The MSING LINKS
Apex, North Carolina
Another incredible Bike MS New Bern weekend is in the books! Amid all kinds of challenges, the staff and volunteers were amazing.
The party started on Friday afternoon, when David and Laurie Wendt met up with Art and I and we set our new tent (thanks, David!), replete with MSing Links banners on three sides. We were not to be missed, and several old friends from other teams stopped by to greet us. (Our tent really stood out -- check the large blue canopy at about 11 seconds into this cool video!)
A few of us met for dinner at The Chelsea, which has become a fine-dining tradition for many of the Links, while others snuck into the VIP area for heavy hors d'oeuvres, thank to our very own VIP, Carra. (If you don't know, Carra is perennially our top fundraiser, always placing in the top percentiles of all Bike MS fundraisers.)
Saturday morning started early, and when I arrived at the tent, naturally Medio and Dave were already there -- like the good Marine and Sailor they are, always first to arrive for 'morning muster'. Minutes later the whole team was there. We gathered for our team photo and readied for the start in a festive mood. Finally! After a two-year hiatus -- cancelled in 2019 due to Hurricane Dorian, then because of COVID last year we were together and ready to ride!
Everyone agreed that the weather was the finest ever for the Bike MS New Bern event. Especially on Saturday, it was clear and calm, with a high of 83 degrees. As we assembled at 8:00 AM for the ride start, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America, the weather was eerily similar to conditions on that tragic day -- bright, clear, and not a cloud in the sky. After a moment of silence to honor the memories of those who died on September 11, 2001, we rolled. It is always a thrill to glide out of Union Point Park to the cheers of the volunteers and staff, and to have our team called out by name -- "There go the MSing Links!"" What the announcer didn't have to say was that we are truly the best-looking team in the entire peloton.
And many other cyclists agree! Once we cleared the crowd of cyclists and turned off Highway 55, a large group formed up behind us. A lot of cyclists got a free ride to the Saturday Century, thanks to the MSing Links. But we didn't mind, as we maintained a perfect pace to take on passengers. Averaging about 18 mph on completely flat roads, it was easy for our team to share the pulls up front and keep everyone fresh so we could finish well.
What a feeling. During so much of the ride, you find yourself 'in the zone'-- pedaling smoothly at pace, surrounded by your team, living the dream -- always bearing mind the reasons for the ride: to win the Fight to End MS.
Everyone has their own highlights from the ride, but a few stand out for me -- cajoling Chet to go for the 100 miles after he only planned for 75 because he didn't have his usual preparatory miles in (nothing like a little peer pressure eh, Chet?); Carra taking an extra-long pull early in the ride, saying it would be her only one, only to take on many more throughout the day; picking up new members Brandy and Tina after the first rest stop; sharing Sharmila's joy at being back in New Bern after a decade-long hiatus; thinking David and Shawn must be pulling for 50 miles; Medio falling back due to illness then rallying bravely to finish just a half-hour after us; our 'team sprint' over the Trent River Bridge, with Shawn, David and Chet allowing me to 'win' the dash to the finish line; Laurie Wendt having cold Cokes and ice towels waiting for us the instant we rolled up to the team tent; Carra thoughtfully gathering Century patches for all of us as we caught our breath and cooled down. What a day!
Sunday was a bit more 'laid-back', as the team split up for various distances. We bade farewell to Dave, who had to head back home for work. Chet, Medio, and new Links Brandy and Tina opted for the 50-miler. Medio realized later that he had ridden much of the previous day with rubbing brakes! (Don't feel bad, Medio --even Lance Armstrong once rode a mountain stage of the Tour de France the same way!)
David and I did our usual Sunday 75, and we found ourselves alone after the Century split. Fortunately, we caught up with some EZ Riders at the next rest stop, and after the last rest stop, we tagged on to a Team CBC group that was absolutely flying! It was a thrilling finish with the police escorts and the dash to the finish.
Shawn, newbie Scott, Carra and husband Steve, Art, Sharmila, and John headed out to Do the Double -- back-to-back centuries for the weekend. Bad luck for John, though. He and Sharmila were in a faster group ahead of us, and as he was adjusting his eyeglass mirror, his glasses fell off! We saw him on the side of the road, in obvious disappointment ("My ride is done!" he exclaimed as we rolled past). Later we learned of his dogged determination -- going back to the start, getting his spare glasses, and heading back out on the not-so-easy, twisting, turning 30-mile route -- ending up with over 50 miles for the day after he thought he was finished for good. How inspirational, John -- you didn't let a setback keep you from achieving a successful weekend.
Speaking of inspiration -- let's not forget Why We Ride! We ride for the nearly one million people living with MS in the USA. We ride and raise funds to keep up the fight to End MS Forever, uniting together to enable vital research and support services to continue for our friends and family members who are afflicted with this unpredictable disease. Progress is being made! New treatments enable many people with MS to live full and productive lives. People like our own teammate Carra, who rides the Double Century every year, inspiring hundreds of people and raising tens of thousands of dollars, and our team founder Christi Hales, who has persevered to enjoy an active lifestyle and successful business career. For one weekend of the year, the joy of cycling grows beyond our own ambitions, and becomes a collective joy of shared hope that together we can BEAT MS.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR FOR NEW BERN '22
Please share your memories and pics on our MSing Links Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MSing-Links-Cycling-Team-203066253047598
Also, here are the links to other things:
Medio Monti's pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/tEnH1SCykhM1wtG67
Shawn Harris's ride video clip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GUuQnxujnQ5ALDRM6
The official Bike MS New Bern photo site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmssociety/collections/72157719638832943/