6th annual Bike 4 Life underway in West Newton

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The sixth annual Bike 4 Life took off in a fog Monday morning from West Newton, bound for Washington, D.C. via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Trail, but the mission remained clear – raising money for the American Red Cross' disaster relief fund in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties.

Eleven bicyclists started the 300-mile journey Monday from the Arthur H. King Trail Access in West Newton to Washington, D.C., where they are scheduled to arrive on Friday after overnight stops in Confluence, Cumberland, Md.; Hancock, Md.; and Harper's Ferry, W.Va. They planned to average about 60 miles a day on their trip that will take them through parts of three states.

The Bike 4 Life fundraiser is the only fundraiser for the local American Red Cross chapter that involves a long-distance bike ride, said Dana Bauer, executive director of the Red Cross' Westmoreland-Armstrong chapter. During the past five years, the Bike 4 Life has raised more than $108,000 for the local disaster relief fund and the goal for 2014 is $50,000.

David Mickley of Sewickley Township, who started the fundraiser with Dr. Michael Green of North Huntingdon, is pleased with the number of riders that were participating. They had anticipated having 12 riders, but one rider, Mary Sleppy of Penn Run, dropped out because of an injury.

To select the American Red Cross as the recipient of the fund raising effort is appropriate for Mickley, whose parents were Red Cross volunteers. Mickley is active as a member of the board of directors of the Red Cross' Westmoreland-Armstrong chapter.

Mickley said they have been training for the ride since April, riding a few times a week from 20 miles to 60 miles. To get the group in shape for the long distance ride, Mickley said they recently completed a 100-mile ride along the Great Allegheny Passage, starting in Frostburg, Md., and making it to West Newton.

Among the repeat riders were Gregory Banchiere, 57, of Unity Township, a board member of the local American Red Cross chapter, who joined in the second year.

Banchiere, president of Control Analytics Inc., an Export-based producer of emission monitoring systems, said he found time to get in shape for the long ride by riding at night and on the weekends. He would build up his endurance with 30-mile rides then increase the distance to 50 miles and 60 miles, he said.

What the training runs don't prepare you for is the daily grind of the long-distance bicycling, Banchiere said. From his past experience on the rides, “the third morning is where your legs feel like rubber.”

His drive to bike long distance has not rubbed off on his children. His son had no interest in making it a father-son experience, but his daughter did give him a bracelet with vital information in case of an emergency – his blood type and her phone number, Banchiere said.

Robin Seibel, 55, of Salem Township, started making the ride five years ago and keeps herself in shape by swimming in the winter and spinning on a stationary bicycle. She bikes along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, as well as the 17-mile West Penn Trail between Saltsburg and Blairsville in Indiana County.

By participating in the Bike 4 Life, Seibel said she views it as “benefitting me and the Red Cross. I want to be here for my kids.”

To support the riders, make an online donation at www.arcbike4life.org or send a check to the American Red Cross office at 351 Harvey Ave., Suite B, Greensburg, PA 15601.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jnapsha@tribweb.com or 724-836-5252.

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