Cycling enthusiast Ed Paul formed the Alpine Challenge eight years ago as a project in his Self-Expression and Leadership Program, and the event has grown from 70 riders in the event’s first year to over 600 this year. The event is a challenging ride, held in the hills outside San Diego, California, with different length courses reaching up to 72 miles and a 7,000 foot elevation gain. The money from the challenge goes to charity. This year the proceeds are being split between a children’s hospital and a scholarship fund for at-risk children–Much of the fundraising has gone to assuring that at least two at-risk teens get college scholarships each year. Since the first Challenge ride in 2001, the event has raised over $150,000, and with all event workers being volunteers, all of that money has gone to charity.
The San Diego Tribune recently interviewed Paul and wrote a feature about the challenge. Here is an abridged version of their story.
Cyclists Gear up for Challenging Event
By Declan Desmond, April 19, 2008
For amateur and expert cyclists, the Alpine Challenge promises a scenic adventure through the hills and mountains of rural East County. But the ride isn’t for beginners. Though 20-and 30-mile round-trip rides are available for less-experienced cyclists, 62-and 72-mile treks make the Alpine Challenge exactly what its name suggests. Riders on the longer routes face 7,000 feet of elevation gain.
“There’s no question that it’s very challenging,” said organizer Ed Paul of the aptly-named event. “Even our 20-mile ride has almost 2,000 feet of climbing.”
All four courses follow the same route, which takes riders up the hill from downtown Alpine and then loops them around the Viejas Indian Reservation. The longer rides continue on through Harbison Canyon to Pine Valley.
The 62-and 72-mile challenges begin at 7 a.m., and the shorter challenges launch at 9 a.m. About 600 to 700 riders are expected to attend.
Participants can expect a well-supported and safe ride. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol will direct and divert traffic while riders pedal through downtown Alpine, and emergency medical services will be on hand as well.
Five rest stops along the way offer shade, refreshments and snacks such as peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
In addition, volunteer road crews will patrol the route, keeping an eye on riders and fixing flat tires.
The annual program was started eight years ago by Paul and is hosted by the Alpine Kiwanis Club, of which he is a member.
Paul said he got the idea for the ride while attending community leadership courses at Landmark Education, an international self-improvement foundation. The course called for attendees to undertake a service project that would benefit their communities. An avid cycling fan, Paul knew what direction to go.
“I love riding bikes,” he said. “That planted the seed.”
Half the proceeds from the event will go to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and the other half to the Alpine Challenge Scholarship Fund, a program that offers mentoring to at-risk high school students and financial backing toward their college tuition. Since its inception, the challenge has raised over $150,000.
The program is buoyed by volunteers, who staff the rest stops and provide other services, and corporate sponsorship. Roel Construction Inc. and energy snack producer Clif Bar Inc., are among the challenge’s sponsors.
In recent years, the challenge has attracted biking enthusiasts from as far away as New England and Alaska. Paul said the hilly terrain of the Alpine area is appealing to serious cyclists.
This year, champion cyclist Andy Hampsten will participate in the ride. Hampsten won the Giro d’Italia, a renowned bicycling tournament, in 1988, the only American to have done so. He has also participated in the Tour de France.
When organizers considered inviting a celebrity rider to raise the event’s profile, Paul suggested Hampsten, with whom he is acquainted. Hampsten will take part in the 72-mile ride and sign autographs afterward.
A local cycling luminary will be on the ride as well.
Gordy Shields of El Cajon, who turns 90 on Sunday, has been a competitive cyclist for 40 years and will attend the Alpine Challenge. The retired Grossmont Community College counselor has made himself a fixture in the event, which he has cycled in for five years.
“They’ve kind of adopted me,” Shields said. “One time they had a birthday cake for me.”
Shields recently broke the national record for the 20-kilometer time trial at a Fiesta Island cycling meet, competing in the 90-years-and-older category.
“He’s just such a motivation to everybody else that’s out there,” Paul said.
Read the complete San Diego Tribune story on their website, or go to alpinechallenge.com for more information.