MIDDLETOWN -- Yesterday's 57-mile Cycle Across Maryland (CAM) segment from Hancock to Middletown could be summed up in one word: Endurance.
The exhilaration after Tuesday's successful climbs over Polish Mountain, Town Hill and Sideling Hill was a marked contrast to yesterday's exhausted participants who were finding gear and pitching tents at Middletown High School.
Heat, a longer route and a number of steep, short hills left the cyclists physically haggard.
Despite the number of languid cyclists, Pat Bernstein, executive director of the event, said that of the 1,151 riders who registered, few have dropped out.
"I'd be surprised if it were more than a handful," she said.
The route included several steep, smooth hills with a good amount of coasting on the declines. Yesterday's segment began at Hancock High and took U.S. 522 over the Potomac River and into West Virginia, where the tour immediately turned left onto a series of back roads in Morgan and Berkeley counties before recrossing the Potomac and entering Williamsport.
During the route, riders had the option of visiting Antietam Battlefield, adjacent to the route south to Sharpsburg. But some cyclists chose to continue rather than add a few miles to the course on a day when spending more hours than needed in the sun could impair progress.
Consistent with the last two segments, the tour crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains at Crampton's Gap.
"I've hiked up in those mountains; [this is the] first time I biked them," said Tom Olin, 24, of Silver Spring. "It was warm. I was pumping the fluids -- went through four bottles."
Today's 54-mile route will travel from Middletown to Winfield. Cyclists will cross another mountain
range -- the Catoctins -- and have a chance to visit Cunningham Falls and the Catoctin Iron Furnace.
Patrick Hickerson of The Baltimore Sun is traveling with the CAM Tour.