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On Father’s Day weekend, June 13-15, bicycle riders of all ages and skill levels can pump through the summertime beauty of Red River Gorge. Participate in the 2008 Cycle the Gorge Rally and Battle of the Byway Races in what is collectively being called Tour of the Red River Gorge.

“This ride is so beautiful, they made it a National Scenic Byway,” says Cliff Cantrell, who’s promoting the events with his wife, Sherry. “People can see world-class cyclists, ride the routes they ride, and still just have a relaxing family ride.”

And to celebrate the special day, all dads ride free with a child’s paid registration.

There are two different riding events: Cycle the Gorge Rally features fun rides of various distances and routes, complete with maps, SAG (support and gear) in case of mechanical or physical breakdowns, and rest stops with water and snacks. The Battle of the Byway Races, on the other hand, draw those lean athletes in bright-colored bodysuits you see zooming along the highway.

For the first time, this year’s Gorge races will be the sole U.S. qualifiers for the 2008 UCI Junior Road World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa, where the top finisher in the men’s and women’s 17-18 road race will be eligible to compete with the U.S. Junior National Team. It will also be the only Under 23 women’s event in the U.S. this year. The top three Under 23 women in the road race and time trial will receive automatic invitations and a travel stipend to USA Cycling’s Women’s National Talent Identification Camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also on hand will be top college cyclists, who will ride in a collegiate criterium exhibition.

Spectators can picnic on a raised, grassy knoll right in the middle of the criterium course, with a clear view of the .7-mile closed-loop circuit where as many as 70 riders circle for 20-60 minutes.

Cantrell laughs. “It’s like being in the infield at NASCAR.”

Considered one of the top five courses in the country, Kentucky’s 84-mile road race is tough, says former competitor Mike Hewitt, owner of 2WheelSports in New Albany, Indiana, and this year’s race day manager. “If I were racing, I’d be hurting.”

Pleasure pumpers, however, can relax and pedal the flat, pretty road from Stanton to Natural Bridge State Resort Park, where you can corral your bike, ride the skylift, hike, swim, play putt-putt, and eat at the lodge before cycling back to complete the 35-mile, easy round-trip later that afternoon. Bring your appetite to a Friday night spaghetti supper and Saturday night barbecue.

In conjunction with the Gorge rides, several neighboring communities will host weekend Pedals & Blooms Festivals, with arts and crafts, live entertainment, and food.

“Ours is a true artisans’ festival, not a flea market,” says Beattyville City Council member Joanne Dunaway, chair of the Downtown Beattyville Alliance. Among its slew of events is the Slowest Bike Race, with a prize for the slowest across the finish line.

An 84-mile rally event includes an overnight camping option. You can check your gear, ride to Beattyville, and claim it that night. If you attend the festival, those friendly folks will keep your purchases for later pick up.

“We decorate the town for our festival,” says Stanton Mayor Dale Allen. “We hang bicycle wheels on poles, and businesses put decorated bikes out front. We’re delighted to have the races here.”

Powell County Judge Darren Farmer agrees. “As an economically distressed county, we rely on adventure tourism, and cycling is a major part of that. All of our local businesses benefit from these events.”

Lexingtonian Mark Parker, team director for McDonald’s Cycle Team, has participated in the race since its inception in 2006, and will ride on that team come June.

“It’s an enjoyable event not just because the race is good and the scenery is spectacular, but because of the way the city of Stanton supports it,” he says. “You don’t see that very often.”

“I think initially the community didn’t know what to expect from all these cyclists,” says Paul Embs, president and CEO of Clark Energy Cooperative, “but now they look forward to it every year. It’s a clean, healthy event that showcases the Gorge.”

Some 400 folks participated in the weekend rally and races last year, so pump up your tires, grab your dad, and join the fun. Check the Web site below for a ton of overnight options. A host housing coordinator can assist in arranging shared lodging.



CYCLE, COMPETE, OR SPECTATE

Whether you’re pleasure pedaling, seriously cycling, or simply watching the spectacle, here’s what’s happening June 13-15 at the Tour of the Red River Gorge:

CYCLE THE GORGE RALLY
Includes noncompetitive events for any level of pleasure cyclist:
Family Fun Ride—variable routes and distances for folks who don’t ride often. There’s a 35-mile round-trip ride from Stanton to Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Or choose a 50-, 62- (100K), 84-, or 100-mile route that goes through the historic 900-foot-long Nada Tunnel (the 84- or 100-mile route offers overnight camping option).
Rally Ride—100-mile route for fit participants who cycle regularly.
Registration fees: before June 6, $20 one day or $25 two days; before June 13, $25 one day or $30 two days; day of the event $35 for one day, $40 for two days.

COMPETITIVE EVENTS
Battle of the Byway Road Race
Red River Time Trials
Red River Criteriums (The criterium is approximately a 45-minute race around a .7-mile, highly technical oval course.)
Collegiate Criteriums

Find information on all events, go online at www.cyclethegorge.com
or call (800) 628-8217.

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