John F. Russell: More than just a ride

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Every summer, thousands of people across Colorado jump on their bicycles looking for adventure.

A lucky few earn spots in Ride the Rockies, while some test their skills in the Bike Tour of Colorado.

But there are plenty of other rides that give cyclists of different abilities an opportunity to get out and experience breathtaking scenery and test their strength and desire against the elements.

These rides are not about racing. Instead, they provide a place for people to prove to themselves what they have inside.

But when Steamboat Springs cyclist Alex Berger jumps on his bike July 9 and 10 for the Great-West MS 150 Bike Tour, it will be personal, and it will have little to do with any of the objectives listed above.

In college, biking across Europe seemed like the perfect way to experience the world, but in the years since graduation, Berger, like many of us, traded in his wheels for a desk.

When Berger's mother started to display the symptoms of multiple sclerosis more than two decades ago, he thought there was nothing he could do. MS is a disease that strikes the central nervous system, interfering with the brain's ability to send and receive messages. Berger's mother is one of about 400,000 Americans with MS. Typically, the disease strikes people between the ages of 20 and 50.

While Berger's mother slowly is losing the battle against the devastating disease, her son has found a way to strike back.

For the past three summers, Berger has used his bike to raise money to help fund research to fight MS. This summer, he will give up a weekend to take part in the MS 150. He hopes the funds that he and other riders raise will help find a cure or a treatment.

Thousands of riders will take part in the journey from the Douglas County Fairgrounds, over the Royal Gorge Bridge and on to Rudd Park in Canyon City. The riders will cover 150 miles in two days and continue a journey toward eliminating this disease.

I applaud Berger.

Every summer, I witness thousands of cyclists who make similar journeys without any real goals.

Although the MS 150 is a good test for just about any rider, Berger admits that it is not a grueling test of man and machine. The ride is designed to be fun and inviting to just about any level of rider. Completing it won't cause co-workers and fellow cyclists to stand in awe of your physical prowess, but that's OK.

The ride's goal is not to boost egos; the goal is to boost funds. From the outside, the MS 150 may seem like just another bike ride, but it's not.

This ride is a true test that requires compassion, dedication and hard work in raising funds.

What better way for a cyclist to prove what's really inside?

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