Columbia County cyclists have a lot to be excited about.
The Columbia Century Challenge, celebrated as "an all new bike odyssey through the historic backroads of beautiful Columbia County" on its website, cyclecolumbiacounty.com, is a three-route odyssey scheduled to begin and end at Spencer City Park in Vernonia on Saturday, June 17.
The Challenge was voted the second-best in the state after the Tour de Fronds (Powers) by ORbike.com in January.
"The idea behind [the Challenge] was in hopes of creating an event that Columbia County does not have, to highlight the communities, and in the hopes that people would come out to boost the economies," said Paul Barlow of Cycle Columbia County, who will be on hand to assist riders. "The first year was pretty successful, and it looks like this year will double the money to put back into the community. There isn't a lot of traffic, and it's a beautiful place to cycle and to showcase these communities and give them a chance to host a rest stop."
The primary ride, the Century Plus, is a 119-mile loop elevating nearly 6,500 feet through Mist, Clatskanie, Rainier, Columbia City, St. Helens and Scappoose.
The Metric Century Plus is an 86-mile loop rising approximately 4,000 feet through Columbia City, St. Helens and Scappoose.
The Century Plus and the Metric Century Plus can be ridden without gravel, and in case of emergency call 971-225-6090, and ham radios are available for ease of communication at each rest station.
The 40-Mile Gravel Ride, with a two-mile uphill climb, spans commercial timberland along the Columbia River mainline logging road.
The course opens at 6 a.m., and Century Plus riders are encouraged to begin no later than 7 a.m., and Metric Century and 40-mile gravel bikers should depart no later than 9 a.m.
For a limited time, riders may register himself or herself and another for the price of one with the promo code CCC17 at the Challenge's website.
Riders from Ohio and California have already signed up.
Rest stops, aid stations and free morning coffee greet riders, food and snacks are available at the starting line and at aid stations, and each aid station includes a restroom.
All proceeds strengthen bike friendliness, cycling safety and infrastructure in favor of local bicycling.