COLORADO — Each year, SHIELD616 hosts a bicycle ride across Colorado, in order to raise money for the purchase of rifle-rated ballistic gear that's then donated to first responders across the state. This year the ride involved two-dozen cyclists, nearly 500 miles of travel over five days, and the combined efforts of KOAA viewers to raise $65,000 to contribute to the ongoing mission of protecting those that serve on the front-lines of our communities.
For the third year in a row, KOAA Anchor Ira Cronin joined the cycling team as they made their way across our gorgeous state, going from the Colorado-Utah border all the way to the Colorado-Kansas border, making this the longest Border-to-Border ride attempted so far for the nonprofit agency.
According to the cyclists, facing down massive hills, headwinds, and hundred-mile biking days is not only well worth the effort, but an honor if it means helping those who run towards danger and work to save lives.
As an added bonus, the cyclists, many of whom are first-year riders while others are Border-to-Border veterans, form a bond that they all describe as the equivalent of family ties.
Each day of the trip saw members of the party acting selflessly, cresting hills quickly only to turn right back around, join any who were struggling, and ride up again right alongside, offering encouragement and solidarity whenever needed.
The first day of the trip started in the middle of nowhere, on the Colorado-Utah border, where you could just barely make out the sounds of a distant I-70.
As riders donned sunscreen, stretched legs, and made final adjustments to their equipment and bicycles in the early-morning darkness, a clear excitement was palpable in the air.
Then there were obligatory pre-ride pictures, an inspirational huddle/prayer, and the crew of a couple dozen started their journey.
Day one included 74 miles of travel with only 1,644 feet of elevation (a ride that many of the cyclists described as an easy day), and was knocked out in just over four hours.
At the conclusion of day one, which ended in the town of Delta, the crew rallied and traveled (by bus) to the town of Olathe, where the community had rallied to help purchase six sets of rifle-rated ballistic gear for the Olathe police department.
Day two involved 84 miles of travel and some larger hills, the cycling team ascending 5,331 feet of elevation.
The trip started before the sun came up and involved just over six hours on the bike (and an additional two hours waylaid by construction on highway 50) before the 616 team reached Gunnison.
Day three, a ride all the way to Hartsel, was perhaps the most physically challenging day of the ride.
Clocking in at 97 miles long with 6,358 feet of elevation gain, the route trekked through the heart of Colorado high country, winding its way through Cottonwood Pass.
The third day was also a day that the team chose to dedicate towards the life and service of Eric Talley, a Boulder police officer who lost his life in the line of duty early this year.
Day four, September 11th, was a day where many riders focused in on the events of 20 years ago.
The ride, which took the cyclists through Woodland Park (with a police escort) and Colorado Springs, and out to Ellicott, was 90 miles long and only included 2,983 feet of climbing.
That evening was the night the entire ride had been leading towards, the presentation of 55 sets of ballistic helmets and vests to first responders from ten Colorado agencies:
- Colorado Parks and Wildlife
- Monument Police Department
- Donald Wescott Fire Department
- Peyton Fire Protection District
- Palmer Lake Fire Department
- Woodland Park Police Department
- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
- Lakewood Police Department
- Denver Police Department
- Boulder Police Department
A common theme from that night was smiles, pictures, and handshakes, as first responders and their family members received a much appreciated gift.
Day five, the final day, was the longest leg of the journey.
From Ellicott to the Kansas border, the 616 cyclists peddled 132 miles over a mostly flat road, taking about seven-and-a-half hours and ending with a police escort for the final 15 miles of the trip.
As the team crossed the border into Kansas on the fifth and final day of the journey, many, while exhausted, admitted that they were already looking forward to the 2022 trip and would miss their cycling companions.
The trip was made safely, with no injuries and only minor bicycle repairs required en route.
While this year's trip may be done, 616 has even bigger and better ideas and plans already set in motion for the coming year.