By JUDY SHERIDAN
When cyclists assemble on the Aledo ISD main campus for the 11th annual Moritz Ride for Heroes April 20, some will have more on their minds than wildflowers and the first blush of spring.
They will be competing — hard — to be an early finisher in one of the ride’s longest routes, pitting their athleticism and survival strategies against others who also view the 64-mile trek — roughly 100k — as more of a race than a ride.
“The people in the front of the pack think it’s a race and treat it so,” Chris Watson, a perennial cyclist in the event, said. “It’s their world championship up there.”
The Ride for Heroes — billed as a ride, not a race — benefits Parker County fire departments, the Parker County Sheriff’s Reserve and the East Parker County Center of Hope.
Watson, however, who has finished among the top 10 “once or twice” in the five years he has taken part, understands the mindset of the competitor.
The knot of eager cyclists clustered at the front surges forward “all connected,” he said, but eventually thins, with every rolling hill and S-curve, to a select handful of bike buddies who know each other from other cycling events.
“It’s more nerve-wracking at the beginning,” he said. “Everybody is frisky and can pedal hard for a few miles. They’re jockeying for position, and you tend to want to stick close to people you know and trust.
“After an hour, it’s no longer frenetic. The sorting has taken place, and there is a sense of sharing and community after it’s boiled down to a manageable group.”
Bike racing is complex, like playing chess, Watson said. It’s not about who can pedal harder.
“There are other riders to contend with, but also the weather and the lay of the land,” he said. “When you mix all that into a stew, it isn’t easy to succeed. It takes time to get good at the craft.”