PITTSBURG — On Saturday, people from all across the United States traveled to Pittsburg to bicycle 100 miles, just for fun.
This is the largest group to go on the Gorilla Century bike ride since the event started in 2003.
That morning there was an estimated 600 riders, with over 400 pre-registered and many more who registered the day of the event.
The event, hosted by Tailwind Cyclists’ Roger Lomshek, was created to celebrate Pittsburg State University’s 100th year, hence the name Gorilla Century. When the event began years ago, there were approximately 125 participants. Year after year, word of mouth spread the news of the event and that number has grown into the hundreds.
In comparison to last year, the event has grown between 40-50 percent, Lomshek said, adding this is the largest growth between years. The ride has grown approximately 20 percent every year prior.
Gorilla Century is also a fundraiser for trail maintenance efforts in the area. Volunteers from organizations running the rest stops along the course will also receive money for each of their causes.
“It’s a fundraiser for each of them,” Lomshek said. “They get a few hundred bucks to run the rest stop for a few hours.”
People came from all over — Tennessee, Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma and other states.
“Roger (Lomshek) has done a tremendous job growing the Gorilla Century,” said Devin Gorman, executive director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Having hundreds of riders from across the Midwest visit Crawford County for a bicycle race is a great example of what can be achieved by utilizing local talent and resources.
“We appreciate all the work he and his team have done to grow this race every year. It’s a fantastic event.”
Although area cyclist Bill Collins, of Parsons, didn’t travel too far for the event he doesn’t mind because he has the opportunity to soak in the area scenery, visit and make friends.
For Newton resident Mindy Long, the Gorilla Century ride was a bucket list item. On Saturday, she took the 100 mile ride and now she can mark it off.
“I’ve always heard of the Gorilla Century and wanted to do it,” she said.
To prepare for the bicycle ride, she drove her car as little as possible — including grocery shopping.
Marcia Blatchley didn’t ride a bicycle on Saturday, but she was at the event as a helper, support and wife of John Blatchley. Going to events like the Gorilla Century is one of the ways John Blatchley travels the 50 states. He’s currently on his 26th ride.
“I think it is fun to see where everyone is from,” she said, adding that many of the riders had shirts from previous bicycle runs and many people share their stories of their cycling adventures.
Lomshek said there was a great turnout and he is planning for another Gorilla Century for next year.