READFIELD — Brady Cumber’s passion for biking began as a 3-year-old with a blocky Tonka bike. Now, the 14-year-old Readfield resident rides his mountain bike to Maranacook Community High School, where he’ll be a sophomore next year.

And this weekend he’ll trade in his mountain bike for a sleek, fast road bicycle to ride with his father, Lee Cumber, of Monmouth, in the Trek Across Maine on all three days of the ride.

“It’s Father’s Day weekend,” said Brady, “and it gives a chance for us to bond and be together.”

That bonding extends through the hours and miles of training — and jabbing and joking as one zips up a hill faster and the other zips down. The pair connect several times each week to train, riding 20 miles or more.

“With kids involved in other activities, parents drop them off and pick them up and miss that chance in between when they are participating to communicate and be together,” Lee said.

But along with riding to connect, the father and son are riding for people they’ve known and cared for who have died after fighting lung cancer, namely loved one Jay Lemelin, a close friend and coworker of Lee, who worked for the Augusta Water District.

They will be among nearly 1,700 bicyclists to ride around the Kennebec Valley this weekend on the 35th anniversary ride of the Trek Across Maine, the first time the event has followed an almost entirely new route since it began.

Lee Cumber, left, and his son Brady Cumber pose for a portrait Wednesday in Readfield. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The new route will bring bicyclists through the heart of Augusta, prompting the temporary closure of the landmark rail trail as well.

The Trek is the largest fundraiser in the nation for the American Lung Association, bringing in an average $1.3 million a year. It has raised more than $24 million since the event started, according to Kim Chamard, development director for the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

Chamard said 1,675 riders registered for the Trek this year, about 100 more than did so last year. One reason the route of the ride was changed this year, she said, was to try to spur more interest in participating in the Trek, in its 35th year.

“We’re definitely seeing an uptick; we’re really happy about that,” she said.

Trekkers are expected to come through Augusta, Gardiner and Richmond on Sunday morning on their way south to the ride’s end in Brunswick.

In Augusta, the mass of bicyclists will leave the roads behind and traverse the Kennebec River Rail Trail into Gardiner.

 

Chamard said officials decided to close the trail to the public Sunday morning out of safety concerns due to so many riders likely coming onto the trail at the same time.

She said volunteers along the route will discourage non-Trekkers from using the trail but barricades won’t be setup, and if someone is adamant about using the trail, they will not be prevented from doing so.

Leif Dahlin, community services director for the city of Augusta, said no one will be denied access to the trail. If people insist on walking on the rail trail during the Trek, they will be asked to at least walk on the river side of the trail.

The Trek Across Maine won’t be the only thing drawing people on two wheels into the Augusta area over the weekend.

The eighth annual Bond Brook Tread Fest, on the trails of the city of Augusta-owned Bond Brook Recreation Area, will feature a day of mountain bike racing Saturday, preceded by running races on the same set of trails Friday. The Augusta Trails-organized event has, in the past, drawn mountain bikers and runners from across the state for two days of racing. It will also have a beer tent, Saturday, for participants and spectators.

Dahlin said having the two events on the same weekend wasn’t intentional but both should complement each other, and combine to bring a lot of bicyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts to Augusta over the course of the weekend.

“It’ll be a two-wheel weekend in Augusta,” Dahlin said. “The two events couldn’t fit together any nicer. They’re a nice complement; it’s all about health and fitness and enjoying the great state of Maine. We’re going to have fun up at the Bond Brook area. And we hope folks will venture out and check out the town while they’re here.”

Tread Fest is a fundraiser for the trails upon which it is held.

Dahlin said city staff, in addition to assisting at Bond Brook, are preparing to help host Trek Across Maine participants, who are expected to be coming through Augusta on Sunday morning from their previous overnight stop, in Waterville, and get on the Kennebec River Rail Trail to ride from Augusta to Gardiner before continuing on to the Trek’s beginning and end point in Brunswick.

Dahlin said there will be a DJ playing music at the downtown Augusta rest stop for the Trek.

Chamard said the Augusta rest stop will also have food available for riders and mechanical services for any bicyclists having a problem with their bikes.

“It’ll be down in the waterfront park, so it’ll be a nice place for cyclists to stop and get off their bike for a bit, walk around, a nice little place to take a break,” she said.

Chamard encouraged residents near or along the route to use caution and be aware of the event and that there may be lots of bicyclists on the roads this weekend. She also encouraged them to enjoy the spectacle of it all.

“Just be aware, when we’re passing through, there is going to be a higher level of cyclist traffic,” she said. “So use caution, but also, feel free to come check it out. Some people who live on the route come out and sit on their front lawn and watch the cyclists go by.”

Riders will leave from Brunswick on Friday, with the route taking them through Harpswell to Freeport along the coast, then inland through Durham to Lewiston, where riders will stay overnight at Bates College.

From Lewiston, day two on Saturday will see riders travel through Greene, Wayne and Mount Vernon and then through the Belgrade Lakes, through Oakland and on to Waterville for the final overnight stop, at Colby College.

On the final day of the ride, Sunday, cyclists will travel from Waterville through Vassalboro and downtown Augusta and Gardiner on their way to the end in Brunswick.

The Cumbers will ride all three days of the Trek with the team Just D.O. Me (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine), which has less than 20 members but is third in standings for the amount of money they have received at around $24,000, Brady said.

Brady himself collected $1,700, and Lee collected around $1,100. Around $200 of Lee’s collection came when he solicited off the street, including at the Western Avenue Rotary.

“Most people thought I was trying to bum money for cigarettes or beer, and they tried not to look at me,” he said.

But drivers did double takes after realizing he was soliciting for the American Lung Association, he said. One mother and daughter returned after snubbing him to make a donation — including a candy bar.

It’s Lee’s third year and Brady’s second riding in the Trek. Once the team completes the ride, their plan is to ride more — that is on trails on their mountain bikes during camping trips.  


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