Buckley rider uses ride as warm up for fundraiser

Buckley’s Al Knopik won the Redmond Cycling Club’s lottery and will join approximately 800 other bicycle riders in the trek around Mount Rainier July 29.

For an avid bicyclist like Knopik getting a RAMROD spot, especially when you were on the waiting list, is like striking gold.

“It’s always a ride I wanted to do,” he said. “It’s right here in my back yard.”

The Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day is the Pacific Northwest’s answer to the Tour de France. The 154-mile course starts and ends in Enumclaw.

Knopik is using his ride around Rainier to train and drum up support for The People’s Coast Classic for the Arthritis Foundation, a six-day, 363-mile September ride down the Oregon Coast to raise money for a cause dear to his heart – juvenile arthritis.

RAMROD is a personal challenge, The People’s Coast is personal.

Knopik’s granddaughter Brooklynn was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 4. At age 6, the disease caused her to lose sight in one eye. Now at 10, her shins and ankles ache often and she tries not to let it slow her down.

Knopik’s team is named for his granddaughter – Team Brooklynn.

Riding is second nature for Knopik, who started as a road rider in the 1970s and switched to mountain bikes after an accident. In 1998, a sinus infection spread to his lungs and forced him off the bike for a while. Eventually, he returned to pedaling, riding the 2000 Seattle To Portland. He’s worn a groove between the Kent Park and Ride and his Seattle job, a 40-mile round trip he tries to make four times a week. To date, for 2010, he has bicycled more than 2,159 miles.

Today he rides for the health benefits and enjoyment. Now he’s hoping his knees, which were replaced months ago, will hold up for the climb, which reaches an elevation of 10,000 feet.

“I just want to finish,” he said.

He anticipates the 12-mile ascent from Longmire to Paradise will be tough, but the third climb, to Cayuse – a nine-mile stretch coming 100 miles into the ride, with the sun beating down – is the one that worries him.

“That will be the breaker,” he said.

He’s also hoping to get friends and family to pledge their nickels and dimes for every RAMROD mile he completes to raise money for his Arthritis Foundation ride.

In the past, Knopik has raised money for the Lung Association and multiple sclerosis. When he found out the Arthritis Foundation was starting a fundraising ride in Oregon, he jumped on board. His son Casey and friend Jeff Hudspeth will be riding, too.

“I’m excited about it,” Knopik said, noting the emphasis this year is on juvenile arthritis.”

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