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By Karen Kefauver
April 18, 2014
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Cyclists head through the redwoods during one stretch of the annual Mountain Charlie Challenge. This year's ride is scheduled for May 3. (Scotts Valley Educational Fund - Contributed)An English teacher at Scotts Valley Middle School, John Magliato has devoted himself to teaching in Scotts Valley for the past 23 years. But he’s not just helping his students in the classroom.

For half those years, Magliato has been putting rubber to pavement to raise money for the town’s schools. He’ll do so again on May 3, when he joins a pack of bicyclists as they roll out of Skypark in Scotts Valley to participate in the 12th Mountain Charlie Challenge, an event that raises money for the Scotts Valley Educational Fund.

“I think I am the only one who has done it for all 11 years since it started,” Magliato said. “I remember when there were only 13 people participating, and it has slowly grown.”

The exercise and the benefit for Scotts Valley schools gives cyclists cause to smile during the annual Mountain Charlie Challenge. This year's ride is scheduled for May 3. (Scotts Valley Educational Fund - Contributed)Derek Timm, who volunteers as president of the SVEF, said he hopes to have more than 200 riders participate in this year’s event. More riders translates to more funds raised to keep valuable educational resources afloat.

“We raised a little over $30,000 in 2013,” Timm said. “This past year’s funds were used to keep the libraries open at each of the schools, provide counseling services and support the GLAD program (one of the school’s cutting-edge education programs).”

Stella Carey, a Scotts Valley High math teacher for the past eight years, is a former professional racer who notes she doesn’t do many organized rides. But, the Felton resident makes an exception for this one.

“This ride definitely makes a difference,” said Carey, 42, who will saddle up for the challenge for the fourth time this year. “I buy supplies, equipment and a lot of batteries, too, for calculators.

“It’s nice to let the kids know I am out there biking. I also get to see parents. It’s a community thing that I like.”
The exercise and the benefit for Scotts Valley schools gives cyclists cause to smile during the annual Mountain Charlie Challenge.

In addition to participants, the event has grown in options. It offers five rides, ranging from 1 to 100 miles intended to include cyclists of all skill levels. The 1-mile ride is meant for kids ages 10 and under; the 10-mile ride includes a climb up Bean Creek Road and the 50-kilometer ride features local hills and valleys. Those hills and valleys are doubled, or more, in the challenging 100k and 100-mile distances.

“I think it serves a dual purpose because everyone involved knows it is a healthy, fun activity and it is for a great cause,” said Magliato, who plans to ride the 100-mile route. “Scotts Valley is a great place for a ride because it shows off some of the back roads of our county that not many people get a chance to see. There are not that many places or events where you can ride through the redwoods, climb to the top of a mountain and enjoy ocean vistas all in the same day.”

Mountain Charlie is the pinnacle of local 100k and 100-mile rides. Known for its five miles of steep, challenging turns and narrow, bumpy roadway, the mountain is not only a favorite among skilled cyclists, but also boasts a rich history. It was named for Charles Henry “Mountain Charlie” McKiernan (1825-1892), a native Irishman who was a pioneer, rancher and all-round colorful character. He has gone down in lore for battling a grizzly bear to protect his livestock.

For Magliato, tackling the 100-mile route at the Mountain Charlie Challenge is indeed a bear of a ride. He focuses on training and preparation ahead of time.

“You have to be very specific in your training,” the 50-year-old said. “I train for distance and do a lot of endurance rides. I also do anaerobic rides indoors on the trainer, which means doing hard sprints.”

When he is outside, the Santa Cruz resident enjoys riding some of the steepest hills in the county and also rides in the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge in July. Beginning and ending at Scotts Valley High, it covers much of the same territory but aims for gaining the most altitude of any local event.

Though his 100-mile ride on May 3 will take between five and six hours and starts at 7 a.m., Magliato says it is well worth it for him.

“The organizers work really hard to put on this event,” he said. “This is my way to pay back, and it’s enjoyable.”

For more information, visit: www.svef.net/events/mountain-charlie-challenge

Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz. Also view her stories on the Sentinel’s Out and About blog at www.santacruzsentinelcom/blogs.

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