Cyclists set off from Manhattan in the wee morning hours on Friday, braving pouring rain and gusting winds to raise money for autism awareness and research.
They crossed the finish line in soggy clothes and dripping helmets at the John Scott’s Surf Shack on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach at around 3 p.m., where they were met with warm greetings and dry towels.
The century ride was the first of three 100-mile events called “Bike to the Beach” that are set to take place this summer. Cyclists will also ride from Washington, D.C., to Dewey Beach, Delaware, on August 2, and from Boston to Newport, Rhode Island, on August 30. Participants are required to raise a minimum of $500 for Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments of autism. They also hope to find a cure.
Michael Riebling, who owns a home in Remsenburg, and his sister Elizabeth, who owns a home in Westhampton, completed the race together. They have cousins with autism, they said, which inspired them to get involved. Together they raised about $3,000.
“As soon as we got going, it was really peaceful and really fun,” Mr. Riebling said, through shivers.
Ms. Riebling is a special education teacher in New York City, and said when the going got tough around mile 60, she was reminded of her students’ laughter, which motivated her to push on.
“They definitely gave me a lot of encouragement,” she said.
She and her brother said they plan to take part in the 100-mile ride again next year.
Bike to the Beach began in 1999 when two friends, Ben Dalley and Joseph Schmitz, biked from Washington, D.C., to Bethany Beach, Delaware. It quickly became an annual event, with more friends joining each year. In 2007, the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit.
“We’re excited about the possibility of expanding our unique bike rides and we’re excited about challenging people to challenge themselves,” Mr. Dalley said on Monday.
He added that number of participants has multiplied in the past four years. The New York race alone has raised $73,000 in donations so far, he said. About 155 cyclists registered for Friday’s event, though less than half completed the race due to the weather. Mr. Dalley explained that those cyclists were given the option of completing one of the upcoming races instead.
“We’ll keep going until all of New York joins us,” he added.
Sean Cribbin, who hails from Huntington, and a group of about 10 of his college friends also completed the race, despite Mother Nature’s attempt to foil them. His brother, Brendan, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. Their team, which called itself “Biking for Brendan,” raised a total of $12,000.
Noreen Cribbin, their mother, waited with Brendan at the finish line, and had tears in her eyes when she spoke of the event.
“Despite the responsibilities that come with being an older brother, Brendan has been my hero and inspiration since I was old enough to truly understand the challenges he has overcome and continues to face on a daily basis,” Mr. Cribbin wrote on his Bike to the Beach donation page. “The words ‘no’ and ‘can’t’ don’t mean much to my brother as he’s continually proved his doubters wrong.”