Day 5 2017 STdT: Red Shirts

 

August in Northern Virginia and Southeastern Maryland is hot. In the U.S. capital city, the pavement radiates heat. Veteran cyclists on the STIHL Tour des Trees know heat and humidity intimately, nonetheless the conditions can take a toll. That’s why it’s important for the Tour to have a well-oiled support team, people who make rest stops, lunch breaks and programs along the way — seamless. Not only does the Tour have great volunteers and support crews, but some of these dedicated professionals have been on the Tour as long as many of the riders. All you have to do to find them is look for their red shirts.

 Take Denise Steinbrueck and Katie Askew — they provide massage therapy all week-long and know 500+ miles in a week can work a body over, but so can they. Katie is on her tenth tour and knows what she’s doing for these riders makes an impact.

“These guys are doing stuff for the trees, and they are incredible people, so I know how it helps and getting that knife out of their back makes a huge difference, so it’s great to help them out,” says Katie.

 

Others make sure snacks and drinks are at the ready and set-up for community engagement events and tree dedications. The support teams arrive at least a half hour ahead of the riders — set-up, serve their needs then pack-up and move on to the next stop. They do it with all the vigor and passion of the riders who are pedaling their way through urban and country settings to raise money for tree research and education.

“We provide encouragement, that’s what we’re here for — to encourage and get them motivated to keep going and have a good time because they are here to enjoy the ride, too,” said Jennifer Pehmoeller, whose husband Frazer is riding his ninth tour. He got her involved, and now she’s in her fourth year as a red shirt.

Memorializing the tour through images takes a keen eye — photographer Coleman Camp, on his first-ever tour — is learning about the mission of TREE Fund and the Tour while putting his skills to work to tell the STIHL Tour des Trees story through pictures. You’ve seen his images on social media, the website and these very blogs.

The man with the vision for the route these riders take and certainly their safety while on the road is well-known to the Tour. For thirteen years, Paul Wood has been riding on the tour and planning the adventure. He’s known for active recovery as well as breezy and lumpy routes. The riders know where we’re going with this.

“This is really a reunion, so every year — these riders see each other this one time and they come and share this 500-mile journey which is arduous, but they help each other get through it,” explains Paul. “And yes, they are always kidding me about being a sadistic person — finding the hardest routes, putting lunch at the top of a hill — all of that stuff, but my intention is to give them the best rider experience.”

Two other guys literally keep the tour riders on the road. Jon Evans and Dread Fiyah are the bike mechanics. Chains, spokes, pedals, tires and gears are their expertise and several dozen riders putting hundreds of miles on their bikes, in a week’s time, keeps them very busy.

“It’s long, and it’s hard on bikes. It’s hard on people, so we do whatever we can to keep them rolling,” explains Jon, he’s on his second tour.

While TREE Fund and STIHL Tour des Trees appreciate the passion and fundraising efforts of our cyclists every year, we also appreciate the time and effort of our volunteers and support staff without whom the ride could not be accomplished.

“I get in the support truck a lot, so I know what they do — they help me,” explains Hallie Dozier a professor from Louisiana State University on her tenth tour. “The ride wouldn’t be possible without them, not just for me — there might be one or two riders here who could do this on their own, but I don’t think so.”

Original tour rider Ward Peterson echoes Jennifer’s sentiment, “the water and food is everything and the safety factor — knowing someone is there, in case anything happens.”

So, next time you see one of these red shirts, give them a hug and a high five or a well-intentioned pat on the back:

Andre Peter
Katie Askew
Coleman Camp
Barb Duke
Jon Evans
Dread Fiyah
Kristin Fletcher
Paul Fletcher
Laura Iles
Thom Kraak
Jennifer Pehmoeller
Denise Steinbrueck
Sue Wells
Paul Wood

As we celebrate the silver anniversary of this tour, we also celebrate the men and women who work behind the scenes to ensure the success and longevity of the STIHL Tour des Trees. They do it with good cheer and a smile. Thank you to our red-shirted friends for your passion and dedication to the cause.

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