Lending a Hand, Feet First
Cyclists Roll To End Hunger
A cyclist bikes down a stretch of Vermont Route 12 west of Hartland during the Harpoon Point-to-Point Bike Ride on August 10, 2013. The three rides, (115 mile, 50 mile, and 25 mile) are a cycling fundraiser for the Vermont Food Bank. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Mark Fogelman of Nashua, N.H. lays in the grass at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vt. after completing the 115 mile Harpoon Point-to-Point Bike Ride on August 10, 2013. The three rides, (115 mile, 50 mile, and 25 mile) are a cycling fundraiser for the Vermont Food Bank. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Katharine Whalen of Essex Junction, Vt. arrives at the finish line after riding 25 miles in the Harpoon Point-to-Point Bike Ride at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vt. on August 10, 2013. The three rides, (115 mile, 50 mile, and 25 mile) are a cycling fundraiser for the Vermont Food Bank. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Windsor — Before bicyclists disembarked Saturday on a 25-mile loop beginning and ending at Harpoon Brewery, starting-line facilitator Marly Ashworth voiced a reminder of the treat waiting for them once they were finished.
“When you get back, you’ll get a nice, cold beer,” said Ashworth, of Brownsville, through a megaphone. “But you’ve got to earn it!”
The reward for the thousands of hungry Vermonters is much greater.
The 13th Harpoon Point-to-Point ride attracted 535 cyclists, pedaling over one of three routes to raise money for the Vermont Food Bank.
The organization’s largest annual fundraiser, Point to Point’s 25-, 50- and 115-mile charity rides have raised more than $588,000 to help fund VFB’s hunger-relief efforts throughout the Green Mountain State.
Serving all of Vermont’s 14 counties, the Barre-based charity provides meals to approximately 8,200 individuals every week at food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and senior centers.
That offers plenty of motivation for Keene, N.H., participant Graham Rigby, who — along with his father, Roger Rigby — were among the first wave of 50-miler cyclists to cross the brewery’s finish line Saturday. They’d departed Bethel just more than two hours earlier on a route that passed through Barnard, Woodstock, Hartland and Weathersfield.
“(My father and I) have been doing this for five or six years, because it’s an event that really hits home,” Graham Rigby said. “The weather was perfect, and it was a beautiful ride. When you live in such a beautiful place, we feel like the least we can do is help make sure people have enough to eat.”
Thanks to the Windsor Fire Association (WFA), cyclists certainly had plenty of food Saturday.
About a dozen of the group’s members set up at the brewery at 7 a.m. to begin cooking barbecue for the hungry riders. A nonprofit that raises funds for the Windsor Fire Department and its EMT services, WFA cooked for riders for the seventh straight year and is paid by Harpoon for their efforts.
“We’ve been stuck out in the sun before, but we found a shady spot this year,” said retired Windsor firefighter Carl Sayah, whose group has also cooked for the Brownsville-based Vermont 100 endurance race and other area events.
Added Windsor firefighter Jeff Katchen, of Cornish: “Yeah, it’s a long day, but it’s good team-building for us and, obviously, it’s a great way to support the community at large.”
With temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s and low humidity, Saturday’s conditions were ideal for a long bike ride. Those coming all the way from Williston, Vt. — they departed that town’s Catamount Family Center at 7 a.m. — crowed about a pleasant tailwind that helped usher them along the lengthy route.
“It was just a gorgeous day, and that tailwind certainly helped,” said Michael Zimmer, a Milton, Mass. resident who was riding with partner Dylan Sanders for that town’s riding team, Blue Hills Cycling.
With rolling hills along each route, the most challenging portion may be the last three miles, which climbs uphill from Brownsville to Windsor, with the final mile along U.S. Route 5.
“That last stretch is a doozy, but Harpoon makes it fun,” said Graham Rigby. “They have (roadside personnel) urging you on, and there’s signage that reminds you why you’re doing it, signs that remind you that 13 percent of Vermonters are food-insecure and things like that. So that definitely helps you finish.”
Saturday’s after-party included live music, the WFA’s barbecue and yes, plenty of beer. The day is something brewery general manager Steve Miller looks forward to every year.
“It’s a great team effort for all of us here, to put this on,” said Miller, of Grantham. “There’s a lot of logistics, but it’s beyond worth it. Being the Vermont Food Bank’s largest fundraiser, that’s something we’re really proud of.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.