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Monday, September 21, 1998

6,000 Bikers to Participate in SSU's Sea Gull Century, October 3

SALISBURY, MD--The 100-mile Sea Gull Century bike ride started a decade ago as a challenge among friends. On October 3, when the 10th anniversary Sea Gull Century takes place, 6,000 of our closest friends will come along for the ride. Sea Gull Century '98, based at Salisbury State University, sold outfive weeks before the ride.

The Eastern Shore scenery, from the calm woods along the Pocomoke River to the picturesque ponies and crashing waves at Assateague Island on the Atlantic Ocean, has proved a powerful magnet for biking enthusiasts. This year, singer/songwriter Don McLean of "American Pie" fame will perform a post-race concert in the 1,600-capacity Maggs Physical Activities Center.

Prints of local artist F. Wayne Taylor's original oil painting, showing a bicycle and seagulls at Assateague, will be sold to commemorate the event and to benefit the University Galleries.

After training for months to complete the 100-mile Sea Gull Century or the 100-kilometer Metric Century, riders will come from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country to wheel their way through the flat terrain and enjoy Eastern Shore hospitality during the weekend-long event, sponsored by the SSU Bicycle Club.

"Everybody here is friendly to the cyclists. They like the route, the rest stops, the food and the entertainment, and they tell other cyclists," said Jim Phillips, Sea Gull Century organizer and director of public safety at Salisbury State University.

The Sea Gull Century is the largest century ride in the East, drawing riders from as far away as California, Washington State, Texas, Rhode Island, Canada and England. It's not just another Saturday afternoon ride through the countryside. The League of American Bicyclists named it one of three Century Challenge Winners in 1997, and Bicycling magazine has named it one of the Top 10 rides in the country for the scenery, route and organization. The ride is capped at 6,000 riders to ensure things flow smoothly on ride day, and riders must preregister to participate.

Area residents can look forward to seeing cyclists on Delmarva's byways October 3, when they ride from SSU to Milburn Landing on the Pocomoke River, then to Assateague Island State Park, and back past Adkins Mill Pond in Powellville as they return home. Cyclists will take shorter, optional rides through the area Friday, October 2, and Sunday, October 4.

Many area motels and hotels have been fully booked for months, and cyclists will stay as far away as Easton, Ocean City and Dover. People accompanying the riders to the Shore will visit its restaurants, attractions, stores and special events. The Enterprise Development Group at SSU estimates that Century riders will bring $1.4 million into the local economy, some of which will be re-spent locally for a total economic impact of $2.5 million.

That's a staggering figure for an event the SSU Bicycle Club created a decade ago as a training goal. Today, so many other people come to town for the ride that the original participants leave their own wheels at home to focus on orchestrating the massive event. From just 68 riders in 1989, registration rose to 3,350 in 1993 and this year's all-time high of 6,000, reached more than a month before the ride.

Phillips said. "I think if starting today, someone were to say, 'Let's put together a 6,000-person bike ride,' we would all say 'No way!'"

For information on the Sea Gull Century, call 410-548-2772 or check out www.salisbury.edu/seagullcentury.html


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