Hundreds of bicycles rolled across the county as cyclists from Bartow and beyond took part in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County Inc.'s 11th-annual Cartersville Century Bike Ride. The event gave participants the chance to tour the area while riding routes of four lengths -- 15, 30, 50 and 100 miles. While the shortest route kept riders in Cartersville, the longer rides offered stops in Kingston, Adairsville, Cassville and other points of interest.
Among those prepared to tour most of the county was Jonathan Cooper of East Ridge, Tenn. Saturday was his first attempt to achieve the "century," the 100-mile ride, as he trains for August's Ironman Triathlon in Louisville, Ky. Cooper said this is the first time he's participated in the Cartersville Century event.
"We have a triathlon club in Chattanooga, and a lot of my friends that are training for Ironman Louisville and a later on Ironman said we should all come down here," Cooper said. "I'm hoping to finish in under seven hours, I may or may not -- just kind of wanted to get a feel, I really wanted to see how my legs feel after 100 miles, because in the Ironman, you still have to run 26.2 miles after you're finished with the ride.
"For me, this was only an hour drive, but I've gone as far away as Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina to do races. Although this isn't a race, I've gone several states away in order to participate in things like this, all over the Southeast," he added. "Usually, if I'm going to do something that's not necessarily race-oriented, a ride or something like that, I do look for a charity that I support. In Chattanooga, the Boys & Girls Club does a lot of good around town, so I'm sure they do here, too."
Proceeds from Saturday's event go toward the operating budget of the local Boys & Girls Clubs to help the nonprofit remain available to kids who need its services in the summer and after school days.
"All the proceeds go to the club, in addition to the income that it brings for Cartersville and Bartow County -- I bet they spend $50,000, $60,000 over the weekend here," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, adding that about 330 riders had pre-registered for the event. Final registration numbers were not tallied as of Saturday morning, but Gilley said the ride usually draws 900 to 1,000 cyclists.
"We don't know the number this year, but last year, we had a little over 900, which is a great ride for us," Gilley added.
Most riders took off from the starting point at Dellinger Park at 8 a.m., though Gilley said some trickle out of the gate late while others begin earlier to beat the summer heat. With cyclists having the four ride lengths to choose from, riders returned to Dellinger Park throughout the day. Awaiting them were a post-ride meal, T-shirts to commemorate their participation, and the chance to enjoy music and fellowship.
"It depends, of course, on each individual rider, but the bulk of our riders come in from the 50 mile between 11 and 1, and then the century riders come in between 2 and 4, usually," Gilley said. "They come in all day, and we're fortunate to have volunteers [here], and we have six rest stops that are fully staffed ... we'll probably have between 150 to 200 volunteers."
"Most of our [riders] are from the metro area and the Southeast," Gilley added, "but we've had them register from as far away as North Carolina, Florida, Las Vegas, so they're all over the place. But the vast majority are from the metro area."
Among those coming from in or around the state capital were Tom and Eileen Cohen of Atlanta. The two, who typically ride every weekend, took part in the 50-mile offering in their first time participating in the local event.
"Once you start doing these rides, you just get e-mails about the rides," Eileen Cohen said about how the two found out about the ride. "This was just an area that we haven't ridden yet.
"I like in the summertime being out here instead of in the bad air in Atlanta," she added.
Tom Cohen said Cartersville Century's reputation for being a nice ride also played a factor in their choice to participate. In addition to taking part in similar events across the state, the two also have ridden during family vacations, such as their trip to Vermont.
"Organized rides are great because they provide all the support, like the mechanic and all the rest areas and route markings," he said. "That's why we like to ride the organized rides, and be around other people."
Saturday might not be the last time the Cohens bring their cycles up to Cartersville and Bartow.
"We save the maps, and sometimes we'll just do our own ride again," Eileen Cohen said. "So we sort of learn the area from doing the rides, and the ones we like, we'll repeat."