It’s not about the race. It’s about the ride.
The Huckleberry 100 offers fitness fans another entree for the active lifestyle — pedaling 100, 50 or 25 miles through the scenic mecca of mountains and lakes that make this corner of the state a fashionable destination for recreation.
Nearly 300 riders from across Montana, Washington, Idaho, New Mexico and Canada are registered for the third annual untimed cycling event on Sept. 14, almost 100 more than last year. It is sponsored by Fresh Life Radio, the Christian radio station of Fresh Life Church.
This year includes more family-fun festivities alongside the ride, including a huckleberry pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and a street festival throughout the day on First Avenue East. The festival will feature games and local crafts for kids, local vendors, food, music and more, according to one of the organizers, Amanda Minatra. Online registration at www.active.com closes Sept. 12. On-site registration will be available.
Starting at 8 a.m., cyclists of all ages and skills, from bicycle mavens to budding riders to young families, will embark from downtown Kalispell and wind through all corners of the Flathead Valley.
The century ride — the most popular version of the Huckleberry 100 — sends cyclists to the shores of Flathead Lake, the backyard of Glacier National Park, the green borough of Whitefish and back through the historic heart of Kalispell. This year’s new route escapes more of the urban setting and tours 101.81 miles of the local outdoors, gaining a total ascent of 1,446 feet of elevation.
“You fly along and look up and see the vistas that are in this valley, like Big Mountain, Columbia Mountain and Glacier Park. We’re just surrounded by beauty and the ride can really emphasize that,” says Eric Brandeberry.
Brandeberry achieved a memorable checkmark on his life list after taking part in his first Huckleberry ride last fall. The 38-year-old from Columbia Falls had participated in local races, like the Glacier Challenge and Whitefish Lake Run. But approaching 40, his hips, knees and back were yowling more and more. He didn’t want to give up fitness, so he saddled into a bike.
“It was a little easier on the joints,” he says.
Pretty soon Brandeberry had a group of friends who were meeting regularly for short and long rides throughout the valley. Even though his longest single ride had been barely 70 miles, he signed up for the Huckleberry 100.
“I was certainly nervous,” he says. “It was painful at the end. But after I caught my breath, I felt great. It’s a great event and there’s lots of different groups of speeds you can fall in with. What better way to hang out with people than riding together.”
A year later, cycling is a regular part of Brandeberry’s active lifestyle, and the Huckleberry 100 is an event once again circled on the calendar.
“I’m really looking forward to it and getting ready and watching my diet,” he says.
Volunteers are situated throughout the course along with directional signs, aid stations, mechanics and EMTs. Registered riders receive a swag bag full of goodies, including a Huckleberry 100 water bottle and T-shirt and items from ride sponsors. There will also be a photo finish area at the end of the course.
Along with the three main rides, the Huckleberry 100 also features a family ride of roughly 12 miles.
“We’ve seen consistent growth every year and it’s just really cool to see people from all over participate and hopefully make this a destination ride,” Minatra says.
“We like showing people from out of state how great it is here.”
For more information about the Huckleberry 100, visit www.huckleberry100.com.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.