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Rolling by the river

Ride the Rogue, Southern Oregon’s premier cycling event, will have a few new twists and turns, according to Julia Hendricks, this year’s event coordinator.

After a hiatus in 2016, the fall classic will return this September, and for the first time all routes and rest stops will be along the Rogue River.

With the changes, the ride lives up to its billing and is “truly a ride along the Rogue,” Hendricks said.

The Rogue River Greenway Foundation board and the Ride the Rogue crew have worked very hard “to meet the needs of riders, and create a good cycling experience,” she added.

Organizers are gearing up for 1,200 cyclists from every corner of Oregon, other states, Canada and Mexico.

Ride the Rogue is the main fundraiser for the proposed 30-mile Rogue River Greenway project between the city of Grants Pass and Central Point, and an opportunity to spotlight the scenic beauty of the Rogue River Recreational Corridor. The ultimate goal is to link up with the Bear Creek Greenway and create a 50-mile paved walking and cycling path from Ashland to Grants Pass.

Hendricks said Ride the Rogue features the only century ride in Southern Oregon, and she believes it's the only fundraiser in Oregon for the construction of walking and cycling paths.

“(The ride) is such a great way to raise money,” she said, acknowledging the efforts of the founding Greenway board.

Proceeds from previous Ride the Rogue events have given the Greenway Foundation leverage when applying for state and federal dollars. More than seven miles of the Greenway trail have been completed, with another 2.5 miles on the drawing board for completion by 2021.

Cyclists this year will pedal over paths already paved between the cities of Rogue River and Gold Hill, and the century and metric riders will get a sneak preview of a few of the proposed sections of the final Greenway project between Gold Hill and Central Point.

The ninth-nearly-annual event is set for Sept. 23, a week after Cycle Oregon. Ride the Rogue was cancelled in 2016 so as not to compete with Cycle Oregon, a weeklong recreational ride that traversed part of Southern Oregon last September.

Another obstacle has been recruiting an event coordinator. Plans for this year’s ride were stalled until Hendricks agreed to step in. The first thing on her agenda was changing the routes and setting up new rest stops.

Hendricks, who has been a cyclist for more than a decade, enlisted her husband, Don, a Rogue River Greenway board member and owner of Don’s Bike Shop in Grants Pass, to chart a course that kept all four stages of the ride in view of the Rogue River.

The couple, who also coordinate annual weekend cycling excursions for their customers, kept cyclists’ comfort and sense of adventure in mind.

Hendricks, who does a least one century ride a year, said the new century and metric routes are less strenuous than previous years

The century (99-mile), metric (62-mile), 40-mile and 20-mile rides will still begin and end at Palmerton Park Arboretum in the city of Rogue River. Starting times will be staggered, with the century riders heading out first at 7 a.m., and the 20-milers last at 10 a.m.

The scenic beauty of the Rogue Valley is what keeps cyclists returning each year to Ride the Rogue, she said.

“My husband and I have taken bike trips through France and Italy,” she said. “And aside from the cultural experience of those places, they have nothing on us. The scenery here is spectacular.”

Lunch will be provided for those who register for the century and metric rides; all riders will have an opportunity to refuel at the rest stops along the way.

The post-ride celebration at Palmerton Park includes a gourmet feast, beer garden and live music on the shady lawns along Evans Creek.

Registration is $50 for the century ride, $40 for the metric, $35 for the 40-mile, and $30 for the 20-mile. Tickets for the gourmet feast are $12 per person. Food will be served from noon to 5 p.m.

Hendricks has added another twist to the event to encourage early registration and increase participation. Riders who register by June 30 will earn 20 points; those who register in July will receive 10 points. And every rider will collect points when they check in at the rest stops. The highest point rider for each route will win a cash prize — $100 for the century, $75 for the metric, $50 for the 40-mile and $25 for the 20-mile.

Hendricks stressed that the point system does not mean the ride is now a race.

“It’s just one more element to generate more fun,” she said. “Ride the Rogue is still not a race, it’s a ride.”

And she’s hoping a cycling adventure.

“I really want riders to get a glimpse of the wildlife along the Rogue … maybe even see a bald eagle.”

Ride the Rogue organizers are still recruiting volunteers for this year’s event. Also, the Rogue River Greenway Foundation would like to add more members to its board. Board meetings are held at 6 p.m. the third Monday of every month at the Rogue River Fire Department, 5474 N. River Road. The next meeting is set for June 19.

To register for Ride the Rogue, email Denise Fields at denisef@roguerivergreenway.org. For additional event details, email Julia Hendricks at rubyerider@gmail.com.

Additional information about the Rogue River Greenway project can be found at www.roguerivergreenway.org

— Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at tammyasnicar@q.com.

Ride the Rogue coordinator Julia Hendricks said the annual biking event has added new scenic routes along the Rogue River this year. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]