Daffodil Classic oldest and arguably tastiest ride in the South Sound

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comApril 14, 2013 

The South Sound’s oldest organized bicycle ride turns 38 this morning.

Yes, there will be cake. And, yes, you’ll have to earn it.

The Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club started the ride in 1976 to correspond with Puyallup’s annual Daffodil Festival. But even in those early years when the ride was lucky to draw 200 people, the Daffodil Classic rewarded its finishers.

For years, there were patches or shirts, but perhaps the prize that kept cyclists most motivated during the final miles was that knowledge that there would be strawberry shortcake at the finish line.

How far do you have to pedal to collect your piece of cake?

Well, that’s up to you. Your ride can be as short as you like on the Foothills Trail, or you could ride 41-, 63- or even 104-mile loops through Buckley, Eatonville or both.

Worried that a slice of shortcake might put too much stress on your spandex? Don’t worry too much. Caloriecount.com says a serving of strawberry shortcake is 270 calories. Cyclists can burn more than 800 calories per hour.

But you’ll want to account for more than the finisher’s cake. Michael Madden of the TWBC says cyclists will be well-fed throughout the ride.

In addition to the strawberry shortcake, the ride is known for serving rice and beans. However, preparation problems along the course have forced organizers to serve this traditional dish at the finish line, too.

This year, rest stops will serve cycling staples such as bananas, peanut butter and gorp.

But Madden says there will be a new tradition. Cookies prepared by local bakeries will be served at the food stops.

“We tried it last year, and the cookies were gone in about 45 minutes,” Madden said. “People loved them.”

So this year, Madden says, ride organizers have enlisted the help of more local bakeries.

“I think people will go nuts for that,” he said.

Cake and fresh cookies – what else do you need for a party?

As good as the food might be, turnout at the Daffodil Classic always has been driven by something outside the organizer’s control: weather.

“A lot of people wait to register to see what the weather is like,” Madden said. “But the race has grown steadily over the last 10 years.”

In 2011, the first year Madden organized the ride, he woke up to 40-degree temperatures and a drizzle. Madden says 700 people registered for the 2011 ride, but only 600 riders showed.

Last year, the weather was ideal, and 1,130 cyclists participated.

The ride traditionally is the most popular staged by the club, Madden said. About $1,000 from each ride is donated to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, a cycling advocacy organization.

The rest of the funds go to the club, which does its own advocacy work such as helping provide bikes and helmets for children.

If asked to name the South Sound’s oldest ride, most cyclists likely would answer, “The STP” (Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic). The internationally famous, sold-out 200-mile ride, which is four years younger than the Daffodil Classic, passes through the region July 13.

Madden said being overshadowed by bigger rides doesn’t bother Daffodil organizers.

“Maybe if we were more aggressive, it would bother us,” Madden said. “But we are a pretty laid-back group. ... Nobody is going to stress about it.”

That relaxed attitude permeates club rides, creating an atmosphere that’s more about having fun than going super fast, covering huge miles or negotiating huge clusters of cyclists.

“It’s just the perfect time of year to ride through eastern Pierce County,” Madden said. “Riding through the daffodils and all that cool stuff. People like the ride for what it is, and there is a low stress level.

“It’s just about having fun.”

Well, fun and finisher’s cake.

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