A group of Ahwatukee residents are preparing to hit the road and terrain of the Verde Valley north of Phoenix next weekend.

Cycling nearly 100 miles to benefit the MS Society for multiple sclerosis through the event Ride the Vortex, participants will raise money for research of the nervous system disease.

“It’s helping to raise money to help patients keep moving, which is so impactful,” said one of the team captains, Michelle Kelly.

After participating in the ride for the past six years, Kelly said every year is a great experience for her. Since meeting fellow riders with multiple sclerosis, she has a better understanding of what the effort means to those diagnosed.

“For them, riding is what keeps their multiple sclerosis at bay, it’s an incredible feeling to participate,” said Kelly, who lives in Ahwatukee.

On May 18 and 19, riders can pick their course level, the top being the 100-mile ride, and bike through the Verde Valley. The ride has been hosted by the MS Society for more than 25 years. Last year, Kelly said about 1,000 cyclists were part of the ride.

Stations for food, water, and even bike repair are set up for cyclists every 15 miles or so.

A training ride was hosted recently at Global Bikes, 3636 E. Ray Road in Ahwatukee, where teams rode through the Foothills and along Pecos Road in preparation, totaling about 45 miles.

Training ride leader Charlie Gerhardt said the Ahwatukee area serves as good training ground, with similar hills and flat roads like those in the Verde Valley.

Leading the training ride for the past 10 years, Gerhardt has participated in the ride nearly every year it has been in existence.

“At first, I just started it as a challenge,” said Gerhardt, who will be riding his homemade, 6-foot-tall bike this year. Now a seasoned rider for the event, he said he has seen how far the ride has progressed research and awareness for the disease.

“Now, I go out and just enjoy it. My goal this year is to raise $3,000 for the MS Society,” he said.

According to the MS Society, about 8,000 Arizona residents are diagnosed with multiple-sclerosis.

“There is no cure, so the local chapter here provides a lot of services and funding,” Kelly said.

For more information about the ride, visit bikeaza.nationalmssociety.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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