Toasty day puts Seattle-to-Portland cyclists on hot seat

This year’s Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic – commonly called STP - passed through Thurston County as summer temperatures flirted with 90 degrees Saturday.

The annual 202-mile bicycle ride attracts nearly 10,000 participants from all over the Northwest. Several community organizations hosted “mini-stops” along the way, offering everything from first aid and Honey Buckets to mechanical support and snacks.

The Yelm High School FFA sponsors a mini-stop every year at McKenna Elementary on Highway 507. Located 69 miles into the ride, the mini-stop is one of Yelm FFA’s top fundraisers and brings in about $3,000 for scholarships and more, said board treasurer Faith Fredrickson.

“All the money that we earn goes directly back to these kids,” she said.

Yelm FFA advisor Elaine Lewis, who also teaches agriculture, manned the first-aid station Saturday as cyclists came and went all day. The injuries were minor Saturday morning, said Lewis, noting that in the past, some riders have needed an ambulance.

“So far, the worst has been some nasty road rash,” she said. “If we keep it down to scrapes and cramps, we’re good.”

In Yelm, the riders caught a 14.5-mile trail that took them through Rainier and into Tenino. Dennis and Anne Wilson of Eatonville waited for their future daughter-in-law, Alana Demarco, and her mother, Charity, to arrive at the Yelm stop. The couple posted signs near the entrance with words of encouragement like “Way to go!”

“They started early to beat the heat,” Anne Wilson said while watching the steady stream of cyclists along the road.

One of those riders, Seattle resident Rick Agress, was looking for a place to wet his hot head. He has participated in the ride since 2005.

“It’s the hottest one yet,” he said Saturday morning. “Usually it’s not this hot until you hit Centralia.”

Now in its 35th year, the ride is organized by the non-profit Cascade Bicycle Club. Riders can complete the course in one day or two days. The fastest riders typically cover 20 miles in an hour, said Anne-Marije Rook, communications director. The ride starts at the University of Washington’s Montlake parking lot in Seattle, and ends at Holladay Park in Portland, Ore.