Hundreds of cyclists embraced the crisp Sunday morning air to kick off the Lawrence Bicycle Club’s 41st Octoginta ride through northeast Kansas.
The sound of spinning wheels, excited chatter and the clicking of cycling shoes on pavement filled the pre-ride air. Frank Vanryn of Wichita took in the moments before the event while waiting for his riding partner. A four-time Octoginta participant, Vanryn said he was looking forward to the season-ending ride.
“It’s always a lot of fun,” the 15-year cyclist said. “And it’s a beautiful day for it.”
The 80-mile ride, or 40 miles for the less intense rider, kicked off shortly after 8:30 a.m. in downtown Lawrence. The estimated 650 riders began the ride with a leisurely roll north on Massachusetts Street, complete with a local police escort. The route, which took riders as far west as Clinton Lake and as far east as De Soto, was a project months in the making for ride director Randy Breeden.
Breeden, also a former Octoginta participant, said organizing the event took a lot of time and effort, but that the experience is worth the work. He said that apart from the scenery, the scheduled stops and quality food breaks along the route help make the trek even more enjoyable.
“It’s just an awesome ride,” Breeden said. “To ride with that many people and with the rest stops and weather; the leaves are turning this time of year, and it’s just perfect weather to ride.”
Troy resident Tricia Sawtelle took on the 80-mile course as a way to prepare for upcoming Ironman competitions. The first-time Octoginta participant said the riders Sunday seemed motivated early on by the food waiting for them at the first rest stop.
“Everyone just took off,” Sawtelle said. “It was like a sprint to breakfast.”
The autumn ride has become a tradition for many cyclists, and friendships go hand-in-hand with the annual trip. Breeden said the yearly reunion allows him to keep in touch with friends from across the area.
“I have hundreds of friends that do this every year,” he said. “It’s fun to see them and ride with them every year.”
This year’s Octoginta began and ended in downtown Lawrence, regardless of which route the riders chose. The trip takes cyclists anywhere from 4.5 hours to 7.5 hours to complete. While some treat the ride as a race, Breeden said most ride simply for fun.
Breeden said this year’s turnout, up 62 percent from last year’s 400 riders, was the best he’s seen and bodes well for the future of the event.
The riders began trickling back into the downtown area in the early afternoon hours. Parking lots that had been filled with activity in the morning were slowly emptying. Sawtelle made her way into the city just after 2 p.m. She said the ride had been more difficult than the average trek, but that it was enjoyable nonetheless.
“I’ve known about this event for the past few years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to make it,” she said. “It felt good.”