Seven thousand cycling enthusiasts descended upon Douglas County this past weekend for the 26th Annual Elephant Rock Cycling Festival.
The festival, which features a Sunday afternoon children’s race, as well as a 24-hour race that spanned May 31-June 1 on an 8.2-mile course at Greenland Open Space, also boasts rides of eight, 27, 32, 62 and 100 miles starting and finishing at the Douglas County Fairgrounds throughout the day June 2.
Many people use the longer rides as training for bigger races such as Ride the Rockies and various Iron Man competitions, said Pat Smith, Elephant Rock spokeswoman, adding that the shorter rides are great ways to boost the confidence of beginning and younger riders to get them on the courses and help them build to longer rides.
A traditional ride for many each year, Smith said the gorgeous scenery, rolling hills and picturesque view of Pikes Peak keeps cyclists coming back year after year.
“We were a little bit down this year in numbers,” she said. “It was a tough season to train because of all the weather variability, but we have got a pretty loyal following.”
That loyal following helped bring a $650,000 economic boon into Douglas County over the weekend, according to Smith, who added that an additional $450,000 was raised by a variety of nonprofit organizations riding for pledges.
One of those organizations, the 74-person Team Zimbabwe, rode to raise funds for orphanages in Zimbabwe. Riding with them was Erin Hap, 35, who came down for the weekend with her family to do the 8-mile course with her 1-year-old daughter Beatrix in tow. It was Hap’s second time doing the race and first with her daughter.
Showing up with the largest team in the 26-year history of Elephant Rock was Team Transplant, who hit the five different courses with 165 riders, 36 of whom were either transplant recipients or living donors.
Founded by Denver attorney and author Steve Farber nine years ago after receiving a kidney transplant from his son, the organization helps people learn where to go when they are in need of a transplant and also works to help create matches.
Olivia Current, 18, came down from Longmont to cheer on the team and take in the race with her brother, Micah. She didn’t ride, but said it was the first time she had ventured out to an event like this since being diagnosed with leukemia two years ago.
Olivia received a bone marrow transplant on Nov. 11, 2011. Currently on dialysis, she is now on the wait list for a kidney transplant.
“I didn’t realize that there were this many people that supported me,” she said. “It’s nice. They don’t even know me.”