Colorado’s largest fundraising bicycle ride for scholarships began humbly enough, with two men brainstorming as they took a long ride for a children’s charity.
As they huffed up and glided down three mountain passes, they resolved to start their own ride for a great cause: scholarships for students at the University of Colorado Boulder. They’d call it the Buffalo Bicycle Classic.
“Most people thought it was a goofy idea, certainly not the norm in higher education fundraising,” recalled Todd Gleeson, professor emeritus of integrative physiology and, later, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Gleeson’s riding partner was Woody Eaton (DistSt’62), a businessman, investor and philanthropist. They enlisted the help of Frank Banta (EPOBio’72), owner of Banta Construction, and Gail Mock, a local realtor, dean’s advisory board member and longtime university supporter. They were the nucleus, but they weren’t alone.
After recruiting others, they sought expert counsel before diving into the surprisingly complex decisions about bike routes, event permits, volunteer coordination, numbers and sizes of T-shirts, food donations and adequate distribution of Port-O-Lets.
The inaugural event in 2003 drew 500 riders who rode one of four routes and raised $25,000 for scholarships. Since then, the Buff Bike Classic has raised more than $3.7 million and supported more than 450 scholarship students.
This Sept. 11 is the 20th anniversary event. It has a wide range of routes: five relatively flat road routes range from 14 to 100 miles; two “epic” routes reach 75 and 100 miles with up to 8,800 feet of elevation gain; and two gravel events — a 42-mile flattish “Dirty Buff” and a 55-mile “Dirty Epic,” with 5,900 feet of climbing.
Gleeson, who recently passed the ride’s leadership baton to Paul Beale, a fellow rider and CU Boulder physics professor, still volunteers his time for the ride, but emphasizes that it’s not about the bike.
The Buffalo Bicycle Classic provides scholarships to students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
One recipient, Metkel Tewelde (IntPhys’24), said, “I am beyond grateful to have been awarded this scholarship. [It] will help me financially and mentally, meaning, I have less worries…and I can focus more on my schoolwork.”
“That’s what keeps me motivated,” Gleeson said.
Find more information or register at the Buffalo Bicycle Classic website.
Photos by Allen Krughoff