Over the years I have gained a love and passion for cycling and a desire for TZEDAKAH. Tzedakah is Hebrew for: To Give Back… To be Righteous… To do the Right Thing. The DEATH RIDE Tour… Ride To Defeat ALS fulfills those needs and since its inception has become a very rewarding experience, not only for myself, but for the over 500 participants who have conquered the very challenging, 232 mile, 16,500 feet of climbing loop in Southwestern Colorado.
The DEATH RIDE Tour...Ride To Defeat ALS is a registered 501c3 Non-Profit and all the proceeds are donated to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association.
Then… and Now…. DEATH RIDE Tour Founder & Tour Director Barry Sopinsky with his son Brandon. Enjoying cycling together for over 30 years. “A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty”.
ALS also known as the Lou Gehrig’s disease is a devastating, crippling and always fatal disease. The diagnosed are often facing years of suffering as their bodies progressively deteriorate. Since 1869, 20 plus million people have suffered and then died of ALS including my father.
Irvin Sopinsky died of ALS at the age of 45 when I was 13. He battled this horrible disease for 7 years. ALS is a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles. Based on U.S. population studies, a little over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. (That's 15 new cases a day.) It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. According to the ALS CARE Database, 60% of the people with ALS in the Database are men and 93% of patients in the Database are Caucasian.
Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties. Generally though, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older. ALS is 20% more common in men than in women. However with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.
There are several research studies – past and present – investigating possible risk factors that may be associated with ALS. More work is needed to conclusively determine what genetics and/or environment factors contribute to developing ALS. It is known, however, that military veterans, particularly those deployed during the Gulf War, are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS.
Half of all people affected with ALS live at least three or more years after diagnosis. Twenty percent live five years or more; up to ten percent will live more than ten years.
There is some evidence that people with ALS are living longer, at least partially due to clinical management interventions, riluzole and possibly other compounds and drugs under investigation.
I have always struggled with the lack awareness and resources there were to help those with this insidious disease, for their care takers, and dollars for research to find a cure for it. Thanks to the "Ice Bucket Challenge", there now is a much grater awareness and some research $$, but it's just the beginning.
Your support as a participant or as a donor is so very much appreciated. A true meaning of TZEDAKAH.
Barry Sopinsky, President & Tour Director
2013 Check presentation to Pam Rush-Negri - Executive Director - ALS Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter for $20,000
At the recent Super Bowl on February 5, 2012 – New Orleans Saints – Steve Gleason’s story told
If you want to read a heart warming story about another cyclist riding in memory of his father check out – www.montesride.org I came across this while on the ALS site and contacted Mitchell. I plan on starting off with them on May 27th to ride the first of their 12 day - 800 mile adventure. Even Mitchell’s 71 year old Mother, Bonny will be on the ride. You must read Monte’s article that was published in Inner Self just months before his death. That Saturday when I contacted Mitchell just happened to be the 16th anniversary of Monte’s death. Something just brought us together that day – something more than cycling.
As a participant of the DEATH RIDE Tour you are making a commitment to raise a minimum of $250 in donations to support these worthwhile charities.
I certainly hope that you will consider joining our small group and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world while at the same time challenging yourself to go just a bit farther than maybe you have ever gone before.
I invite you to read the story below from Bicycle Bob Gregorio - the original Death Rider who rode this loop for the first time in 1979 and 16 times since then.
President & Tour Director
The Story of the Death Ride
By Bicycle Bob Gregorio – Professional Cycling Mechanic – Optum Pro Cycling
I read through the article, it's mostly accurate, although I did notice a few errors. It actually did begin as a 2 day ride, organized by the Ft. Lewis College Outdoor Pursuits department. 1979 was the year. An invitation was floated about the Durango cycling community, of which I was a part. I can't claim credit for organizing the first year, as the article seemed to indicate, as I had no direct relationship to Ft. Lewis. We rode counterclockwise, up Hesperus hill and all the way around to Ouray on day one, then over the passes to Durango on day 2.
The name "Death Ride" was attached to the 2-day version by Blake Knoll, who owned and managed one of the top bike shops back then. It was considered so hard as a 2-day that he figured that we must have ridden to the edge of death, made a deal with the devil, and returned to Durango as zombies…
In 1980, some of the handful of us who had done the 2-day version decided that it was possible to do it in one day. We chose the "full moon in June" as a good day for the challenge. It became a yearly endeavor, always around the moon in June. The riders who completed that 1st one day ride were Gerry Roach, Andy Schoembs, Forrest Yelverton, Peter Willing and myself. It took us 18 hours, started before dawn, ended after sunset. It truly earned the name "Death Ride" as a one day. We had never heard of the Markleyville Death Ride 'til years later.
Each year, I (we) would have dozens of riders claim that they were training for the Death Ride, and would be ready on the full moon in June. Of the dozens who made the claim, normally half would actually show up for the traditional 4AM start. Of the 6-10 who would actually start, about half would finish. The 3rd year, I was actually the only one who finished. Taking 19:20 to complete, I rode the part from Mancos to Durango on raisins and beer, as that was all our follow vehicle had left…
By the mid and later '80s, it devolved into a race of sorts, to set the fastest time. It was so hard then, and the attrition rate grew because of this mentality. In '86, the time to beat was set at 13:39, which seemed unbeatable. In '87, 4 of us set out to beat it. We had a support guy who handed us up mussettes of food; we peed off the bike, just like the pros. One guy dropped at Dallas Divide, another on the way down the Dolores valley near Stoner. The last 2 of us, Stewart Geer and myself, rode in the rest of the way and finished it in 12:53. As far as I know, it's never been done any faster, although, the clandestine nature of the ride means nothing is official…
Mark Witkes did the ride with us in the mid 2000's, when I returned to the ride and promoted it as a team effort. I recall him doing the ride twice, although it could have been more, as I didn't do all the rides myself. Mark was such a great runner, but really not a cyclist per se. He would normally ride a little in front, off to one side, or behind the group as he was uncomfortable drafting closely in formation. He was so strong and positive, that he inspired us all.
I'm proud to say that I started and finished the ride each time I attempted it, 17 times in all. Once, I actually decided to quit… at Society turn near Telluride. Had my bike loaded in the sag wagon, had taken off my shoes… But when I saw the riders pulling away to begin the ascent of Lizard Head, I put the shoes back on, called for my bike, and pushed on.
You see, the Death ride is more than a cycling challenge; it's a test of will. A conversation with one's own faith of spirit to endure. The confidence gained by persevering in the face of hardship and exhaustion serves one in all facets of life.