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  • Mon September 26 2005
  • Posted Sep 26, 2005
By SARAH STRANDBERG, Courier Correspondent DECORAH --- Ward Budweg views the work as an incredible opportunity, not a strenuous marathon likely to test his endurance. Each year, Lance Armstrong's Tour of Hope inspires thousands of people as the team cycles in relay fashion around the clock. This year, Ward will be one of the bicycle mechanics supporting the cross-country journey. "While the riders are sleeping, my job is to make sure their bikes are ready to go. We do the laundry for the riders and make sure their jerseys are ready to go for the next ride and make sure their water bottles are cleaned," Ward said. And if someone gets a flat tire, Ward must be ready to fix it, whatever the time. Tour of Hope cyclists will have 15 hours off between rides. But Budweg will essentially be on call 24 hours a day. Though he's not sure how many mechanics applied to be part of the tour, 1,100 people were considered for 24 spots on the relay teams. Ward, an avid cyclist since the early '70s and owner of Decorah Bicycles, said the riders are in for a challenging nine days: They will cycle 20 mph for five hours each day. "That's fast for an average person. They're not professionals." The event begins in San Diego on Thursday and finishes on Oct. 8 in Washington, D.C. Ward also is looking forward to reconnecting with two former employees. Tim Staton is one of the Tour coordinators. And Erik Berkas is head mechanic for the ride. Both men graduated from Luther College and now work for Trek in Madison, Wis. "It's going to be fun to be around people who worked for me. Now they'll be telling me what to do," Ward said. He plans to create a blog to share the experience on the Internet at www.decorahbicycles.com. This marks the third year Armstrong, a cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner, will lead the event. Bristol-Myers Squibb, the company that provided the medicines that helped Armstrong beat cancer, is a partner. The tour's goal is to inform the public about the importance of cancer clinical trials. On stops along the route, team members --- all touched by cancer --- will share their stories. Armstrong rides with each team part of the time. "I'm hopeful I'll get to meet him. If he needs help, I hope to get to work on his bike," Ward said. According to his wife, Ward truly enjoys cycling and owning a bike shop. "It is so rewarding for him to see others get excited about biking," Jacky Budweg said. "He just wants others to enjoy his passion. Organizing bike rides and seeing others having a great time is really a treat for him." In addition to RAGBRAI, Ward has completed several ultramarathon rides, such as biking across Iowa in one day. "He not only enjoys leisurely bike rides but also likes challenging ones," Jacky said. The couple even met while Ward was on a weeklong bike ride across Wisconsin. "Ward has loved biking since he was a kid. He used to ride a lot, even in grade school, high school and college when most shy away from their bikes," his wife, Jacky, said. "And this has continued into adulthood." Ward was warned he'll be pretty tired by the end of the Tour, which will travel through the Southern part of the country. "It's a nonstop thing. No matter what happens, I have to be ready to fix the bike or do whatever they need. That's the fun part of it, always being ready to go."

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