As the public health crisis surrounding COVID-19 continues to unfold, the Reading Radsport Festival made the difficult decision recently to postpone their annual bike race until August 2021.

To help fill the fundraising gap left in the wake of the cancellation, Gabe Lloyd of Long Tail Creative (Radsport Race Director), and Jeff Schaeffer, co-owner of Keystone Racing p/b Lupine Lights, partnered to host the Ascent Challenge on Memorial Day, an alternative way to raise money for Reading Recreation Commission’s food service program.

With a 4 hour time frame to complete the challenge, riders began at 9am, released in 2-minute intervals from Duryea Drive up to the finish line at the Fire Tower. Riders traveled a 2 mile course with a 663 feet of vertical gain, averaging a 6% grade.

“Gabe did an amazing job organizing the event and promoting it with the Radsport community, were just here supplying the pain going up the mountain” said Schaeffer.

With support from the community, pledge amounts were collected online and equaled the vertical feet climbed within the 4-hour challenge. Pledge increments began at $6.63 per ascent/ $0.01 per vertical foot to $33.15 per ascent/ $0.05 per vertical foot.

To maintain social distancing, only riders from the Keystone Racing team were able to participate in the direct challenge, maintaining a 2 minute interval between riders up and down the mountain. Organizers also held a virtual challenge, where at-home riders could submit their activity via an online portal on the Radsport website.

Daphne Klahr, Executive Director of Reading Recreation Commission, waived on the first rider to begin the uphill race.

“We typically serve about 90,000 meals per year. So far, since March 13th, we’ve already served 35,000 meals, so the need is incredible” said Klahr. “The money raised today will be used for purchasing things like fresh produce for the meals.”

Initially worried when the race was cancelled, Klahr is excited to see the community come together to support Reading Recreation’s mission. “The Radsport Festival was one of our biggest fundraisers for our food program, and replacing that, we are so grateful for Gabe and Kacey for the support.”

“Riders today could be home doing other things, but instead they chose to bike up the mountain, it’s nice to see everyone out enjoying the park in a safe way” said Klahr.

Top fundraiser of the day, Kevin Moore, committed to 15 laps up the mountain. In total, the Keystone Racing team was able to raise $4,200 from community pledges, and the virtual challenge raised $3,480.