That’s the traditional French shout of encouragement to cyclists, as they whiz past bystanders in the Tour de France. While that Tour won’t be passing through the Bitterroot any time soon, spectators and cyclists alike have a surprising abundance of cycling events to cheer this weekend.
On Saturday, July 14, the “Ride de Root” navigates from Darby to Stevensville and back, in its second year of offering a 100-mile “century ride” over a beautiful paved course.
Then, on Sunday, July 15, the Bitter Root Land Trust will hold its fourth annual “Tour of the Bitterroot,” a fundraiser for the organization, with a variety of options for cyclists of all ages.
The focus of the latter event is the Skalkaho Mountain Tour, a 46-mile mountain bike ride that departs from Red Barn Bikes on Sleeping Child Road, at 7 a.m. Cyclists will ride up the (paved) Skalkaho Highway to the Skalkaho/Rye road (USFS Road 75), taking to the gravel for a grueling climb up and over the divide, and back into the Sleeping Child drainage. Regaining the pavement below the hot springs, they’ll complete the course riding back to Red Barn Bikes.
Families with young riders may prefer to ride the Sleeping Child Road tour, which is a 20-mile round trip, though they may shorten it and turn around at any point. The route is entirely paved, and aid stations will be located at Old Darby Road and Sleeping Child Farms.
The event is capped at 150 participants, and signups are available right up until departure. Cost is $50 per rider on the Skalkaho Mountain Tour, and $50 per family for the Sleeping Child ride. Helmets are required for all riders.
Riders are encouraged to arrive at 6:30 a.m. to sign-in before the 7 a.m. start.
Several Aid Stations will make sure that the riders are well-fed and hydrated, according the Land Trust’s Emy Royce. The Lost Trail Ski Patrol will provide first-aid support, and the aid stations will have fruit, water, electrolyte drinks, and cookies or other munchables.
Of special interest, both rides will pass the Bell Ranch, off Sleeping Child Road, one of the properties where the Land Trust has negotiated a conservation easement.
The youngest riders, under age 7, will have their own event, the Dirt Road Derby, at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Participants are encouraged to decorate their bikes for a parade.
Rewarding riders at the end of their trail, the Land Trust hosts a barbecue beginning at noon, with beer from the Bitterroot Brewery, and bluegrass music provided by Pinegrass. Non-riders may partake of the barbecue for $5 each.
Riders who raise $100 or more through sponsorships will receive a t-shirt, and those who bring in $500 or more will earn a Mountain HardWear jacket.
For more information, you can reach the Bitter Root Land Trust at 375-0956, or visit www.tourofthebitterroot.org.
Those interested in completing a “century ride,” 100 miles on a single day, should look at the “Ride de Root” event on Saturday, July 14. Such rides are almost a “rite of passage” for serious road cyclists, but ride director Heidi Kaminski noted that the Bitterroot lacked any organized century rides, which are common elsewhere.
A fundraiser for the Darby Booster Club, the ride is a loop that begins and ends in Darby, skirting Hamilton, Corvallis, Victor, and Pinesdale, and passing through Stevensville. The route steers clear of heavily-trafficked roads, with only a short stretch on the Eastside Highway where cyclists mix with vehicles.
“It’s short, and it goes by fast,” assures Kaminski.
Last year saw 30 riders, and this year Kaminski expects that number to double. She suspected that the Bitterroot harbored numerous road riders, but until recently “I don’t think we knew about each other.” Now, group rides are more common.
Saturday’s riders will leave from The Right to Bare Arms gym, at 502 N. Main in Darby. Support will include water and electrolyte drinks, light snacks, and strategically-located bathroom stops. Riders who start out in the cool of the morning can drop off any extra layers at the support stations, to be picked up post-ride. Riders are even welcome to shower afterwards at the gym, but are advised to bring their own towel and toiletries.
A shorter, 42-mile option is also available this year, for those who wish to participate but aren’t ready for a century. That route runs from Darby to Hamilton and back. Both courses are relatively flat, providing a great introduction to longer-distance cycling.
Either option costs $45 per entrant, and the fee includes a t-shirt and admission to the post-ride barbecue. Riders who have already registered need to pick up their ride packets on Friday, from 5-7 p.m., or between 6-6:30 a.m. on Saturday; late registrants may also sign up then, but are not guaranteed a t-shirt.
Riders will depart at 6:30 a.m., and are advised to come prepared for the weather and road conditions. For more information, call Kaminski at 529-7887, or visit www.ridederoot.com.
Kaminski noted that some riders will attempt to ride both events, on Saturday and Sunday, testing their mettle against the heat of a Montana summer and, a day later, a rugged climb.
It’s not the Tour de France — where cyclists average more than 100 miles for 21 days—but it is another indication of a growing population of cyclists, taking advantage of the rewards that the Bitterroot offers to two-wheeled enthusiasts.