Cancer survivor Kyle Stepp, 16, rides down River Road on Saturday morning en route to Rabbit Ears Pass during the Tour de Steamboat. Kyle, the 2010 National Spokeskid for the Sunshine Kids, completed his goal of riding at least 30 miles.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Cancer survivor Kyle Stepp, 16, rides down River Road on Saturday morning en route to Rabbit Ears Pass during the Tour de Steamboat. Kyle, the 2010 National Spokeskid for the Sunshine Kids, completed his goal of riding at least 30 miles.

Tour de Steamboat exceeds expectations

Event might have raised more than $40,000 for Sunshine Kids

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Tour de Steamboat: Kym Rudnick

Steamboat Springs resident Kym Rudnick talks Saturday about how the first part of her 110-mile Tour de Steamboat ride is going.

Steamboat Springs resident Kym Rudnick talks Saturday about how the first part of her 110-mile Tour de Steamboat ride is going.

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Tour de Steamboat: Frindee Daly

Superior resident Frindee Daly talks Saturday about how the first part of her 110-mile Tour de Steamboat ride is going.

Superior resident Frindee Daly talks Saturday about how the first part of her 110-mile Tour de Steamboat ride is going.

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Mark Stevens, of Glenwood Springs, takes a drink after climbing Gore Pass and arriving at the aid station on top Saturday during the Tour de Steamboat.

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(From left) Steamboat Springs Olympian Todd Lodwick, former professional cyclist Andy Hampsten, Tour de Steamboat co-organizer Kent Eriksen and Sunshine Kids "spokeskid" Kyle Stepp are pictured Saturday morning on Rabbit Ears Pass.

— The exhausted faces, zombie-like walks and sore muscles that filled Little Toots Park on Saturday afternoon were the badges of accomplishment.

Roger Gerard, of Arvada, had all of those as he sat in the shade, recovering from dehydration, with his wife, Leigh, during the Tour de Steamboat’s post-ride dinner.

“I’m just happy to be done,” said Gerard, 66, who had just completed the longest of the three rides in the Tour, 110 miles encompassing three mountain passes. “I’ve done quite a few century rides. This was one of the toughest but also the prettiest.”

Gerard and nearly 300 others put themselves through a solid day’s worth of pain during the long ride. There was one participant in particular who has experienced pain that most of the other riders will never have to endure.

Kyle Stepp, 16, is a cancer survivor who had the honor of leading out the pack of riders Saturday morning as a bicyclist and SpokesKid for Sunshine Kids, a nonprofit group that provides activities for children with cancer and the benefactor of the Tour de Steamboat.

Since being diagnosed in October 2008 with osteosarcoma, a cancer that afflicts about 400 children each year, Kyle has endured 18 rounds of chemotheraphy and six surgeries. The cancer attacks the bones, and Kyle’s left leg was in danger of being amputated. Doctors were able to save his limb by removing a tumor, replacing 4 inches of his femur, the knee and 8 inches of the tibia with stainless steel. He is now on a preventive regimen of 72 rounds of chemo shots to keep the cancer from returning.

Kyle has done appearances at three Sunshine Kids events this year, but this one was special. He said it was the best because he got to ride his bike.

“I’ve always enjoyed it,” Kyle said. “It’s always something I can rely on if I’m down and out.”

Kyle exceeded his goal Saturday of biking at least 30 miles, encompassing a ride to the base of Rabbit Ears Pass and four shuttled laps down the east side, he said.

“The best thing was being able to ride and overcoming things I didn’t think I could do,” Kyle said.

Kyle also has his mind set on doing the 110-mile ride.

“My goal is to be strong enough to do it next year,” he said.

He has, after all, won bigger battles.

This is what he told a crowd of people during Friday night’s benefit dinner.

“Conquering cancer is like conquering the Tour de Steamboat. Both you have to go over hills no matter what the weather is or go up mountains no matter what the weather is. Both you have to overcome things larger than you. Also, you’ll meet people you thought you’d never meet. There is one difference. One, you’re on a bike, the other, you’re in a hospital with chemo, radiation and/or surgery.”

Coming into its own

Tour de Steamboat organizers say this year’s contribution to the Sunshine Kids foundation likely will be double last year’s, potentially surpassing $40,000.

The event “exceeded any expectations we could have imagined,” co-organizer Laura Cusenbary said. “In year six, we have an event that has come into its own.”

Close to 500 riders participated in one of the three rides offered during the Tour. About 300 did the 110-mile ride and 150 did the 40-miler, both of which were sell-out rides. About 40 people did the new 25-mile ride.

Total participation was up from last year, when 280 people participated.

Riders came from 23 states and one was from Mexico, Cusenbary said.

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