HANCOCK -- The object of yesterday's First National Bank Cycle Across Maryland (CAM) was simple: Stay on the bike for the three major climbs.
While tour organizers had warned cyclists about the 25-mile segment that climbed the peaks of Polish Mountain, Town Hill and Sideling Hill, most riders finished the course without stopping once for exhaustion during the climbs. The challenging course and a short day of cycling made for many satisfied participants, who streamed into Hancock before noon.
"When we started planning this darn thing, we had to plan an alternate route for those who would be intimidated by the mountains," Tour Executive Director Pat Bernstein said. "We predicted 400 would take the detour. I'd be surprised if we had 40 today."
Many of the 1,100 cyclists were in a pleasant mood as they gathered their gear and pitched their tents on the grounds of Hancock High School, a stark contrast to Monday's rain-soaked segment. Several said they found Monday's rain and one steep climb far worse than yesterday's morning run.
"It was fun; it was challenging," said Krista Bateman, 26, of Catonsville. "I got a little tired toward the end. I didn't walk my bike at all. That was my goal. I was loving the downhill."
The first hill, Polish Mountain, was the most straightforward climb of the three obstacles. While some walked their bikes, most made the climb and an informal rest stop at the top of hill.
The most difficult of the three climbs was up Town Hill. Cyclists initially were challenged by the minor Green Ridge climb, to the immediate west of Town Hill. Many thought they had scaled Town Hill and were racing down the eastern face of Green Ridge, only to confront the genuine article.
The final major challenge was Sideling Hill, which divides Allegany and Washington counties. The climb began with a grated bridge, a bane of road bikes, and started a sharp, curving climb, before ending in a descent on the mountain's east side.
"I had a great time; it was a smile all the way," said James Perry, 36, of Columbia. "It was great making progress today. I'm sure glad the rain is gone."
Today's course travels through West Virginia before re-entering Maryland at Williamsport and ending at Middletown.
Patrick Hickerson of The Baltimore Sun is traveling on the CAM Tour.