Tour de Whatcom gears up

Published on Wed, Jul 17, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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Edited 7/18/13: 

As the best cyclists in the world near the end of the legendary Tour de France, officials and cycling enthusiasts in Whatcom County are gearing up for the 8th annual Tour de Whatcom on Saturday, July 27.

Hundreds of cyclists ride through the most scenic parts of Whatcom County to compete and to raise money. Last year, 980 riders participated and more than $20,000 was raised for local organizations.

This year, the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (WMBC) will be the primary beneficiary of funds from Tour de Whatcom. The WMBC promotes trail access and leads trail builds and maintenance parties on more than 50 miles of mountain biking trails throughout the county.

The Tour de Whatcom is managed by local nonprofit Whatcom Events, the same people who put on the Ski to Sea every year. Director Mel Monkelis said the tour is a feel-good charity fundraiser that not only raises money for local causes, but also gets hundreds of people out on their bikes, enjoying the fresh air on a beautiful bike ride.

“The three routes of the tour are really the most scenic roads in Whatcom County. You get the mountain vistas of Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters range, but you also get the bays, the rivers, the farmhouses, the pastures, the rolling hills and the forest. It’s a wonderful ride,” he said.

Participants can choose to ride 25-mile, 50-mile or 105-mile routes. The 25-mile route takes riders from Fairhaven to Ferndale and back. The 50-mile route runs from Fairhaven to Birch Bay and back, and the 105-mile route makes a loop south of Lake Samish, east to Wickersham, north through Deming, Nooksack and Lynden, west to Blaine, then south through Birch Bay and Ferndale before arriving back in Fairhaven. All the routes are relatively flat.

The start times of the three legs are staggered so riders arrive at the finish line at the Village Green in Fairhaven at around the same time. Live music and the crowds that gather at the finish line every year create a fun vibe for returning riders.

“It’s a nice scene,” Monkelis said. “People can relax on the grass with their water, wine or a brewski and cheer the riders as they come in.”

Festive rest stops at regular intervals along the way add to the uniqueness and fun of the event, Monkelis said. Bands from local high schools will perform at the rest stops, and volunteers will be on site to hand out water to thirsty riders.

Local high schools always receive a portion of the funds from Tour de Whatcom. Although the net proceeds from the event go to charities and local schools, Monkelis said many participants raise money on their own, gathering pledges before the race for a charity of their choice.

Registration for the event is open up to and including the day of the race, but those registering on race day must pay an extra $10 fee. 

Registration fees vary, and forms and more information can be found online at tourdewhatcom.com.