Woodstock, Va. – The pavement crackled, the wind felt like heat from an oven, and the cyclists were covered in sweat whenever they stopped to take a break.
Temperatures soared to 101 degrees, with the heat index making it feel more like 106, as the 167 cyclists on the Anchor House Ride for Runaways began pedaling today to support the work of Anchor House, the Trenton-based charity for runaway, abused and neglected children.
They rode 74 hot and hilly miles from Staunton, Va. to Woodstock, Va. on day one of the 7-day, 500-mile journey.
The reward for their efforts: A scenic country route with little traffic and beautiful views of valleys dotted with farms.
“The cows had the right idea in the heat today,” said veteran Anchor House rider George Desser of Ewing. “We rode by several that were wading in ponds to keep cool. They were smart.”
Many of the cyclists set out at 5:30 a.m. in the race to beat the sun, but it was already 79 degrees out, and just after 9 a.m. temperatures reached the 90s. And the cyclists had almost 4,000 feet to climb in the heat.
“On days like this you have to take it easy, drink lots of water and rest in the shade,” said longtime Anchor House rider Larry Murey of Hamilton. “There wasn’t much shade at all today. You had to find whatever little slice of it you could out there.”
Several cyclists suffered from heat exhaustion and had to be picked up by the support crews that spent the day traveling the route back and forth, checking riders for signs of heat problems and passing out water and ice.
At rest stops, cyclists hosed themselves with water from head to toe and stuffed ice in their shirts to cool off. They guzzled sports drinks and noshed on fruit to stay hydrated.
“We went through a record 160 pounds of ice at our rest stop,” said support crew member John Wright of Warminster, Pa., who spent eight hours in the sun with his team providing food and water to the bikers.
Annette Hogan, a member of his support team from Hamilton, cut up more than a bushel of peaches for the cyclists at their rest stop. “We cleaned the farm store out,” she said.
As the last cyclist crossed the finish line for the day, just after 4 p.m., a storm blew through Woodstock, and the temperature dropped to about 85 degrees.
The Anchor House group will enjoy a cooler day for day two of the ride Monday, with temperatures expect to reach only 85 degrees as they pedal 72 miles from Woodstock to Winchester, Va. Early in the day they will face a 4-mile climb.
Krystal Knapp is a cyclist on the 34th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation visit www.anchorhouseride.org or call (609) 278-9495.