Cyclist rides from Int’l Falls to A.L.

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 24, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

An Eden Prairie man is stopping in Albert Lea Saturday after an eight-day, 450-mile bike ride across Minnesota to raise awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

&8220;If I’m going to create awareness, I’m the kind of person who goes the farthest and the biggest I can do,&8221; said Joe Wurl, 35.

Wurl’s friend Scott Stafne was diagnosed with the disease, called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2004. Since then Stafne has struggled against the degenerative neuromuscular disease, for which there is no effective treatment or cure.

Wurl decided to take action when he found out how little money is being raised for ALS, and how little people seemed to know about the disease.

&8220;I’m raising money in hopes that people see what the disease is, and be encouraged through his Web site to go to his research fund,&8221; Wurl said.

Wurl started his Minnesota bike odyssey in International Falls Saturday and will finish this Saturday in Albert Lea. His sister and girlfriend have been following him with a sport utility vehicle, bringing all Wurl’s food and camping gear along. Wurl himself carries his water, extra tubes for his bike and an air pump.

All along the way, he has distributed postcards with information about ALS on them. He has been supported by Minnesotans, who are more than willing to lend a hand distributing the information at businesses and in communities.

&8220;Talking to people has been so easy, because everybody is so willing to listen to me,&8221; Wurl said.

So far Wurl has braved 50 mph winds and lightning strikes to complete his tour. He has a few aches and pains in his knee and ankles.

And he has three days to go.

&8220;I’ve never ridden this many miles in my life,&8221; Wurl said Wednesday.

Before, his longest bike ride, on two consecutive days, was 100 miles long.

Stafne’s parents will meet Wurl in Albert Lea at about 11 a.m. Saturday. Stafne himself may even be there for the end of the journey, if his schedule permits.

Wurl encouraged anyone with questions about ALS and anyone who wants to contribute donations to ALS research to check out the Stafne family’s Web site at www.stafnes.com.