Under snowy skies and in temperatures in the high 20s, 206 hardy souls took off shortly after 10 a.m. today for a spin on their bicycles.
Actually, more like a long, hard, tough slog up Pittsburgh's 12 steepest hills -- the 30th annual Dirty Dozen, a 50-mile bike race that includes the famed and feared Canton Hill in Beechview, which, with a gradient of 37 percent, is considered the steepest street in the U.S.
The race, which was founded in 1983 by Danny Chew, his brother Tom and fellow cyclist Bob Gottlieb, attracts people from all over the country.
"This race has some real notoriety," said Christopher Eisenberg, 48, of Baltimore, who did the race for the first time last year. "In the cycling world, there is really nothing quite like it."
Participants must ride up every hill on their own power, without stopping or crashing, in continuous forward motion up the hill. If they don't make it the first time, they can go back down and try again, as many times as they want. The hills include Center Avenue and Guyusata Road in Aspinwall, Sycamore Street in Mount Washington, Suffolk, Hazelton and Burgess streets in the North Side and Welsh Way on the South Side.
What's nice about the race "is that you get all kinds of people here, from messenger bike types to semi pros," said Dan Blumenfeld, 36, of Brighton Heights, who noted that participants are often given several chances to climb a hill if they don't make it the first time.
"There's a real sense of camaraderie, with people cheering each other on."
Mackenzie Carpenter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1949.