The area’s longest-lasting bicycle event will be held next weekend as the Three Rivers Velo Sport Club presents the 51st edition of the Summit City Cycling Challenge.
More than 200 riders are expected to take part, starting with a 6:30 p.m. city trail tour from the parking lot across from Plymouth Congregational Church. That ride is for recreational and leisurely purposes, but the more serious rides start Saturday morning.
Riders will gather at Sweetwater Sound for an 8 a.m. start for distances of 20, 42, 62 and 100 miles centered around a stop at Columbia City’s Morsches Park. The majority of the riders are expected to participate in this ride. The 100-mile ride includes a visit to Loon Lake.
The event finishes Sunday at the St. Joe Valley Conservation Club with gravel rides of 18 and 22 miles with about 40 participants expected. The first race of this kind drew 20 riders last year.
In its 53rd year, the club has more than 300 members, according to Chairperson Mona Will, with about 200 riders expected to participate in the event.
“We are calling it the challenge because we want it to be whatever distance a person wants to choose to challenge themselves,” Will said. “For new riders, 20 miles would be a huge challenge.
“Then there are the seasoned cyclists who just want to prove to themselves they can still do the 100 and try to better their time from one year to the next.”
The cost for Friday’s trail ride is $10 but is free with registration to one of the other two weekend rides.
Early registration costs $45 for the road ride and $35 for the gravel ride or $70 for both. Registration next weekend will cost $50 and $40 or a combined $80.
All finishers will receive a finishing medal with a designation of the route they chose. There are a handful of participants who have been riding in this event more than 30 years.
Long-time club member Phil Snider has been involved with the ride for most of its 53 years.
This will be the third year the road race has started at the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion, which includes facilities for showers.
Last year, 175 riders signed up for the road race, but poor weather and rain meant about 100 were able to finish. Some had to shorten their distances.
The three events were also offered for the first time last year.
“We try to make this ride something pretty much for everyone,” Will said. “There are many disciplines of riding in the club.
“Gravel riding is a hot ticket now, and we wanted to be one of the first ones on the area to offer it as an organized ride.”
There will be three or four support vehicles along the route with ham radio operators serving as spotters.
Traditionally, the event has been part of the Three Rivers Festival, but the date needed to be moved this summer because of scheduling availability with Morsches Park and the Tour de Lakes scheduled in Syracuse on July 16.