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Bike MS returning to Austin this weekend

Austin is going to be home to a lot of bicyclists who are hitting the streets for a great cause as Austin will host the Bike MS: Ride Across Minnesota event on July 23-24.

Riders will be camping out at Todd Park and they’ll log in 60 miles of riding each day to help look for a cure and raise awareness for multiple sclerosis.

Mary Nelson of Austin has participated in the ride ever since its inception in 1990 and most of those rides have come on her SPAM-themed pig bike, which she purchased from Rydor Bike Store in 1992.

She was one of the local riders when the event was last held in Austin in 2011.

Mary Nelson, of Austin, waves as she rides south toward Lansing on County Road 25 with a string of riders taking part in the 2011 ride, which was known at the time as TRAM Ride. – Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“I’m so excited about it coming here. They love coming to Austin,” Nelson said. “Austin has always done a great job of taking care of (Bike MS) and they wanted to come back. I want to thank everyone who’s supported this and made it a wonderful event to help out people with multiple sclerosis. When you’re blessed with good health and you help people out, it’s rewarding.”

Friday is the big day of the event as locals are welcome to gather in Todd Park at 7 p.m. to cheer on the entrance of riders.

Nancy Schnable, Executive Director of Discover Austin, is excited to showcase Austin as visitors will be encouraged to visit downtown businesses and the Matchbox Children’s Theatre will put on a play in the park. There will also be music and refreshments.

“This is where we roll out the red carpet,” she said. “We’re encouraging them to visit our attractions and there will be games to play at Todd Park. We’ve got all sorts of things that we’re given to them to thank them for coming to town. It’s kind of a party in the park.”

The riders will receive their medals after Saturday’s ride and then they will all head back home.

Kathleen O’Donnell, upper midwest chapter president of the National MS Society, noted that the event will draw over 300 riders from over 18 different states. While it usually lasts for five days, this year’s ride has been reduced to two days due to COVIID-19.

O’Donnell is excited about bringing the ride back to Austin for the third time. .

“Austin is a great community. We’ve been so pleased with the host city committee and Discover Austin with all of the things they’ve put in place to make this successful,” O’Donnell said. “We’re thrilled and we’re grateful for the supporters of the MS movement. There are currently a million people in the United States living with MS. We’re creating awareness and we’re trying to help people infected with MS. It is a movement.”

Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Discover Austin.

On July 23, the ride will cover Highway 56, Highway 105 and various county roads. On July 24, the ride will cover Highway 251, Highway 30 and Highway 218.

The National MS society is now in its 75th year as an organization.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and find resources visit nationalmssociety.org.