It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which means two things: people are finally awakening from their food-induced comas and it’s time for the annual Dirty Dozen ride/race. The race is celebrating its 35th year, and perhaps more importantly, it is celebrating the return of its co-founder and longtime face of the event, Danny Chew. Missing last year’s event after suffering a crash that left Chew paralyzed from the chest down, his return was an emotional one. As he was greeted by over 400 riders and volunteers, the contrast of moods between this year and last was an obvious one. Chew chatted excitedly with the riders; his trademark high-pitched ramblings could be heard around the Bud Harris Cycling Track as the event waited for its start.
The Dirty Dozen is a carnival of bikes on the streets of Pittsburgh. Riders from all over descend on the city with hopes of ascending 13 of its steepest hills. What began as a small group of friends testing each other in the winter months has turned into a full-blown cycling event that is a destination for many. Men, women, children, hand-cycles and a unicycle all took their chances against these monstrous slopes. These hills are steep and then they get steeper. By the time the riders reach Canton Avenue, the unofficial steepest hill in the world, they are well aware that these hills are no joke! Having already clawed their way up 8 rugged climbs, including what many feel to be the hardest on Suffolk Street in Pittsburgh’s Northside, the party and refreshments at the top of Canton were a welcomed sight.
Participants were greeted with clear skies and mild temperatures, likely aiding in the record attendance this year. Ian Baun went on to win his second consecutive Dirty Dozen and his third overall, and Stef Sydlik also took home her third overall win in the women’s category. While riders enjoyed the day of camaraderie and physical exhaustion, it was Chew who benefitted most. Friends and family of Chew know how much this day meant to him, to return back to his favorite day of the year. It was another milestone in what has been a long year for Chew; this past weekend was a huge lift for his mental state, remarked a relative. Chew is aware that he faces a long uphill battle, but let’s face it, long uphill battles are where Danny Chew excels.