As a great admirer of the sport of cycling and those who make it a career, I initially gravitated to the Best Buddies charity ride to see some old acquaintances (Andrew Talansky, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde) and was delighted to make some new ones (namely, Cameron Wurf).
I started the day with tempered expectations, having attended various sponsored events with so-called celebrities in the past. But nothing could have prepared me for the spectacle of the Best Buddies Challenge: Miami (and the Gala, more on that later). Having never been a professional athlete, I quickly got a glimpse of what it might be. Cyclists for the 100 Kilometer Charity Ride were treated as royalty as they brought their bikes to the entrance of the Marlins Baseball Stadium. A well-orchestrated group of Best Buddies employees and volunteers calmly racked our bikes and ushered us into the underbelly of the Marlins Stadium, where few but the press and professional athletes ever venture. After a long stroll down the hallowed halls of the ground floor, we were invited into the locker room of the Miami Marlins and greeted with personalized lockers overflowing with gifts from Mack’s Cycle and other generous sponsors of the event. Prior to slipping on our spandex, the participants of the event were seated at the Marlins cafeteria where an oversized breakfast was prepared and offered to all. Nice chance to interact with some local Miamians who I’d yet to meet, many who were the elite of the elite within their chosen profession.
After breakfast, a quick change into the spandex and another long stroll onto Marlin’s playing field. Felt like a scene out of Fields of Dreams to be alone in the stadium, where professional baseball players were replaced by a handful of professional cyclists and thoughtful contributors to the Best Buddies organization. After an inspirational playing of the national anthem, more than 50 cyclists and participants were ushered through the streets of Miami with all the security and care of a U.S. President escorted by the Secret Service. The ride was amazing, but the Gala was the crowning jewel.
After a challenging 4 hour ride, a shower, and a quick return to the office, the Gala commenced around 7PM in an offbeat venue in Downtown Miami that outdid the best South Beach has to offer. Just as in the morning entering the Marlins Stadium, where the Best Buddies employees and volunteers outnumbered the guests 3 to 1, arriving at the Gala had the same level of attention. There was ample time to tour the rockstar atmosphere that was the Gala and bid on hundreds of unique goods and services at the silent auction. The night continued to crescendo to the sound of live music, raucous live auction bids, friendly conversations and good food. In the end, it was a perfect day, seeing new things, meeting new people, riding new routes and feeling privileged to support a great cause.
– Seth Coblentz