WATERVILLE – Lila and Sidney Balch of Wilton were standing in line for some well-deserved Giffords ice cream Saturday after finishing a 56.8-mile bicycle ride from Farmington to Colby College in Waterville.

Lila, 67, and Sidney, 62, immediately struck up conversation with three Belfast teenagers who were in front of them, also having completed the ride.

On the second day of the Trek Across Maine, they talked about what the buzz was among many other riders.

That last hill.

“It caught me completely off guard,” said John Loxterkamp, 16, of Belfast. “It felt like … I wanted to die.”

Because of road construction on Campus Drive, bicyclists this year were routed not through the back of Colby College, but from County Road to the school’s main entrance on Mayflower Hill Drive.

Hill? More like a quarter-mile-high mountain at the end of a long ride, said many other bicyclists.

“That’s a massive hill,” said Lonnie Townley, 52.

The trek is a three-day, 180-mile ride that raises money for the American Lung Association. Bicyclists left Friday morning from Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry and arrived at the University of Maine at Farmington, where they left Saturday morning bound for Colby College.

“Trekkers,” as they call each other, will travel the third and final leg of the ride today when they set out for Steamboat Landing Park in Belfast.

Organizers said the 27th annual trek has a record 160 teams and more than 2,300 cyclists. Many volunteers also steered riders in the right direction, offering applause and encouragement as they neared the end.

In a parking lot beside the Alfond Youth Center, cyclists left their bikes after the finish line and were treated to pizza and ice cream.

Here, some riders shared their thoughts about why they were trekking and what it means to them. Many talked about the camaraderie among trekkers as an important factor.

Nate Olsen, 20, of Albion said he was riding for the first time after his uncle Rick Peck, 34, of Newport prevailed upon him.

“It was intense; I’ve never done rides like this before,” Olsen said, saying he left at 7 a.m. and arrived at Colby about 4 1/2 hours later, at 11:30 a.m.

“My uncle did it last year, so I felt bad if I didn’t do it this year. What I really liked was the unspoken trust, the bond between people. It’s a great cycling community.”

Townley, of Ashland, Mass., said it was his 12th trek. Last year, he set a goal of setting his fastest speed yet — and he did at an average of 17 mph during the three days. This year, his goals are to ride faster each day and to raise more funds than ever, which he did at $1,350.

Townley said he’s drawn back each year because of the lung association and its organization of the trek.

“It’s inspiring to learn this small organization in this state is so active and so successful,” he said.

Michelle Beaulieu, 33, of Limestone and Kam Atwood, 33, of Stockton Springs said they’re drawn to the event because of the scenery, positive atmosphere and the good cause.

“I like being part of something that big,” Atwood said.

Terry Labreck, 34, of Bedford, Mass., said he was returning to his second trek after first participating 11 years ago. Both times, it’s been for his mother, who has cancer.

Tony Jaboin, 31, of Randolph, Mass., who said he was a first-time trekker, rode a tandem bicycle with his friend Brian Perry. They sailed on downhills, but struggled uphill, he said.

“I’m not a biker, but the atmosphere is good, a little nice scenery, which we don’t have much of (in Massachusetts) and it’s raising money for a good cause.”

Sidney Balch, the Wilton trekker, said the event highlights a key benefit:

“Clean air is very important,” he said.


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