Sports

Take the Tour de Whidbey challenge

Weekend pedalers or serious racers, pay attention. Whidbey Island now has its very own bike race and tour.

On Sept. 28 and 29, bicycle Whidbey at your own speed -- either at race or tour pace -- in the Tour de Whidbey. The event benefits a number of organizations that support special services at Whidbey General Hospital.

This inaugural Tour de Whidbey event features two events:

n A one-day, 80-mile unofficial timed bike race from Deception Pass to the town of Langley.

n A casual, two-day tour over the same course with opportunities to sightsee and enjoy Whidbey Island's spectacular vistas.

Health information, food and fun centers will aid participants in starting their rides in the best way possible. The centers will be at Oak Harbor, Coupeville, the Greenbank Farm, Freeland Park and Langley. There, riders can receive massages, blood pressure checks, and education on fitness, health and safety.

The Tour de Whidbey course is generally flat on the northern portion of the island, then turns rolling and outright hilly from Coupeville south. The course follows Whidbey's scenic side roads, keeping riders off Highways 525 and 20 except for a few highway crossings.

After its start at Deception Pass, the route meanders over dozens of roads, including Troxel and Taylor roads in the north, Madrona and North Bluff roads near Coupeville, and Resort, Saratoga and Maxwelton roads in the south. Riders will pass some of Whidbey's most beautiful beaches and will cruise through Oak Harbor and Coupeville, past the Greenbank Farm, and through Freeland and the city of Langley before finishing in South Whidbey Community Park.

According to Kim Helpenstell, coordinator of Tour de Whidbey events, the field for the bike race will be limited to 200 riders or fewer. Up to 300 bicyclists may register for the two-day tour. Registration opened Aug. 5.

Food and water stations will be placed at 15- to 20-mile intervals, with emergency bike repairs and first-aid stations available along the route. On the ride itself, riders will get support and services from local bicycle shops, as well as the Gold Wing Motorcycle Club and emergency medical technicians at health centers in Oak Harbor and Coupeville, and at the Greenbank Farm, Freeland Park and Community Park.

Sponsors for the event are Pacific Northwest Bank and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. Additional sponsors are also being invited to participate.

Race winners will be awarded prize packages, which are under development at this time. All participants will receive Tour de Whidbey T-shirts, course map booklets, and camping and accommodations information.

The Whidbey General Foundation Guilds of Whidbey Hospital Auxiliary and Friends of Home Health & Hospice will benefit from the funds raised by Tour de Whidbey.

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