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Cyclists take on the elements at 'Dam to Dam'

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START: Riders take off on the Dam to Dam Century Ride Sunday morning.
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REGISTER: Around 400 riders participated in Sunday’s Dam to Dam Century Ride, the CVB estimates.
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RESUPPLY: Riders approach a supply and gear stop in Lincolnville.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Despite Sunday morning’s rain and cold weather, hundreds of cyclists gathered to take part in the ninth annual Dam to Dam Century Ride, a popular tourist attraction here in Wabash County.

“What’s really cool about cyclists is rain doesn’t get them down,” said Christine Flohr, executive director of tourism for the Wabash County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “They love the challenge. It’s easy to do a ride like this when it’s 70 degrees and there’s no wind and (it’s) sunny.

“But if you add some outdoor elements and that challenge as an athlete to push themselves, we’re really pleased with the turnout and the energy is super positive.”

Flohr estimates there were around 400 riders in attendance for the event this year, though 565 had registered. Among those riders were newcomers Kathryn Gentz of Fort Wayne, Randy Minch of Bluffton and Ruth Cooper of Charleston, Ill.

Gentz says she traveled to Wabash with her friends for an outdoor social activity. She plans to come back in the future, despite having to ride through the rain this weekend.

“Any time there is a safe way to ride the roads and a healthy activity to do as a group, I am incredibly supportive of it and appreciate they put this event on,” Gentz said. “I hope the sun is out next year.”

Participants in the Century Ride, which extends for 100 miles through scenic parts of the county, often train ahead of time.

That’s true for Minch, who started preparing for the ride by cycling for 30 to 35 miles per day. He plans to make Dam to Dam one of his annual century rides in the future.

But it isn’t true for everyone.

Cooper, who participates in century rides like Dam to Dam on a weekly basis, says she rides about 200 miles every week and did not have to train for Dam to Dam exclusively. She says she came to Wabash after hearing positive things about Dam to Dam.

“I wish the weather was better, but everybody still says it’s a great course and it’s scenic,” Cooper said.

Cyclists taking part in the 100 mile course rode around the entire county, with organized supply and gear (SAG) stops stationed every 15 to 20 miles. Each SAG was staffed with volunteers who provided riders with food and drinks, as well as a place to rest during the ride.

Rachel Olsen, who ran the Lincolnville SAG stop, has been volunteering for the past 8 years. She says she keeps coming back because of the sense of community that the ride brings to the county as a whole.

“It’s a great opportunity for Wabash County to shine in the spotlight and what we have to offer as a community to people coming and visiting,” Olsen said. “The growth of this has been phenomenal.”

Flohr says it takes about 10 months to plan Dam to Dam. She estimates around 98 percent of participants hail from outside the county.