‘Not only a great cause, but an epic ride’

CHAFE 150 among nation's top distance rides

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SANDPOINT — Changes abound for the 6th annual CHAFE 150, as cycling enthusiasts from around the region and beyond converge in Sandpoint on July 20 for the popular fundraising ride.

Sandpoint Rotary Club is now the sponsoring organization, local Lake Pend Oreille School District students with autism are now the beneficiary, the price has dropped and the date was pushed back later into the summer.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the scenic course, which starts and ends at City Beach and rolls into Montana and the lush river valleys of the Cabinet Mountains. The course has drawn national acclaim, and ride chairperson Elana Westfall was happy when Rotary stepped up to keep the race going and continue its legacy of giving to education.

“Every penny is staying right here in Sandpoint for these kids with autism. We’re hoping to make it a banner year,” said Westfall, who is hoping for at least 300 riders this year. “Not only is it a great cause, but it’s an epic ride. Active.com ranked it as one of the top eight endurance rides in the nation.”

Once again there are two distances offered to the riders, at 150 or 80 miles. The price also dropped from $120 to $75, but riders must now raise a minimum of $50 through pledges or donations.

All proceeds will help in the training and support for LPOSD staff and families, and the purchase of new tools known to have a positive learning impact. The complex developmental disability impacts one in every 88 students, and any donation has a direct impact on the quality of local education.

Local Eric Ridgway has taken the cause to heart, and has been soliciting pledges from anyone who wants to sponsor him for 150 miles. Ridgway, the founder of the Long Bridge Swim who admits to loving a good challenge, finished the 150 miles last year and knows what he’s up against.

He also admitted it paled in comparison to the challenges and burdens that families with autism deal with on a daily basis.

“When I have the opportunity to take on a challenge of 150 miles, I’m doing a one-day ride, they do this every day,” admitted Ridgway. “This is something I can do to show my support.”

Last year, facing inclement weather, Sandpoint’s Wayne Pignolet was the first rider to finish, at 7 hours and 41 minutes, just ahead of the first female rider, Sandpoint’s Suzanne Kaplan, who finished in 8 hours and 3 minutes.

Pignolet has ridden in five of the first six rides, each of which were put on by Panhandle Alliance For Education and raised money for Ready For Kindergarten. Despite finishing first last year, he admitted it’s not really a race, and hopes for a large pack of cyclists to draft off and enjoy the ride with this year.

“Because of the distance, it is more of a survive-to-the-end challenge. I really think of it as more of a personal challenge — how fast or how hard can you go,” described Pignolet of the CHAFE. “I am often amazed at watching people finish hours after I have finished and their tenacity at not giving up. It hurts to sit on a bike for a long period of time.”

For the second year, the CHAFE ride is also the first leg of the TriSandpoint, a three-event triathlon that combines the CHAFE with the Long Bridge Swim in August and Scenic Half Marathon in September. Any rider who participated in the CHAFE can still sign up for those events to participate in the TriSandpoint. For more information, visit “www.trisandpoint.org.”

There will also be plenty of prizes for the riders, and a post-event party that will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lakeview Park at City Beach. There will be live music, barbecue, drinks and games.

For more information, to sign up or to make a donation, visit “www.chafe150.org.”

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