By Hayley Day
The Daily News
TOUTLE — Each summer from 1994 to 2008, Marvin Cooper pedaled up thousands of feet in elevation through the Mount St. Helens blast zone.
For 14 years, the Kelso resident was a regular in the Tour de Blast ride, where cyclists climb up to 8,800 feet of elevation and 82 miles roundtrip from Toutle Lake High School to the region where the mountain blew in 1980.
For his May 4 birthday, his wife Genece commissioned a quilt combining each Tour de Blast T-shirt he received during registration.
But about a month before the gift was delivered, Marvin Cooper died of cancer, said his wife.
“I’m sure he can see it from up where he’s at,” she said.
Tour de Blast returns Saturday after a virtual event last year. The event will include COVID-19 protocols, and fewer, but dedicated, riders.
About 330 riders registered for 2021’s event — nearly half as many as the maximum number of riders the event has seen.
COVID-19 protocols, outlined in the event’s four permits, mandate changes.
Riders will grab pasta to-go instead of eating at Toutle High School. Riders will not be permitted to shower at the high school like in the past. Masks and social distancing will be maintained at rest stops.
Last year’s event drew about 58 riders who tracked their mileage and elevation gain on a website for a month. That means there was less money for Rotary donations.
The event’s expenses are deducted from the registration revenue and the rest funds scholarships, literacy programs or other local organizations like Community House on Broadway, said organizer John Bard.
Bard has climbed up 5,200 feet of elevation to the ride’s Elk Rock viewpoint once and the final destination of Johnston Ridge twice.
That was before he was the lead organizer for the Longview Rotary’s 29-year event. He has been in command for nearly a third of the ride’s history.
“I’m a very busy person the day of the ride,” he said.
The ride has three levels, ranging from 39-mile to 82-mile round-trip treks. Even the beginning level boasts 2,700 feet of elevation gain and is referred to as a “fun ride” on the event’s website.
“You do train a little before you do it,” Bard said.
Rider safety was a top concern when switching to a virtual event in 2020, he said, but the return to the “unique ride that goes into a volcanic national monument” is a welcomed return.
“There was no hesitation to cancel the event last year but it’s really nice to have it again this year,” he said.
If you go
What: Tour de Blast
When: 6:30 a.m., Saturday
Where: Toutle Lake High School, 5050 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle
Cost: $85 with a T-shirt, $70 with no T-shirt, $100 day of ride with no T-shirt