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Dubai: About 7,200 miles from Columbus.
It’s 4 a.m.
Sunrise is a couple hours away, there’s a chill in the air. But it’s gonna get hot, real hot, real soon. Luanna Bicknell – and her bike – are at the 50-mile Al Qudra cycling track. Training for Pelotonia.
“It’s this amazing track in the middle of the desert,” said Luanna, a member of the L Brands – International/La Senza peloton. “All you see is sand.”
When you live in Dubai, have five kids, a full-time job, and it hits 90 degrees by 9 a.m., and soars past 100 degrees soon after, this is when you ride. Unless you like melting.
Luanna – who was born in England and has lived in Spain and Hungary – is one of Pelotonia’s international Riders, a group that includes Riders from seven countries. And yes, there are lots of logistical challenges involved in getting you and your bike to the start of Pelotonia (more on this later). This was Luanna’s third Pelotonia. She rode the 180-mile route in 2015 and 100 miles this year – and had another great ride.
Even the hills.
“I’m not used to hills, Dubai is totally flat,” Luanna said, adding there’s another difference between Ohio and Dubai. “All the corn fields. There are so many corn fields (in Ohio).”
Something else was new to Luanna at her first Pelotonia.
“It’s totally overwhelming, being in the middle of so many people,” she said. “The opening ceremonies were the first time I cried, the first of many times. And all the volunteers, all the people along the route cheering us on, it was overwhelming.”
Luanna is Director, Partner Management for L Brands. Her husband, James, is Managing Director of BackLite Media Dubai. Their children are: Harriet, 19; Florence, 18; Charles, 16; Felix, 11; and Alberta, 10, who are all off in different corners of the world at University and boarding school.
Luanna first learned about Pelotonia from her friend, Jennifer Heitmeyer, a member of the L Brands – International/La Senza peloton. “In 2013, I was on the way to Los Angeles, stopped in Columbus and rode in Pelotonia on a borrowed bike that Jennifer and her husband got for me,” she said.
She now keeps a second bike – her Pelotonia bike – in the Heitmeyer’s garage.
Luanna spent a couple of weeks in Columbus prior to Pelotonia, with Felix and Alberta, who attended Columbus Academy’s summer camp. “They love it here and want to move here,” Mum said.
Harriet also spent some time in Columbus, as a volunteer for Pelotonia and Team Buckeye.
“I knew about Pelotonia because my Mum is in it, so I knew it was a big deal,” Harriet said. “But I didn’t realize it was this big of a deal.”
Harriet helped stuff the goody bags that Riders received. She also helped Karl Koon, Team Buckeye’s Director of Rider Recruitment. She handed out jerseys to Team Buckeye Riders and attended a Pelotonia Fellows luncheon that featured Mike Caligiuri and Doug Ulman.
“When we were handing out the jerseys, I met a woman whose son rode for her five years ago, while she was undergoing her cancer treatment,” said Harriet, who attends college in London. “He said that when you’re better we’ll ride together, and they did this year.”
Harriet is now hooked on Pelotonia. “I want to ride next year,” she said.
Luanna is ready for this training and logistical challenge. “I would love if next year my three oldest ride with me,” she said. “Hopefully we can figure it out.”
Uh-oh Heitmeyers: You better clear out some more space in your garage for bikes.
Steve Wartenberg is a journalist, cyclist and longtime Pelotonia Rider. Steve is one of just a handful who have pedalled every mile of every Pelotonia. This year he is going above and beyond his fundraising efforts as a High Roller! firstname.lastname@example.org.