Cyclists surmount punishing hills Heat, inclines exact toll, but tour participants pedal on

July 30, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Some bicyclists, like James Perry of Columbia, pedaled at a leisurely pace yesterday along Carroll County's rolling roads, enjoying the bucolic countryside.

"There was a gorgeous view around every corner," said Mr. Perry, a 37-year-old physician's assistant. "There were a lot of challenging hills, but Carroll has some of the most beautiful countryside I've seen."

Others, like Debbie Koch, found the county's rolling hills to be formidable obstacles on the day's 50-plus-mile trek from Catonsville.

"I thought the hills were more grueling than the heat," said Ms. Koch, a 29-year-old teacher from East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Despite the best of intentions, others were forced to dismount bicycles and walk up hills, including the day's last -- a steep incline leading to Western Maryland College, where 1,400 cyclists on the

annual Cycle Across Maryland camped last night.

"I made [it] up all the hills except one," said Jeff Harvey, 29, a county planner from Fredericksburg, Va. "I could have made it up that one, but there were too many people jumping off their bikes in front of me."

Yesterday's somewhat cooler weather provided riders with a respite from the 104-degree heat they encountered in Baltimore the day before.

"That was a rough day," said Pat Bernstein, the CAM Tour's director.

Riders crossed Chesapeake Bay by boat to Baltimore, then rode mostly uphill -- about 10 miles to Catonsville, where they spent the night before moving on to Westminster.

"It was a short ride after getting off the boat, but some people really struggled," Ms. Bernstein said.

The six-day tour began Monday in Cambridge and proceeded to Federalsburg (through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge) and Chestertown before crossing the bay. Today, the tour continues to Bel Air and ends in Towson tomorrow.

Because of the heat, Ms. Bernstein said, CAM organizers have been providing more water and rest stops to cool the riders.

"We tell them to drink a lot of liquids, take extra water stops on the way," she said. "Every vehicle we have is carrying extra water."

Although the heat has prompted some riders to drop out, Ms. Bernstein said 95 percent of the cyclers will finish the 350-mile ride, which lets cyclists experience the beauty of Maryland at an intimate level not possible in a car.

Most riders adapt to the heat.

"You try to work around it," said Tim Crawford, a Preston firefighter who is riding along with his 68-year-old father, Bud. "You force fluids down even when you're not thirsty. You try to ride in the morning. You just adjust to it."

Sixteen-year-old Nate Scott also leaves early each day to beat the heat. He arrived in Westminster by noon and claimed a cool, shady spot near the college's football stadium.

"I'm too lazy to put my tent up," said the Easton resident, propping his head on a rolled-up towel. "It's too hot to set up camp."

PD Joe Koch, who is on his third CAM tour with his wife, Debbie, es

timated that 90 percent of the riders walked up a steep incline outside Ellicott City.

"That had to be the worst hill of the ride," said Mr. Koch, a 34-year-old teacher and track coach. "Otherwise, this has been one of the most scenic rides I've been on. It was really beautiful."

Ms. Bernstein announced last night that next year's tour will include Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore and for the first time will cross the Bay Bridge.

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