Team Joy puts the pedal to the medal for Gilda’s Club

Laura Bingle was a touch concerned about her fitness heading into the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic this past weekend.

Bingle returned from a three week trip to Europe — she did ride while she was there — shortly before her seventh STP but she enjoyed the food and drink of the countries she visited.

“We’ve got a lot of first time riders who haven’t trained very much,” Bingle said before the STP. “So, I’ll just be kicking it in the back with them.”

Bingle led her group of 19 riders of Team Joy through the 205 mile trek. The endeavor began for Bingle in 2007 as a tribute to her mother, Joyce Kaup, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which she succumbed to later that year. Team Joy, which raises money for Gilda’s Club in Seattle, was born in 2009.

“It’s going to be a really amazing year … as far as support and people being aware of us and what we’re doing,” Bingle said. “I think it’s going to be an epic year. To me, it’s more about (the cause) than the ride anymore.”

And it was impossible to miss Team Joy as they rode in custom jerseys featuring Bingle’s mother on the back as well as teal and pink tutus.

Most of Team Joy started at Bingle’s house in Black Diamond and rode the Cedar River Trail to meet up with the official route in Renton near Interstate 405.

“It works out to be the same mileage and it gives us a chance to warm up,” Bingle said. “And we have enough support that we can do our own thing.”

Bingle said Team Joy’s support squad allowed the group to ride the STP without relying on the official stops on the route which made it a bit less stressful.

For Vicki Freelund, a member of Team Joy, one of the appealing reasons was to cross the STP off her list.

“I just took the season off from softball,” Freelund said. “And I said I was going to do a ton of other stuff this year. Riding the STP was one of those things. Laura has always been an inspiration for me and I said, ‘This is it, this is my year.’”

Freelund is active. She walks and does hot yoga. In fact, a few weeks ago she walked the Rock and Roll half marathon in Seattle. She also did the Columbia Tower Stair Climb earlier this year. But, training to ride the STP was all about the right approach mentally.

“The training has been, I’ll be honest, it was a little slow,” Freelund said. “I live in Auburn and everybody else lived in Maple Valley or Tacoma so I had to get on the bike by myself every chance that I could go. I have to hold myself accountable and I have to get on that bike.”

There were days when Freelund’s bike training was her third workout of the day after a long walk first thing in the morning and a hot yoga session.

It certainly pushed Freelund.

“About a month ago, I tried to quit,” Freelund said. “And (Laura) literally wouldn’t let me quit. I’m glad for that. For me, it was just a mental game, this whole ride. Physically, they keep telling me I’m probably in the best shape of anybody on the team.”

Finally, Freelund said, after feeling some stress about the STP a few days before Team Joy set off she decided to pray about it.

“I’ve trained. I’ve done everything I can,” Freelund said. “I’ve got to turn it over to my higher power and know I’ll be taken care of. I am good enough, I am worthy, I can do this.”

And Freelund said she plans to never do it again, but, Bingle told her she would be hooked.

Bingle’s sister Jeanne Kaup Jones has found a whole different effect from riding the STP. In her fundraising letter, Jones outlined how her life has changed.

“As you know, in the last few years since I lost my mom, Joyce, to ovarian cancer, I have drastically changed my lifestyle,” Jones wrote in her letter. “I have begun eating right, exercising and trying my best to live life to the fullest. I have challenged myself most on my bicycle. So far, I have managed to lose 100 pounds, ride from Seattle to Portland four times and become a happier person.”

With the ride behind them, Team Joy is preparing for its annual auction, a fun little shindig at Bingle’s house on Lake Sawyer to raise money for Gilda’s Club.

Gilda’s Club Seattle, founded in 2002, offers free services and support to anyone affected by cancer. According to the Seattle facility’s website, “Gilda’s Club is named in honor of Gilda Radner, who, when describing the emotional and social support she received when she had cancer, called for such places of participation, education, hope and friendship to be made available for people with cancer and their families and friends everywhere.”

Bingle has become a major supporter of the Seattle facility. She asks that members of the team raise $300 somehow, which will go to Gilda’s Club, and there a number of ways to do that. In addition, Bingle hosts a fundraiser at her home every year, just a little party at her house in July, as she described it. A year ago $17,000 was raised at her little party.

Prior to the STP, Bingle said she was a bit nervous about the party because of the trip, so she encourages anyone who is interested in donating or attending to check out the Facebook page for the event which can be found by searching Team Joy Rocks.

The party is set for Saturday evening. There will be food, drink and entertainment including Sealth which is made up of folks from Dace’s Rock and More Music Academy. Entry is $25.

There will also be riders serving as guest bartenders who will be featured for an hour.

“They have their specialty drink,” Bingle said. “These are riders who have developed some sort of funky concoction. They’re encouraged to dress in costume, bring props. That was a real big hit last year.”

There are some sweet auction items such as getaways, Seahawks gear signed by Golden Tate, and much more.

More than the ride, though, Freelund said, doing the STP is about keeping the spirit of Bingle’s mother alive.

“She had such a wonderful spirit,” Freelund said. “When you meet Laura and her brothers and her sisters, you can see it shining through. Laura is just continuing that vivaciousness of life and you want to be around her, you want to be part of her team.”


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