Brake the Cycle charity ride returns with limited numbers, same big goal |

Brake the Cycle charity ride returns with limited numbers, same big goal

The size of the peloton will be smaller, but the cause will be just as big and far more important amid a global pandemic.

Back for its ninth year, the Aspen Invitational “Brake the Cycle” charity ride will take place Saturday in an attempt to raise money for the citizens of Zambia who are in desperate need of clean water.

“It’s a new and challenging way to continue the annual fundraising goal,” said co-organizer Nicole Birkhold of the mostly virtual format this year. “We really wanted to make sure our goal and some of the money and fundraising efforts that people in Zambia count on every year from us in order to install more clean water wells in rural areas of Zambia didn’t go short this year, because it’s more important than ever.”

Brake the Cycle, which is organized in large part by the local Appleby family, is done in partnership with World Vision, one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations on the planet. The main goal of the non-competitive ride is to provide funds in order to create new water wells in Zambia, a land-locked country in Africa located just south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The money raised also goes toward new bicycles, which provide the Zambians with a means to commute to work, school, the market and to the wells, which aren’t always close by. Many of the organizers, including the Applebys, have traveled to Zambia in the past to help dig the wells and deliver the bikes.

“I can’t do much because we don’t make a lot of money, but we can give back with our time and just being available and being part of the ride as guides,” said pro cyclist Katie Compton. “Bringing clean water and bikes to people, it’s a life-changing thing you can give them. And also teach them to be self-sufficient and pretty much rely on themselves to get their products to market, to have the girls be able to get to school, to be able to transport themselves and rely on themselves. It just makes it better for everyone.”

Compton, a Colorado Springs-based cyclocross rider who happens to be among the best in the world, is one of a handful of professionals who have long been involved with the Aspen Invitational. Boulder’s Cari Higgins has long served as the ride leader, with alumni including Kiel Reijnen and George Hincapie, among many others.

Compton plans to be in Aspen on Saturday for the in-person ride, which is being limited to only 40 riders spread out on the route in smaller groups to abide by local COVID-19 guidelines. It won’t be the same spectacle as in past years due to the coronavirus pandemic, but combined with the online Strava challenge it should fulfill its goal of helping the Zambians.

“You can’t really enjoy large groups, but we can still do something,” Compton said. “It’s fun for the pros to chat with people, and people who are really committed to doing something good, to raising money for clean water, to raising money to provide bikes.”

The staggered in-person start gets underway at 8 a.m. at Paepcke Park in Aspen. The route includes some of the most popular spots in the Roaring Fork Valley, such as a trek out to the Maroon Bells and lap around Owl Creek Road and Snowmass.

While the in-person component is sold out, people can still get involved virtually.

“We were optimistic early on that everything was going to be fine and we would be able to have our in-person ride with the 100-plus people we normally ride with. But as things got closer it became more apparent that was not going to be able to happen,” Birkhold said of the quick shift in format. “One of the cool things about it is it has allowed us to broaden our reach as well, so we have people joining us from Georgia, from the U.K., from Zambia, actually. So people from all around the world are now able to join us in this effort via bicycles to raise money for clean water.”

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