coordinators, drivers, support crew, problem solvers, and all around source of endless positive, “can do” vibe – were their usual selves, making it all look easy.
At breakfast now. We think John and Nancy Rudolf and Nancy’s son Gage arrived late last night and are looking forward to seeing them. It will be great having them back and all of us are looking forward to riding with Gage.
We head north to Canada in an hour on our way to Waterton. Sunny day but with winds blowing from the west gusting to 25 mph so it will be a little challenging.
But great group, lots of fun, some “trash talking”, lots of laughs – so we will be fine. More tonight!
~ Mike Heisler
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