BIG POOL -- Pedaling became a whole lot easier for riders on the annual Cycle Across Maryland Tour yesterday as the midpoint approached, and rugged Western Maryland mountains evolved into the rolling hills of Washington County.
"I had no idea Maryland was so rugged and mountainous," said Corinne "Inky" Krueger, 26, a gym teacher from upstate New York during a midmorning break at Fort Frederick State Park.
"Sideling Hill was the toughest, longest hill I've ever climbed," she said. "I'm used to people telling me things are tough, and then they're not. This . . . has been tough."
She was among 1,200 cyclists who began the 320-mile trek Monday from Oakland in mountainous Garrett County, with the goal of finishing Saturday at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Riders have been pushing eastward, sometimes slowly as peaks rising to 2,850 feet have proven formidable obstacles.
Yesterday's midweek leg of the seventh CAM Tour began in Hancock in western Washington County and ended 43 miles later in Williamsport, an old canal town on the Potomac River. The tour continues today with riders pedaling 56 miles to Frederick. Cyclists will finish the tour Saturday after a 39-mile jaunt from Ellicott City to Baltimore.
Mountains weren't the only obstacles facing cyclists and others. Heat and humidity hampered a number of participants, including Wendy Gramm, wife of Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. Mrs. Gramm, taking part in the event for the second year, was hospitalized Tuesday for heat exhaustion while in-line skating from Frostburg to Hancock. She was released yesterday and was not expected to rejoin the tour.
Even well-trained bicyclists confessed to walking up one or two hills during Tuesday's leg of the tour, which began in Frostburg in western Allegany County and ended 53 miles later in Hancock.
"While the scenery is very breathtaking and the overlooks spectacular, this has been a much more hillier and challenging ride than some of the other tours," said Mitch Tobias, 33, a salesman from Reisterstown and a veteran CAM Tour rider. "I don't like to give up, but [Tuesday] I only went about 40 miles. I took the bus back."
The nonprofit tour returned to Western Maryland this year after having been run in flatter parts of the state; last year's CAM Tour included long stretches in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.
The outlook was a lot brighter yesterday as riders enjoyed the Washington County countryside with fields of ripening corn.