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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

To visiting cyclists, SpokeFest has traction

Gary Gleason and other cyclists begin the 50-mile in Kendall Yards during the 2019 Spokesfest on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Spokane, Wash. The 50-mile race was the first of the day, beginning at 8:15 a.m. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

From experienced cyclists to newbies and from near and far, the 12th Annual SpokeFest created a community on Sunday.

Among the riders were Jan and Jacques Couture, longtime cyclists who moved to Spokane last year from New Hampshire.

As they prepared to take off, they sported matching orange-and-yellow jackets that said “Team Blaze Spokane,” a triathlete club they just joined.

“It’s a little chilly, but we’re excited,” Jacques Couture said.

This year, over 1,000 riders registered to complete one of three rides offered – the 50-mile “half century” ride, the 21-mile river loop and the Spokane Falls 9-mile loop.

As the riders geared up for changes in weather, they chatted like old friends about their routes for the day.

A Tacoma family came to Spokane just for SpokeFest. The family said it decided to come to SpokeFest after seeing the event’s website complete with trail maps, video clips, and an easy, inexpensive sign-up.

The cycling community is a constant for the family as they travel across the country for Mom’s job as a traveling nurse.

Sunday, Dad and the older son, 15, took the 50-mile route while Mom and the younger son, 12, rode the 21-mile loop.

“We just wanted to come and find other people that like biking just as much as we do,” Bobbi Rushoan, the mom, said.

The family’s favorite way to experience a new city is on a bike, she said.

“Since we ride a lot we actually get to see the cities from a different viewpoint,” she said.

Weather changes didn’t seem to put a dent in the event. The event started out dry, then a hard rain descended just hours later. Still, riders pushed through and completed the courses.

Volunteers are equally as hearty and enduring as the riders. Susan Pugh, volunteer coordinator and member of the SpokeFest executive board, said most of the 120-plus volunteers are repeat volunteers.

Pugh herself is a longtime volunteer who hasn’t missed an event. She joined the board after she retired from her job as the Mead High School administrative assistant in the athletics department.

“I think it’s relationships,” she said of why people keep coming back.

SpokeFest also puts on a volunteer dinner each year.

“We rely on them and we thank them,” Pugh said.

Safety is a priority at SpokeFest for the volunteers, including Nick Tanner, a podiatrist who volunteers with event sponsor Kaiser Permanente to help riders if they get injured.

But he’s also there to have fun. Tanner rode a recumbent bike on Sunday that gives him “leisure and luxury riding.” The bike’s seat is lower and wider with a high back that allows him to see more of his periphery.

“The difference is that I’m sitting up versus leading over the bike,” Tanner said.

This allows him to see other riders and road users from a different perspective.

“I’m enjoying a beautiful view while everybody else is looking at the ground.”