By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A very tired but enthusiastic Chris Robinson sat at the London Farmer's Market on Saturday afternoon, gratefully accepting the thanks of cyclists participating in the sixth annual Redbud Ride.
Compliments were abundant among the riders who challenged the various routes of the springtime ride that ranged between 23 to 100 miles of city and country between London, Livingston, East Bernstadt, and through Laurel, Jackson, and Rockcastle counties.
More than 1,100 persons took to their wheels to travel the scenic country, representing at least 15 states.
"We won't know until the final sign-in sheets are completed, but we're estimating that many," Robinson said. "We are thankful for good weather this year, and we had fantastic volunteers. We couldn't do it without them."
Many riders in this year's event were first-time competitors.
James Tharp traveled from Senora, Ky., for his first Redbud Ride. Tharp has been riding overall for "six or seven years" although he had to take a couple years' break.
"I had cancer so I couldn't do it for a couple of years," he said. "I had prostate cancer, but June 20 will be my fifth year as a cancer survivor."
Despite the traumatic effects of the cancer, Tharp said he is thankful to be back on the cycling tour again this year. He tackled the 100-mile route Saturday.
Whitney Ryan Roth of Nashville and Patrick Ryan of Louisville, a brother-sister team, came back to their hometown for the race on Saturday.
"We both went to high school here and our parents still live here," Roth said. "We've been here for the past three years for the ride."
"It's the perfect excuse for us to come back home," Ryan added.
Joe Graviss of Versailles marked his first lap toward the Kentucky Century award. To qualify for a special jersey, rides must complete three of four 100-mile rides, including the Redbud Ride, the Honey Hundred in Georgetown, the Preservation Pedal in Frankfort or the Ole Kentucky Home Tour in Louisville later this year.
"This is a significant achievement and the only way to get the jersey is to complete three of the four," Graviss said.
Rodney Hendrickson, co-director of the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission, was another competitor in the 100-mile ride on Saturday. As he traveled along the remote countryside in Rockcastle, Laurel and Jackson counties, Hendrickson said he heard many comments from participants about the cleanliness of the route.
"There was not a speck of garbage," Hendrickson said. "The road and work release crews must have worked hard over the past few weeks to keep the route clean."
Hendrickson added that one cyclist dropped the road map given to riders.
"It stuck out because there was no trash on the roadways. Several people commented how clean it was."
Hendrickson said this year was by far the largest event to date.
"It gets bigger every year," he said. "We had 779 last year, and started with 26 people the first year in 2008."
This year's Redbud Ride also involved several riding clubs from across the state, including the Central Kentucky Wheelman's Riding Club based in Elizabethtown. Jim Lever, president of the club, said approximately 20 members were in London over the weekend.
"This is the first time I've been here," Lever said. "Some other members of the group have come here before, but this is the first time for me. I really enjoyed it."