Steamboat Springs A handful of local amateur cyclists received a hero's sendoff Thursday.
Ten men and women will represent Steamboat Springs and surrounding communities on a 489-mile bicycle tour through Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
Sandy Evans-Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, presented the diehard athletes with a few gifts before they begin their journey Sunday.
A small crowd gathered in the Botanic Park to applaud the soon-to-be road warriors.
"I can't think of a more beautiful place to send off Steamboat's representatives in Ride the Rockies," Evans-Hall said.
Some of the parting favors included plastic medals, energy bars and "Team Steamboat" T-shirts.
"In our minds, you are already heroes," she said.
Some city officials and area law enforcement will trade in their desks and patrol cars Sunday for mountain passes and aid stations.
George Krawzoff, transit director for the city of Steamboat Springs, City Councilman Paul Strong and Trooper Brad Keadle of the Colorado State Patrol will pedal in the bicycle tour.
The 489-mile trip begins and ends in Alamosa. The first leg of the seven-day tour sends cyclists on a 99-mile stretch that includes Wolf Creek Pass, one of five climbs of more than 10,000 feet. Daily mileage for the rest of the week averages 65 miles and concludes June 22 with an 83-mile ride from Salida.
About 4,000 people registered for the event, but only 2,000 cyclists were chosen through a lottery system.
Candi Garrison and Irene Monetti intend to bike all 489 miles with a bird atop their bike helmets.
It's all part of putting some lightheartedness in an event that demands so much physically.
Two other bikers from Steamboat Springs have agreed to place bees atop their helmets.
But the group's "birds and the bees" theme pales in comparison to some of the more outrageous outfits worn by past participants in the event, they said.
After several years of participating in Ride the Rockies, Garrison and Monetti said have learned how to pass the time.
Hours of cycling and 2,000 participants present plenty of opportunities for introductions.
The route includes stops at Pagosa Springs, Durango, Silverton, Montrose, Gunnison and Salida.
The entry fee includes camping space, restrooms and showers, but some cyclists opt for a hotel.
Cyclists receive medical support and bike repairs along the way as well as transportation in host communities.
The participants stressed the ride was not a race, but an experience to be shared with friends, spectators and strangers.
"It's a social ride for physically active people," said Mary Walker, who will ride in her second Ride the Rockies tour.
Riders may start out at the same time in the morning, but their evening arrival times will vary according to their pace.
But pace doesn't matter.
The 10 local men and women who plan to traverse the state on their bikes next week understand the journey is much more important than how quickly they reach their destination.