More than 400 participants of World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ annual 2011 Face of America ride discovered through experience that April showers are not always gentle.
Riding from Washington to Frederick, Maryland, the Saturday, April 16 ride started out cloudy but dry. Less than an hour into the ride, however, a light rain began to fall, becoming increasingly heavy as the morning progressed. By lunch at the Upper Montgomery Fire Station in Beallsville, the rain had turned to a downpour with gusty winds and falling temperatures. With tornado and severe thunderstorm watches issued by the National Weather Service, the race directors decided to cancel the afternoon leg from Beallsville to Frederick, a distance of 21 miles. Instead, riders, bikes and gear were transported to the hotels by van, truck and shuttle bus.
The cancellation of the afternoon segment is a first for the Face of America. The previous five editions of the ride had experienced only minor weather problems, including light rain in 2010 and extreme heat the previous year.
The day’s activities began with a group breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, the host hotel for the event. Susan Powell, Miss America 1981, provided a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Brief remarks of praise and encouragement from General James E. Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, followed, and the riders were off.
Owing to concerns about the expected rainfall, the ride began at the Hyatt this year, rather than Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the Capitol. From the Hyatt, participants cycled past iconic Washington monuments, such as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Unfortunately, by time the ride reached the first rest stop at Montgomery Fire Station #30 in Potomac, the rain had begun. As the rain increased, riders began having difficulties on the wet pavement.
En route to the second rest stop in Poolesville, Maryland, problems began. One group through no fault of their own took an incorrect turn, and spent several miles on the wrong route. Slick road conditions led to falls by other riders. As the rain increased, riders began reaching the Upper Montgomery Fire Station in search of not only food, but warmth and an opportunity to get away from the soaking precipitation.
Despite some interest in completing the first day’s route, the overwhelming concern for riders’ safety, particularly with increasing thunderstorms and lightning, encouraged the directors to make the decision to cancel the afternoon leg.
For a great majority of the participants, both disabled and non-disabled, the decision was welcomed with relief. No one wanted to be the first to drop out of the ride and abandon the goal of working together as a team, one of the primary purposes of the Face of America ride.
Like all World T.E.A.M. Sports events, the Face of America ride is an opportunity to support our nation’s military in an inclusive two-day ride. Riders of all ages and abilities, from across the country, participate. Funds raised through the Face of America ride are used to pay for the participation of disabled soldiers, and help fund future inclusive events.