Team Ba'ag (Eagle) of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community recently participated in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure, which is a series of nationwide cycling events raising funds to benefit the American Diabetes Association. On March 13, cyclists pedaled in North Phoenix beginning at the Reach 11 Sports Complex on Deer Valley Road, through the communities of Anthem and New River, and then back to the starting point.
Participants on Team Ba'ag were Paul Martinez, Doran Dalton, Jessica Alejos, Derrick Dalton, Kevin Dalton, Letitia Dalton, Terry Porter, Michelle Reina-Long, Rachel Seepie and Caroline Sekaquaptewa.
"This was the second time Team Ba'ag took part in this event," said Team Captain Paul Martinez, who has been cycling for three years. "Last year we had 12 (team members) and this year we had 11 participate." This year the captain rode 64 miles and most of the team completed the 35-mile ride, which uses the same course with one leg cut in half. "We even had one person do the 10-mile leg, which is great for a beginner," said Martinez.
It's a very fast-paced event; the cyclists go about 15 to 20 mph on the bikes, and almost 30 mph downhill.
Team Ba'ag collectively raised $1,848 for the American Diabetes Association, riding in honor of those past and present who have been diagnosed with diabetes. The money was raised by donations from the team's friends and family members.
"I thought it was a really good cause and healthy for us to participate in," said Martinez about the Tour de Cure. "There are so many organizations that you can raise money for, but I thought this one would hit home because of the number of Native Americans who have diabetes, and friends and family members who have it as well. That was sort of the motivational tool I used, and it helped."
The team scheduled a couple of Saturday-morning bike rides before the big race so they could get used to the bikes. "When you are first starting out, the most important thing is getting used to the seat," said Martinez. They call it "timing the saddle" and it's very important, because you have to build those muscles and get them used to sitting in the bike seat, which can be very uncomfortable at times, especially on long rides.
Martinez said cycling as a whole is really a healthy exercise because it is easy on the joints.
"Everyone on the team is really active in working out, [whether it's] doing aerobics classes or running 10Ks or half-marathons. Cycling is just another aspect of being fit," he said.
This year about 900 riders participated in the Tour de Cure. "This was the best 64 miles I have ever ridden," added Martinez.
"Everybody did great, and we were all surprised at how well newcomer Latisha Dalton did in her ride," Martinez said. "She attends the spin classes here in the Community, and that level of work and fitness carried over in her ride."
During the ride, there were aid stations every 10 miles where cyclists could stop and eat or fill their water bottles as they prepare to ride another 10 miles. The 65-milers started at 7:30 a.m., the 35-milers at 8:30 a.m. and the 10-milers at 9 a.m. All cyclists would finish between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.