The champions rode into the sleepy town, their brightly colored jerseys proudly displaying their cause -- their stand against multiple sclerosis.
They rode for their brothers and sisters, friends and parents, uncles and aunts and folks they'd never met.
They pedaled sleek racing bikes and rough-and-tumble mountain bikes, cruised together on tandems -- one person even puttered along on a battery-aided tricycle.
Hundreds of tents filled virtually every available space at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds after MS TRAM participants set up camp for the night. Nearly 1,400 cyclists rode into Brainerd Wednesday. (Dispatch Photos by John Pedersen)
They were young and old, in-shape and getting there, boisterous and quiet, but they were all there because each spin of their wheels brought them closer to winning the battle against MS -- they're champions for the cause.
The riders, nearly 1,400 in all, were working their way across Minnesota in the MS TRAM bicycle tour, a five-day, 300-mile ride from Breckenridge to Pine City. The tour is organized by the Minnesota chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and relies on a crew of hundreds of volunteers to make everything flow smoothly.
The riding is hard work, but according to Dorothy Schultz of Montevideo, a good cause makes for a light burden.
Riders lined up for a trip to the mobile shower truck on Wednesday afternoon. The truck followed riders to each host city, providing them a reliable place to get cleaned up after a long day of riding.
"As tired as you get, you just have to remember that they (people with MS) would probably give anything to do what we're doing," Schultz said. "It feels great to help fight this awful disease."
Schultz was riding with her friend Robin Schwaegerl, also of Montevideo, and Schwaegerl's brother Bruce Wing of Belgrade. Schwaegerl has ridden in the MS TRAM for eight years in honor of she and Wing's sister who has MS. This trio was looking forward to Thursday, as they would be able to visit their "reason for riding" in Foley, near the tour-route.
All three were impressed by the diversity of the participants, the youngest was six, the oldest 83. Twenty-eight states were represented and people from all walks of life traded a week of work or vacation to ride in the tour.
Volunteers unloaded thousands of pieces of baggage on Wednesday morning. Each morning the tour participant's baggage was loaded into trucks and shuttled to the next host town.
"I've been so impressed by all the young people and their sense of volunteerism," Wing said. "There are a lot of other things they could be doing instead of giving up their vacation or their jobs, but they're here and that's great to see."
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