Cyclists who wanted 150 kilometers of countryside for the Dash-In/MS150 will get it this year in Carroll County.
But along with Carroll's famed country atmosphere, they'll also get plenty of hills for the roughly 92-mile ride.
Cyclists left Catonsville Community College yesterday and rode toWestern Maryland College in Westminster, where they spent last nightbefore riding back to Catonsville today.
The event, which is in its eighth year, raises money to combat multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system of young adults.
Leslie Hornor, director of fund-raising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society/Maryland Chapter, said that by the second week in May, 882 cyclists had registered for the event. Nearly 1,000 eventually entered and each paid $25 to ride and promised a minimum of $150 in secured pledges.
Last year, the bike ride raised $270,000, and thisyear Hornor hopes to pass the $300,000 mark. Part of the money is used to provide services, and the rest is earmarked for research.
The ride used to take place in Anne Arundel County. But, Hornor noted, the group had outgrown the facilities at Anne Arundel Community College, and riders complained about the congestion on Anne Arundel roads.
"They wanted more countryside and so on," said Hornor.
Hornor,who had passed through Westminster three years ago as part of the Cycle Across Maryland Tour, remembered the town's charm -- and Western Maryland College.
"The college is what prompted us to pick Westminster," she said.
Mary Jo Colvert, director of Conference Services at WMC, noted that she's used to playing host to groups ranging from 20 to 1,500 people. And because the college is host to state track and wrestling tournaments as well as sports camps, a large group of cyclists isn't any problem.
"It's kind of like old hat," Colvert said. "I'm looking forward to them coming. It's for a good group and for a worthy cause."
Once the cyclists survived the hills and arrived at the college, they were treated to a party, sponsored by Bee's Distributing of Finksburg, featuring the bluegrass band Patent Pending.
In keeping with national policy, Hornor would not reveal the route in advance.
"We want to make it exciting and a surprise," she said, adding that it will be on back roads.
Because of the hills, there is an optional route for the more-advanced cyclists that adds sevenmiles to the trip.
Weary bikers are finding plenty of rest stops manned by 300 volunteers, and medical support is provided by the Carroll County Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center and Towson Sports Medicine.
The Baltimore Radio Amateur Television Society, a ham radio operators group, is coordinating communications, and the Gold Wing Red Riders is providing motorcycle escorts along the route.
Race Pace and Cross Country stores are providing mechanical support. Other sponsors include Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and Coopers & Lybrand.
Food and lodging is provided at WMC, and cyclists were able toelect to camp. Babies in bicycle seats are not allowed, and helmets are mandatory.