Annual 100-mile Bike Race Set Sunday
In only seven years, the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo has grown from an invitational among 18 cyclists to a showcase attracting more than 500 entrants.
What hasn’t changed is the challenge it presents for even the most accomplished riders.
The 2019 event — highlighted by a 103-mile course that boasts more than a mile and a half of elevation changes and snakes through Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties — begins 9 a.m. Sunday at the Jenkins Twp fire hall. Participants are expected from locations across the country, including Oregon and Arkansas, as well as Iceland.
“I’ve been asked could this work anywhere else, and I said no,” said Pat Engleman, who plotted the original course in 2013. “I’ve done rides in Philly and the surrounding region, and nothing feels like this to me.”
The 39-year-old Engleman, a Pittston native who now lives in Philadelphia, started the yearly cycling tradition as a way to not only challenge some of his cycling friends, but also showcase the beautiful scenery Northeast Pennsylvania has to offer.
His love of the sport largely comes from his father, George Engleman, who took Pat for bike rides throughout his childhood and instilled in him a love of exploration. He was also “volunteer No. 1” as the Hundo started to grow in popularity.
George Engleman died in 2016, but his influence is still present in various aspects of the event.
“Part of our bond getting older was going for rides out in the country,” Pat Engleman said. “He’d take people out and show them the route. He loved it. Though I think he would have looked at me cross-eyed a little bit if I said 500 riders.”
A reflection of Pat Engleman’s roots, the event is truly local with all the food and finishers’ medals coming from within a five-mile radius of Pittston. The main course also passes key cities and places from his life like Lake Winola, where his family had a summer house.
Spots in the field are locked up almost immediately when public registrations are opened Jan. 1. For those looking for a more manageable ride, there are also routes of roughly 75 miles and 100 kilometers. However, the grueling main course is the big draw.
North Abington Twp. native Alaina Dietz has participated in the event every year since 2014 and will be among the riders on Sunday. After undergoing major knee surgery in 2013, completing the Hundo became a personal milestone she hoped to achieve.
Her goal once that first ride began?
“Simply to finish,” Dietz said. “Can I do this? I was told pre-surgery that I wouldn’t be able to ride competitively anymore. At that point, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
Dietz, 48, is an experienced cyclist; she’s even competing in a 45-mile gravel race in Vermont today before tackling the Hundo. She said the different types of terrain make for a ride where “almost anything goes” depending on the type of bicycle riders choose. For example, a road bike might be more efficient on pavement, but is a lot harder to handle on the other surfaces.
It’s also very early in the cycling season, meaning riders have to make sure they’re prepared for all the climbing required. Finally, changes in the course layout and riding conditions make the ride a new experience from year to year.
“It’s a badge of honor,” she said. “The cool thing about events like this is the vast majority of people aren’t from the area. It gets you out to places you otherwise wouldn’t go.”
Engleman said while the top male and female finishers receive an engraved hatchet, the event is meant to be more a celebration of the area and cycling than a competition. It also raises money for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League, which uses mountain biking to inspire healthy lifestyles and build a sense of community among youths, and the Anthracite Mountain Pedalers trail association.
Once riders log all those miles, they are invited to a huge dinner Sunday night featuring pizza, pasta and plenty of cookies baked by Engleman’s mother, Ann Teresa.
With the Tour de Scranton also taking place on the same day, Engleman is thrilled to help put the spotlight on the sport and the physical and emotional benefits it provides area riders.
“This is the kind of ride where you hang out and talk about it afterwards,” Engleman said. “We have riders of all abilities. At the end of the day, I want everyone to come out and enjoy it.”
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