COLLEGE PARK -- An arch of red, white and blue balloons over the finish line and cheers marked the end of the fourth annual First Na tional Bank Cycle Across Maryland (CAM) for about 1,100 cyclists yesterday.
The CAM-Tour, which began Monday in Frostburg, cycled through seven Maryland counties and pieces of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington.
Yesterday's 45-mile final leg began at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring and headed south into Washington on the Rock Creek Bike Trail and Rock Creek Parkway. Much of the bike path was strewn with debris from Friday's thunderstorm.
Once in the nation's capital, all cyclists received a crash course in bike messenger technique. Along with gulping diesel fumes from buses, participants were seen running red lights, making quick lane changes and darting between cars. What was lacking in etiquette and safety was minimized by the light Saturday morning traffic.
At the closing ceremony, Pat Bernstein, CAM-Tour executive director, announced that next year's course will begin on the Eastern Shore and end west of the Chesapeake Bay, perhaps in Baltimore.
Despite this year's being the most difficult route, she estimated that nearly 95 percent of the cyclists completed the tour.
"It was the best of the four we've had so far. The scenery was spectacular. The cyclists surprised me with their ability to complete the course without being overly challenged," she said. "If these people could do this route, all parts of Maryland are available."
One cyclist, Dimitre Barde, 27, of Chicago, described the part of Maryland he liked best.
"There was this little town, Thurmont, and I asked a small family in that town for water and they said, 'No problem.' They were having a little cookout. They had 25 ears of corn and were about to cook it and asked me to stay. Sweetest corn I've had all year," he said. "That's one of my strongest memories of CAM because it was unexpected."