Spider Girls ride Tour de Steamboat to honor friend with cancer
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — They say when something is easy to learn, it’s like riding a bike.
If only most things in life came as naturally as kicking off the training wheels and pedaling for the first time.
And maybe that’s the sentiment for cyclists: almost anyone can do it. And it’s easy.
One-thousand cyclists of all ages, sizes and jersey colors jumbled up at 7 a.m. Saturday in front of Little Toots Park in downtown Steamboat Springs for the annual Tour de Steamboat.
In that crowd was 8-year-old Rob, who was inspired by last year’s ride to purchase his first road bike for the 26-mile route.
Then there’s Steve Williams, a Routt County Rider member who had driven a truck out to several aid stations at 5 a.m. before tackling a 66-mile ride up the Yampa trail.
“I rode the long ride, the 116-mile ride, for years, but when we scaled down to include a shorter one, I did that because I wanted to enjoy it.” Williams said. “The one out to Yampa has become very popular. It’s a beautiful ride out there.”
Along the Yampa route, drivers likely passed a group of women decorated in black and white webbed jerseys with light blue sleeves.
Light-blue curly hair attachments bounced from behind their helmets as they rode in a line down the rolling hills of Colorado Highway 131.
These were the Spider Girls from Littleton, a group of 14 women out on their annual cycling trip. Eleven would take on the Yampa route while two would take on the long route up Rabbit Ears.
“We did our first ride together two years ago, the Moab Century Tour, and we were nicknamed by a gentleman, the ‘Spider Girls’ because he thought our jerseys looked like spider webs.” Alana Paton said.
“And it stuck,” Anne Burt said.
Last year, the Spider Girls would do the ICON Tour of the Moon in Grand Junction and this year, the Tour de Steamboat.
The Spider Girls claim to be just your typical group of moms in the neighborhood, taking a girls’ weekend.
Paton is a spin instructor at CycleBar Southwest Plaza, so she led most of the training sessions.
“I teach the hour indoor cycling class,” Paton said. “I do a lot of interval work, pushing them beyond their limitations, getting them uncomfortable, so when they get out here, they’re more comfortable.”
Then there’s Jill Shields, who claimed Saturday’s ride as training for her half-Ironman in two weeks.
Justine Needham is the planner of the group, while the goodie bag responsibility cycles through the group. Last year, Anne Burt made the wine glasses and this year, Liz Rapp had the idea for the light blue baseball caps that read: Spider Girls Steamboat 2018.
But the Spider Girls ride for more than just a weekend getaway, they ride for one of their own: Nickie Fowler, who is suffering from stage 4 colon cancer.
Many would have a hard time telling because Fowler wears the team baseball cap over her short, blond hair.
“I had just qualified for the Boston Marathon and completed a 100-mile bike ride,” Fowler said. “Then my appendix burst and I found out a lot more.”
She pulls her camisole down a little to reveal a port on her chest. She’s just finished treatment, but she thinks there’s more to come. She’s happy to be able to hide her condition because the treatment doesn’t make her lose her hair. She didn’t want her kids to worry.
But she’s also still taking in the girls’ weekend in the best way she knows how: cheering on her friends.
Fowler drove the Yampa route, stopping three times to hold up a sign that reads, “Go Spider Girls!”
“And look at her. She’s out here holding signs, she’s our No. 1 fan,” Needham said.
Each rider wears a rubber bracelet that reads, “NickieStrong” and a dark blue bracelet with a silver pendant that reads, “Spider Girls.”
Dark blue is the awareness ribbon color for colon cancer.
So when they glanced down at their wrists as they rode the rolling hills of the Yampa trail, they remembered just how easy it is to ride a bike.
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