Canevari's Corner: Gear Up for Lyme

This weekend, Manchester will play host to the Gear Up for Lyme Uphill Bike Climb for the 11th year in a row. For those not familiar with the event, it is a 5.4 mile bike race up Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive to the the finish line at the top of Mt. Equinox. But the event is less about the competitive aspect of the race than it is the betterment of people both locally and nationally.

The race, which is organized and held by the Manchester Rotary Club, is their primary fundraiser. Fifty percent of the proceeds benefit the Lyme Disease Association and the other 50 percent is used to fund the Rotary Club's charitable works within the community, which in the past has included two scholarships that have been awarded on an annual basis. The recipients receive $1,000 annually as long as they are enrolled in a college or university.

Sadly though, there have been rumors over the past couple of years that the Gear Up for Lyme race may soon be a thing of the past. The amount of time required to organize the race coupled with the small number of Rotary Club members has made organizing and holding the race increasingly difficult in recent years.

If the race were to be discontinued it would be disappointing for a number of reasons. Over the years the race has raised about $100,000 for the Lyme Disease Association for research and helped raise awareness about the disease, which ultimately helps Vermont residents along with others throughout the nation. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease reported nationwide. However, the actual number is likely far greater than that as, according to the CDC's website, only a fraction of the cases are actually reported. Additionally, 96 percent of the cases reported to the CDC occur in 13 states, many of them concentrated in the northeast and midwest. In 2012, there were 386 confirmed cases in Vermont and another 136 cases that were listed as probable, according to a CDC study.

Losing the event would be unfortunate at local level for a couple of reasons, the first being - as mentioned before - that it is the primary fundraiser for the Rotary Club. If the event were to be discontinued the rotary club would undoubtedly find an event, or events, to replace it as a fundraising mechanism to support their work throughout the community, but as with any new event it may take some time to garner the same level of support or raise a similar amount of funds.

The race also helps bring some people to town, if only for the day, which helps the local economy. The race is part of the BUMPS (Bike Up Mountain Points Series) series, which is a biking series that is made up of 10 races on nine mountains in the northeast, according to their website. Even some people who are not necessarily competing in the BUMPS series come from out of state to compete in the event. It may not be an overwhelming number, as Race Director Andy Holzman indicated that the typical number of participants was around 100-150 people. For those who come for the race though - especially if they are first time visitors - it exposes them to the region and they may then want to visit the area again.

Last year when the Vermont Council on Rural Development hosted the Manchester 2020 Community Visit one of the four goals identified for Manchester's future by those who attended the meetings was to make Manchester a biking destination. If the Gear Up for Lyme race were no longer to be held, that would be a significant blow to one of the things that is seemingly trying to be achieved.

The overarching benefits of ensuring that it remains a part of the Manchester community are great. The organizers and volunteers currently involved work hard to make sure that the event is successful each year and with a little more help there may no longer be any question as to whether or not the race will continue. The work and dedication required to organize and hold the event may not be easy, but then again anything that's worth having never is.


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