SHERIDAN — In 2016, Bike MS didn’t know what to expect. The cycling event — which had grown for nearly 20 years, uniting communities all around the state with the common goal of raising funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis — had never made Sheridan its host city.
“We were worried about how well we’d be received in a different community,” said Molly Palmer, the development manager at the National MS Society, Wyoming Market.
Those worries swiftly got put to bed, and the event has no plans to relocate anytime soon.
“It has been nothing but heartwarming,” Palmer said. “We will be in Sheridan for the foreseeable future.”
The Bike MS: Bighorn Country Classic will take place Saturday and Sunday, traversing 150 miles all over northeast Wyoming. The event will start and end each day at Sheridan College.
Day one will take riders to Ucross and Buffalo before heading back to Sheridan — an 82-mile course. Some cyclist will have the opportunity to do an out-and-back toward Red Grade Road to make it a 100-mile ride.
Sunday will see riders travel north to Dayton and up the mountains to Sand Turn Interpretive Site before finishing the ride, passing through Ranchester and back to Sheridan.
The fundraiser plans to accommodate about 250 cyclists from all over the United States. Last year the Bighorn Country Classic had participants from 15 different states.
“Our event is what they call a destination ride as we pull in cyclists from all over the country,” Palmer said. “… This is a great opportunity for Sheridan to show off your guys’ beautiful town to tourist from all over the country.”
Local businesses run rest stops along the course, and local churches and civic groups provide lunches each day. Dinners, beer and messages are available at the end of both days. A band and guest speaker, talking about MS, will cap the event Saturday night.
The entire weekend revolves around the ride, but there’s a little something for everyone, which is what Bike MS was aiming for when moving the event to Sheridan.
“It’s a small enough event that people come back year after year. It’s almost like a family reunion — like big-family barbecues,” Palmer said. “That community-and-family-coming-together feel is what really sets us apart and was very important to us when we moved out of Sundance — where we had been for so many years.”
The ride got its roots in Sundance and moved to Newcastle and Cheyenne over the years. Bike MS is a nationwide event and stands as the No. 1 charitable cycling event in the country.
It has particular importance in the state of Wyoming, as the average number of individuals with MS is higher in Wyoming than the majority of other states. About one in 750 people are diagnosed with MS nationwide, but about one in every 350 people battle MS in the Equality State.
“I’m a health care provider, and I treat people with MS all the time, so it’s actually a really cool cause and it’s a really cool fundraiser,” said Brooke Chorniak, who is riding for the North Platte Physical Therapy team. “We go out and do different bike events all year round, but when it actually has a meaning like that, it’s a lot cooler, and it’s way more fun to kind of do those ones.”
The Bighorn Country Classic would like to raise $250,000 in 2018. That money will go toward research for a cure while also funding programs and financial assistance for people with MS.
Palmer is certain the event will reach its goal of $250,000 — a far cry from the uncertainty she and her organization felt upon introducing the event to Sheridan a few years back.