Originally created 05/03/04

Sanford starts bike ride across the state



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The challenge was different for each of the scores of bicyclists who pedaled along South Carolina's back roads with Gov. Mark Sanford on Saturday.

The hills, the miles and even the rain were goals to beat for the nearly 100 of them who turned out for the first day of the governor's bike ride across the state.

For 51-year-old Chip Brooks, it was a chance ride more than 100 miles in one trip since his doctor told him last fall he was winning the battle against cancer.

"I beat cancer and I'm just happy to be here," said Brooks, who planned to bike the first leg of the governor's ride and back home to Spartanburg on Saturday.

Sanford said he was pleased with the number of people who took his challenge to get active.

"We do need to be more active, get in shape and get out of the video games and TV," said 17-year-old Matt Rhodes, who brought his mountain bike up from his home Summerville to ride with the governor.

While Sanford has been troubled by a sore knee recently and lingering pain in his lower back, he said he wanted to set a good example by showing people how important exercise is to staying healthy.

Sanford said South Carolina could save on health care costs if residents stayed in better shape.

The first day of the ride took Sanford 65 miles from southern Spartanburg County with stops in Union and Whitmire before ending at Little Mountain near Columbia.

Sanford will pick up the second leg of the trip on May 15, traveling 50 miles from Columbia to Elloree. He'll complete his journey May 16 when he arrives in North Charleston.

Avid cyclists, who rolled on high-tech road bikes costing thousands of dollars, to children with training wheels followed Sanford at the start of the ride from Croft State Park near Spartanburg.

The only one of Sanford's children not participating in the ride was 5-year-old Blake, who broke his arm last month at school.

Sanford's wife, Jenny, led their three other boys around the special family fun routes that looped about 3 miles at the rest stops set up along the way.

A steady rainfall soaked cyclists in the morning, but the sun made an appearance after noon.

"You do stuff outside and you're going to get rained on," said Brian Curran, owner of a Columbia bicycle shop who helped the governor's office plan the ride. "It makes it that much more rewarding."

Lee Hagglund, 61, of Spartanburg, looked like a professional racer in his aerodynamic helmet, neon yellow jacket and sleek bike, but he said he rides just for fun and exercise with his cycling club called the Spartanburg Freewheelers.

"We're purely amateurs," said Hagglund, who was cautious about the weather. "We have these slick tires so the traction isn't really all that great."

There were personal challenges and competitions to see who would show up.

Janice Robinson, head of the occupational therapy assistant program at Greenville Technical College, said she offered students extra points on their final exam if they turned out to ride. She didn't see any students nor her colleagues.

"We're going to call them a bunch of wimps when we get to the next board meeting," Robinson said.

Vernon Prosser, principal of Cowpens Middle School, said a roller-skating party was at stake for the school who had the most students or staff participate. Prosser brought his three children to walk the family fun route.