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Peach Ride to return

The Atlanta Peach Ride returns to LaGrange on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 to raise funds for multiple sclerosis (MS).

“People come from all over for this ride,” said Pat Hamby, a rider from LaGrange. “This year, we’re hoping to involve more local cyclists.”

Hamby has MS herself.

“When I was first diagnosed in 2001, there were only a couple treatments available,” Hamby said. “Thankfully, one of those worked for me and has been working ever since. But for some people, the same option doesn’t work.”

Now, she says, there are between six and eight treatments. Still, some patients are unable to find one that works for them. Research continues, not just for treatments that keep symptoms from worsening, but for an MS cure.

“If we didn’t have these events, there would not be money there for research,” Hamby said.     

It is still unknown what causes the disease. The National MS Society describes it as “an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.”

For Hamby, exercise helps. She tries to get a long bike ride in 3-4 times a week, averaging 18-20 miles each ride.

“It’s not flat either. It’s a very hilly ride, so it’s a good cardio workout,” she said. “And it’s better on the joints than running.”

She also tries to get in a biking class weekly at Towne Fitness.   

Hamby will be riding with the Golden’s Bike Shop team, along with her husband. Bikers all start at Wild Leap Brew Co. at 8 a.m. and will end there as well but there are numerous routes. Saturday offers a 35, 65, and 100-mile option. Sunday offers only the 35 and 65-mile routes.

“We all line up together wearing the same shirt, but some go one route and some another,” Hamby said. “There are arrows and directions along the way. The routes are easy to follow.” 

“This is a ride, not a race because it’s a fundraiser,” said Anastasia Papastefan, development specialist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “So riders don’t need to feel intimidated. If you want to help toward the cause, come out.”

Walk-ups are welcome but must raise the $350 fundraising minimum to be able to ride. Each rider also pays a $60 registration fee. Papastefan said that after the race, fundraising can continue.

“Participants can still fundraise for 30 days post-event for prizes and for 60 days post-event to be in the Top 50 Club,” Papastefan said.   

This year’s fundraising goal is $405,000, and 64 percent of that has already been raised, about $256,000. So far, the ride has 316 registered bikers and about 153 volunteers. 

According to Hamby, the volunteers are invaluable.

“You have rest stops every 15 miles with food, beverages, and restrooms,” she said. “People will be riding in vans throughout who can take you back to the start if needed. Police are there to stop traffic at major intersections. You’re not out there by yourself.”

Help is available before the ride too. Golden’s Bike Shop of LaGrange will inspect your bike at their shop for free, though there is a charge for any needed repairs. Golden’s will be on-site the day of, helping bikers with last-minute adjustments.

“We’ll get ‘em going in the morning,” said Golden’s Bike Shop Owner Rick Brock said.

Golden’s will also be at rest stops supplying tubes and any support supplies.   

Rider Hamby recommends having your bike checked before the ride. She said, “Make sure you’re road ready. Including wearing a helmet.”

She said many show up to the ride without helmets, but they are required for all participants.   

The Peach Ride is unique in that is starts and finishes at the same place. Papastefan said not all MS bike rides offer that.

“It’s a mid-sized ride,” she said. “Ours is small but mighty. We raise a lot of money, working toward the goal of creating a world free of MS.”

Nationally, Bike MS is the fundraising cycling series of the National MS Society, and it raises more money than any other cycling event for any other cause. Bike MS cyclists, volunteers and donors have raised more than $1.3 billion to stop MS.

Brock has two friends with MS. He helped design the original routes, though some changes have been made since.”

These are great routes. They show a lot of the county,” Brock said. “They go by the dam, the vineyard, by Kia, and through West Point. We’ve got a lot of good roads around here. And this is from a guy who rides all over.”

Last-minute packet pickup is available for participants at 4 p.m. Friday at Wild Leap, according to Papastefan.

Bike MS has intentionally worked with LaGrange businesses. 

“Local partners include Golden’s Bike Shop, local caterers, and hotels, particularly Courtyard. We want to work with as many local companies as possible,” Papastefan said. “Wild Leap has been great to work with, and we’ve connected with the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority. LaGrange has been a great partner for us. It’s such a welcoming community.”

For more information or to register for the Atlanta Peach Ride, go to tinyurl.com/atlpeachride.”