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Community participation in the Bitter Root Land Trust’s Tour of the Bitterroot helps keep the Bitterroot open and beautiful. The fundraising bicycle rides and events will be Sunday, July 17. An early bird discount to register ends after July 10.

Emy Royce, program administrator, said the seventh annual bicycling event is a fun and fulfilling experience for everyone.

“People should ride because it is a community event that supports open lands in the Bitterroot Valley,” Royce said. “It is a chance to celebrate open lands, agriculture, water resources and wildlife habitat. All proceeds go to the Bitter Root Land Trust whose mission is protecting these special resources.”

Participation in the Tour of the Bitterroot is for all ages and abilities.

The Skalkaho Mountain tour is for age 15 and up. It begins at 7 a.m. and is a heart-pounding 48-mile non-competitive ride with a 3,600 foot elevation gain that tests mountain-biking skills and gives stunning views of the Sapphire and Bitterroot mountain ranges.

The Sleeping Child Ride has a rolling start from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and is a great ride for family and friends to go at a more leisurely speed and self-determined distance.

“The Sleeping Child Ride is out and back for a total of 20 miles but you can turn around at any point,” Royce said. “A lot of families do that, maybe they just want to ride for an hour and have the barbecue and kids ride.”

Both rides have aid stations with snacks, water and sports drinks. Lost Trail Ski Patrol volunteers are on-hand and the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital will stage an ambulance at Red Barn Bicycles.

“Helmets are required, routes are marked, and we encourage everyone to stay on the course so they can be safe,” Royce said. “We have a vehicle to follow the last rider for convenience and safety. Most riders finish around noon and we do have some that come closer to 1 p.m. It depends on heat of the day and the rider’s skill levels.”

The Kidz Dirt Road Derby is a free ride for kids 12 and under in two different groups, preschool and older. It starts at 1:30 p.m.

“The youngest kids have short races in front of Red Barn and the older kids compete in a race that is a mile long around McCarthy Loop,” Royce said. “Everyone cheers for them and they receive free T-shirts and little award medals.”

Some of the best reasons to participate in the event include a barbecue lunch of pulled pork at noon served with local brews and live, local music by Pinegrass.

“Anyone can come to the barbecue,” Royce said. “We encourage all family members to come and support their rider and make a $10 donation to pay for lunch. The cost of lunch is included in the registration fee for riders.”

The fundraising aspect of the ride is collecting pledges and raising awareness for the land trust. Registered bicyclists are eligible for prizes and the money collected helps the land trust with their mission.

“Our lead rider raised $9,200 in pledges last year and I think he just made his goal of $10,000,” Royce said. “This year we have a great way for everyone to get pledges. It’s our 20th year and we’re encouraging all riders to get 20 pledges at $20.”

Royce said the Bitter Root Land Trust has 45 volunteers, board members and staff ready for the Tour of the Bitterroot.

“We have the support of 50 businesses from a great cross section of the community,” she said. “It really shows how supportive the community is of our mission.”

Early registration of $35 ends July 10, beginning July 11 registration is $50, register online at tourofthebitterroot.org. To volunteer, contact Emy Royce at Bitterroot Land Trust at 406-375-0956.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic