STP remains a special ride for valley cyclists

It began as a fun idea and a means of getting into better shape.

More than two decades later, the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic has become much more for longtime friends Tony DeLorenzo of Kent and Auburn’s Gil Morey.

The annual trek from the Emerald City to the Rose City, a ride that spans 200 miles, has become a summer highlight for the pair, one that’s now as much about camaraderie and friendship as it is about a passion for pedaling.

“The very first time, we read about it and thought it would be fun to do,” said DeLorenzo, 51. “Basically, we trained a few weeks and did it.

“It was the hardest thing we had ever done.”

The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic will run for the 30th consecutive year. It begins at 4:45 a.m. on Saturday at the University of Washington. Cyclists will be sent out in 10-minute waves exiting south onto Montlake Boulevard. One-day riders will arrive in Portland on Saturday night, while two-day riders will spend the night at the midway point of Centralia College and complete the event on Sunday afternoon.

DeLorenzo and Morey will be riding in the event for the 23rd straight year, an honor that puts them in a rather select group. Only 18 other riders have taken part in the event longer than the Kent and Auburn natives.

The first ride, however, remains a special one to both of them.

“We were looking for a goal to get in shape and we thought, ‘Hey, let’s ride our bikes to Portland,'” said Morey, 51. “We thought if we did, that would be a good goal. We didn’t even know about the STP then. We checked it out and thought it was great.”

The challenging road ahead, however, remained a mystery.

DeLorenzo entered that ride in 1987 without ever having logged more than 50 consecutive miles on his bike at one time. A self-proclaimed gym rat, he showed up for that first ride in basketball shoes and a sheepskin seat cover.

“I was in my 20s and thought I was in wonderful shape,” deadpanned DeLorenzo. “We thought it would be simple.”

It was — on the first day.

But on the second day, the challenge stiffened as a steady rain blanketed southern Washington. Being inexperienced riders as they were, neither DeLorenzo or Morey were prepared for the wet weather.

“The next day, we had 110 miles to go, and it was windy and pouring rain,” Morey recalled. “It was miserable.”

Learning from experience

Now, more than 20 years later – each of them now on their fourth bicycles – DeLorenzo and Morey are considerably more prepared.

“We’ve had rain in other years since, but have become more bike savvy,” said DeLorenzo, adding that he has trained by riding three times a week, doing two 40-mile trips and another 100-mile ride per week.

Although they previously have accomplished the feat in one day, DeLorenzo and Morey will go at a steady pace and use both days to finish the 200-mile trek this time.

Having reached their 23rd year, using the race as a means to get in better shape has blossomed into a goal.

“Now that we’ve done so many, we can’t stop,” said Morey, who along with DeLorenzo, remains seven STP rides behind leaders Jerry Baker and Paul Wantzelius. “Now, we want to do it more times than anybody.”



• WHAT: Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

• WHEN: Saturday, July 11

• WHERE: The race begins in the E1 parking lot at the University of Washington (Montlake Boulevard). For cyclists who plan on completing the race in one day, the event begins at 4:45 a.m. For cyclists who plan on completing the event in two days, it will begin at 5:15 a.m.

• TWO STARTING TIMES: Cyclists will be sent off in 10-minute intervals. The first wave will go from 4:45 a.m.-5:15 a.m. The second wave will go from 5:15 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

• WHO: This year’s race marks a high point for the event, as 10,000 participants have been entered. The previous high of 9,500 cyclists was established last year. Of those 10,000 riders, 172 of them — 128 men and 44 women — are from Kent.

• NOTABLE: The Group Health STP is a 200-mile bicycle ride, the largest multi-day bicycle event in the Pacific Northwest. Considered one of the best cycling events in the nation by Bicycling Magazine, the route takes cyclists through the scenic valleys, forests and farmlands of Western Washington and Oregon, with water, food, first aid and rest stops along the way.

• IN KENT: Some of the first riders will be entering Kent by about 5:30 Saturday morning. The remainder of the 10,000 will be coming through the city throughout the morning. The route will take cyclists through Kent on portions of the following roads: South 228th Street, 68th Avenue South (West Valley Highway), Washington Avenue, James Street, Meeker Street, West Willis Street (SR 516), and the Green River Bridge on the West Valley Highway. The cyclists will continue along the West Valley Highway to the Sumner and Puyallup areas.

• FINISH LINE: One-day riders will arrive in Portland on the evening of Saturday, July 11, and two-day riders will spend the night at the midpoint at Centralia College and arrive in Portland on Sunday, July 12.