It’s the final year for the Freeborn Co. Bike-A-Thon

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Freeborn County Bike-A-Thon will have its final ride in May, according to organizers this week.

The 100-mile ride, which is in its 44th year, has had decreasing participation over the years, said LeeAnn Juveland, committee member. The event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, is one of the oldest bike-a-thons in the state.

“It has been a really good fundraiser, it really has,” Juveland said. “It’s going to be sad to let it go.”

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This year’s ride will begin at 6 a.m. May 7 at the Sibley Elementary School warming house, south of Skyline Plaza.

Juveland said the event raised more than $16,000 last year and had 59 participants. As recently as 2010, there were almost double the participants.

Juveland said since she and other existing committee members took over the planning of the event in 2002 and 2003, the Bike-A-Thon has raised more than $380,000. How much the event raised prior to that was unavailable as of press time.

The committee has worked with several organizations and volunteers over the years to make the event possible, including REACT, the Amateur Radio Club, First Baptist Church and service clubs such as the Noon, Daybreakers, Aktion, Golden K1 and K2 Kiwanis clubs; the Rotary Club; and the two Lions clubs, said Juveland and committee member Kent Erlandson.

Erlandson said the service clubs got involved with the event in 2005 as a way for the committee to recruit more participants.

“People have different reasons for riding,” Erlandson said. “Usually it’s about cancer or someone they know who had cancer.”

Participants have the option of riding the full 100 miles or finishing at one of the other checkpoints along the way. The ride starts in Albert Lea and goes through Glenville, Myrtle, Hayward, Geneva,  Hartland, Freeborn, Alden and Conger before coming back to Albert Lea. Food and water are provided along the way, including hot dogs in Geneva and sloppy joes in Alden, plus water, bananas and granola bars at other stops.

Less than half of the participants finished the full 100 miles last year, they said. A support vehicle follows the last rider, and the committee takes safety of its riders seriously.

“There’s food, there’s safety,” Erlandson said. “There’s everything you could want on a ride.”

The two committee members recalled memories over the years, including riding in a snowstorm, funeral processions, motorcycle processions and even some stories with tractors and dogs.

They talked about families such as the Robert Navarro family who started riding in 2009. One year, that family alone had 40 riders.

Juveland and Erlandson said there used to be more younger riders. The youngest children can ride is 8 without an adult. Otherwise, Juveland said she has seen children as young as 5 and 6 ride with a parent.

They thanked the sheriffs through the years for their support.

This year, pledge cards are available at Kate Radio, Power 96, Martin’s Cycling & Fitness, Albert Lea Tribune, Wells Fargo Bank, Hanson Tire and Poole Bike Shop.

In addition to Juveland and Erlandson, other committee members are Ken and Jodi Dreyling, Kurt Freitag and Cheryl Moran.

If people would like to donate to the Bike-A-Thon but do not have a participant to pledge, they can stop at the warming house the day of the event or they can send a check made out to the American Cancer Society to 1610 Gateway Drive in Albert Lea.

Money is donated through the Freeborn County Relay for Life to the American Cancer Society.