Late afternoon on September 10th Cat 4 hurricane Irma made landfall in Naples about 20 miles south of my home.
It was surreal to watch our friends Laurie and Joe Rose's Facebook live feed as it battered South Naples. At the same time I was keeping an eye on a radar app and the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore commentating from just a few miles north of us at the Germain Arena which was being used as a shelter.
The eye of the hurricane went directly over Trek's Naples Store and then proceeded over our house and Trek's Estero store. We were very lucky but many weren't.
The next day many people didn't have power or water, and gas was scarce, but I rode my bike to our Naples store to check it out. The store had lost power and a big sign. Trees were down everywhere.
When I rode home through Bonita Springs the water was so deep on Imperial Road it was up to the middle of my bottom bracket! The hurricane had caused the Imperial River to flood. I was shocked to see a neighborhood where the water was up 4-5 feet high. Families were standing on the side of the main road huddled together.
Seeing the devastation and the displaced families that needed help touched me deeply.
As soon as I got home I called our owner Joe DuBois and explained how bad it was in Bonita Springs. I shared a vision of bringing the cycling community together with a charity ride to help those in need. He said "do it!"
Next I called Brian Hahn who owns Momentum Brewhouse in Bonita Springs. Brian is a super sponsor of our tri team and is connected with the town. We brainstormed about an event. He said why not hold it at Riverside Park right in downtown Bonita Springs. I loved the idea as the park has a great bandshell and is only a few miles from the flooded communities. I envisioned a big ride passing by the neighborhoods that needed help and coming back to enjoy live music at the bandshell, great Momentum beer and food. A cycling festival to support our neighbors in need!
This was the genesis of the Irma Relief Ride.
I reached out to Peter Simmons the mayor of Bonita Springs. Peter loved the idea and said "with all the bad that has happened, it would be great for an event like this to come and help our town".
Of course putting together an event like this quickly is not easy and we needed help and resources! I mapped out a plan for the event, and brought it to the Naples Velo board of directors who quickly got behind it and became the promoter and main sponsor.
Big thanks to graphic artist and cyclist, Kurt Larson who volunteered his time to design our logo and banners. And to Tony Renda of Renda Broadcasting who connected us with a fantastic band, the Ben Allen Band.
In a show of solidarity Naples Cyclery, the Bike Route and Trek all are supporting the event. They have donated $1350 worth of gift cards which will be used for the winners of three Strava Segments along the 50 mile route. The bike shops are also collecting donation bikes for us to give to kids and families in need.
Online registration is now open. And 100% of your entry fee will be donated to support two great local charities, The Bonita Assistance Office, and the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee.
Thanks for your support and I hope to see you at the ride! Let's show the strength of our great sport!