Seattle to Portland ride draws local cyclists young and old

Don Desonier is ready to roll on his Cannondale Synapse NW, a custom-designed road bike built to handle the hilly landscape of the Pacific Northwest. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
Don Desonier is ready to roll on his Cannondale Synapse NW, a custom-designed road bike built to handle the hilly landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

When the 30th annual Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) is set to roll on July 11 and 12, the largest multi-day ride in the Northwest.

Of the 10,000 riders registered to make the 200-mile trek, 74 Mercer Island residents are signed up (11 women and 63 men). Locals taking part in the excursion range in age from as young as 14 to 69 years old. The route, carefully marked with directional arrows [Dan Henrys], leads from it’s starting line at the University of Washinton through the scenic valleys, forests and farmlands of Western Washington and Oregon.

One of those local riders is Don Desonier, 61. Donning his yellow STP jacket before the race, he’s been training for months and is taking the rest of the week off.

He had open-heart surgery in 2002 and came back from that to race-walk the Mercer Island half-marathon a couple of times, bragging to his surgeon how well he did. Last year he became inspired to get back on a bike — for the exercise, of course, and the shear thrill of it.

“A friend of mine became my mentor as I ventured forth to buy a new, modern light-weight road bike,” he said.

“I was a nervous wreck as I literally re-learned how to ride on a good, efficient bike. Now, my mentor/friend says he’s ‘created a monster’!”

He bought a second road bike last year and has ridden the Chilly Hilly this past February, the metric-century 7 Hills of Kirkland in May, and is training for the STP.

“It’s great exercise, a wonderful way to meet all kinds of interesting people, and it’s certainly ‘green!,” he said.

Two other riders taking part are the father-son duo of Peter Goldstein and his 14-year-old son, Max.

As first-time riders, the pair are doing the STP with a group of nine people.

The group is meeting up from all over the country for a close friend’s 50th birthday.

“I thought it would be a great introduction to cycling for my son, who never owned a road bike before we started training,” he said,

“[It’s] a great opportunity for me to spend some time with him before he enters his first year of high school.”

It wasn’t hard to track down 62-year-old Yosh Ohno, who rides his bike regularly around the island. This is his 20th STP race.

“My first STP was in 1989, and I’ve started in all of them since. I say started because once I broke my collar bone on the downhill coming into Winlock on a rainy day. Last year, I ran into the back of a pickup truck — parked, I’m embarrassed to say — in Longview.”

Over the years, Ohno has ridden tandem with three sons from age 7 on. Now grown-up, he sees them now and again at events like the STP to enjoy their shared enthusiasm for biking and the outdoors.

“I’m 62 now, and I still enjoy doing the STP every year, and God willing, will keep doing them for years to come,” he said.

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