The Tour de Frederick kicked off Friday, beginning three days of bicycle adventures through scenic routes in and around Frederick.
The fourth annual Tour de Frederick will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Frederick County. The bike rides range from an 8-mile historic tour in Frederick to a 100-mile ride that goes all the way up to Fairfield, Pa., and back.
Friday kicked off with a 19-mile ramble through the Ballenger Creek area of Frederick. This ride can serve as a warm-up of sorts for the longer routes on Saturday.
For those who wanted a milder warm-up or simply an education in local history, the historical tour of Frederick started at 2 p.m., beginning at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, and looping through 22 historical sites.
The turnout for the historical ride was low this year because of a last-minute time change. Only about 12 people participated in the single historic route, compared with 100 last year over three historic rides.
“I enjoy doing it regardless of how many people are there,” said George Ruszat, who led the historic ride. “It's really a great way to see Frederick, and you don't have to be parking a car or walking.”
Ruszat stops along the ride and tells the history of some of the sites. Even for riders who live in the city, it can be an interesting and educational experience.
“I always learn something,” said Art Anderson, of Frederick, who has participated in the tour weekend several times.
“A lot of bike tours will go on the same ground year after year. ... It'll get a little stale,” said Anderson, but the Tour de Frederick's variety of riding options make it unique. “Up in the hills of Frederick County, there are so many farm roads that it almost gives you an infinite selection.”
Also present at Friday's historical ride was Rick Stumpff, of Galena, Mo., the champion of last year's Clustered Spires High Wheeler Race, who will defend his title today. He rode his high wheel bicycle, also known as a penny-farthing bicycle, through the 8-mile route, relishing the chance to take in Frederick's history before the race.
“There's a lot of history out here” in Frederick, Stumpff said. “Everywhere I go, I try to get some history with it.”
While the race is unaffiliated with the Tour de Frederick, it is planned on the same weekend so that cyclists can easily attend both events. The Clustered Spires High Wheeler Race is the only such race in the United States.
“It's an extra thing that most people don't have,” said Jim Blunt, of Frederick, who joined Ruszat on the historic tour Friday. “All cyclists are kind of fascinated by it. It's really our history.”
The high wheeler meet-and-greet at 6 p.m. Friday fit well around the evening's other Tour de Frederick events — a party at 4:30 p.m. and a ghost tour at 8 p.m. A number of Tour de Frederick riders, including some from the historic ride, came out to the meet and greet, where they could watch mounting and riding demonstrations on the old-fashioned bicycles. Some spectators even tested out the bikes, with assistance.
“It's fun, but it's harder than a normal bike because there's no chain, so you have to apply more force,” said C. Tyler Austin, 12, of Poolesville, who took one high wheeler for a short spin.
For both the Tour de Frederick riders, and the Clustered Spires racers, today is the main event. Tour de Frederick's most popular rides, the 100-mile Century and the 62.1-mile metric century, get started at 7 and 7:30 a.m., respectively. For the high wheelers, the race begins at 4 p.m. They will do as many .46-mile laps as they can in one hour.
Stumpff, who recently suffered an injury on his penny farthing, isn't sure he will win again, but a loss would not crush his zeal for the cycling weekend.
“I probably shouldn't be here, in all truthfulness,” he said, referring to his injury. But “the town last year was open-arms amazing. I had to come back just because of the people.”