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(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Alice Telford, the founder of Little Red Riding Hood bike race, is 90. The race she began now draws 3,500 women each June to northern Cache Valley. They raised $150,000 Saturday for cancer research. She takes her bike up the elevator as she prepares to go for a ride near her home in Salt Lake City, May 31, 2014.
Utah woman, 90, inspires others to stay fit through cycling

First Published Jun 07 2014 03:22 pm • Last Updated Jun 08 2014 01:09 pm

Lewiston » Some people collect Olympic pins. Others go for stamps.

But Alice Telford? She collects people.

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And many of them, judging from those she encountered at the 26th annual Little Red Riding Hood cycling event Friday night and Saturday, are middle-aged women.

"She’s a ball of fire," said Chris Helfrich, who met Telford at her mother’s funeral five years ago. Telford, now 90, was a high school classmate of Helfrich’s mother.

"I saw what kind of shape she was in and I said ‘I want to follow this woman!’"

And she did.

Telford encouraged Helfrich, then 60, to take up cycling, and she rode Little Red — an all-women event Telford founded in 1988 — on Saturday for the fourth time.

The ride is the Bonneville Cycling Club’s biggest annual event, and raised about $150,000 this year for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Women secured donations and rode distances from 27 miles to 100 miles.

"I say, ‘I want to be her when I grow up,’" said Laurie Googasian.

Telford also drew Sue Benedict into the sport.

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They met after Telford’s knee replacement in the early 2000s, when Telford was using the hot tub at Benedict’s apartment complex. Benedict was a swimmer.

"I started talking and she got into biking," Telford said.

"Now I’m doing seven centuries (100-mile rides) a year," Benedict said.

Tracy Vollrath was already a cyclist when she met Telford at a business luncheon this spring. But when Vollrath expressed dismay that she had been unable to get into Little Red because the club uses a lottery to select the 3,500 riders, Telford gave up her own spot.

Telford was in a car accident three summers ago, and is just beginning to ride again. She did the fundraising, but knew she wouldn’t ride. She even offered to share her Logan motel room with Vollrath, who was too late to get her own room.

Vollrath was in tears Friday night, as she expressed her gratitude. " She takes the time to meet people."

A share of grief »Telford grew up on a farm in Kaysville, where the Utah State University Botanical Center is now, along Interstate 15. She ice-skated on the ponds in winter and rode horses year-round.

She met her husband at Utah State University, and he courted her by taking her bird hunting in the fields and marshes of Cache Valley, memories that were on her mind years later when she founded Little Red.

They married, and had a son, John. But her husband, suffering from rheumatic fever, died in 1950, when John was 4. John died in combat in Vietnam before his 21st birthday.

Telford determined then to take their memories with her, and to not let grief sour her own life.

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