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Ham Radio Volunteers Support Communications for Tour de Lincoln Bicycle Event

11/17/2021

Twenty-two radio amateurs from the Western Placer Amateur Radio Club (WPARC) in Lincoln, California, provided communications and other support for the Rotary Club of Lincoln Tour de Lincoln charity bicycle event on October 30. The Tour de Lincoln consists of three routes — 25-kilometer, 50-kilometer, and 100-kilometer rides through the hills of Lincoln, California. At least 425 riders participated in this year’s event, with 230 of them on the 100-kilometer route. The mayor of Lincoln participated in the 50-kilometer ride. This was the 14th year that WPARC volunteers have supported the event.

“Our goal is to help the cyclists, their support crews, and their families have a safe and enjoyable event,” said Roger Brunnquell, K6OU, the club coordinator for the event. “Similar to a real emergency event, we have to be flexible in our planning and execution.” In addition to communication, the WPARC radio operators are able to help with basic bicycle repairs or to transport a broken bike and/or an overly fatigued rider back to base. The participating ham radio operators get to dust off their event and emergency communication skills by providing support, which Brunnquell said is greatly appreciated by the riders and the Lincoln community.

The WPARC K6PAC repeater serves as the communications backbone, with two alternate repeaters in the area available for tactical and emergency use.

“This year, we had 14 support and gear (SAG) units on the course and hams at the three rest stops,” Brunnquell said. “All ham radio vehicles on the course and at rest stops bore SAG signs printed on bright orange cardstock so riders could flag them for help,” he explained.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously, but have a lot of fun at the same time. One of our rules as a club is that we never leave [our assigned positions] as long as there is a rider on the course,” said Michael Buck, K6BUK, who leads the net control team for the event. “At net control, we log the time and content of every communication.

The Net Control Station (NCS) was located at the event’s base and the riders’ starting and ending point. The experienced team of three net control operators set up a station, ran the event, and interacted with the event director, from coordinating vehicle rollout to staffing rest-stop relay stations, checking out first aid and mechanical kits, and preparing for the event.

Many of the WPARC radio operators have been helping with the event for over 10 years. “Every year we add a few new radio operators, which helps our continuity of operations for the subsequent years,” Brunnquell emphasized. “But what makes the amateur radio portion of the event so successful is those who come back year after year. They know the routine, they just need updates, course changes, and additional training determined from the last year.” After the event, the volunteers evaluate what went well and what improvements are needed.

Rotary Club of Lincoln Event Director Bryan Ludwig told Brunnquell that some riders said the ham radio support was an order of magnitude better than what they had experienced in other cycle events and made them feel safe. — Thanks to Frank Boardman, K1FMB    



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