SANDPOINT – What’s the best way to ensure that the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo bicycling event will continue to attract riders well into the future?
“Hook them early,” said Mel Dick, president elect for the Rotary Club of Sandpoint, which presents the annual distance rides, this year taking place on June 15.
As rider interest and national press attention both build momentum, the organizers have branched out from the historical 30-, 80- and 150-mile CHAFE rides to include new routes for 2019.
“This year, we’ve added a 100-mile ride, a 40-mile ride and a Family Fun Ride,” said Dick, adding that the family event is designed to spark involvement in the longer courses going forward.
At approximately four miles in length, the Family Fun Ride will start at Sandpoint City Beach and finish at the Dover Park, with all major road crossings staffed by crossing guards. Once there, participants will enjoy bouncy castles, crafts, face painting and complimentary snacks and beverages for their efforts.
The 40- and 100-mile routes are extensions of the existing 30- and 80-mile courses, Dick explained. The family ride, meanwhile, has been the charge of roughly a dozen members who make up Rotary’s local Rotaract chapter of 18-30 year olds.
“They are spearheading the Family Fun Ride under the leadership of their president, Molly Rickard,” said Dick. “It’s great to see a group of young people becoming active in the community.”
Taken together, the more expansive roster of courses promises to generate a healthy flow of funding for Lake Pend Oreille School District programs. First established in 2008 by the Panhandle Alliance for Education, CHAFE 150 funded the Ready for Kindergarten program for its first five years. At that point, the Rotary Club of Sandpoint took on the job of presenting the ride and, over the past six years, has raised more than $260,000 for special needs education programs in the school district.
Moving into its 12th year, the event will shift its funding focus to the LPOSD after-school reading and literacy programs, which currently have about 100 students enrolled between Farmin-Stidwell and Kootenai elementary schools.
“This is going to have a major impact on the entire school district, with the potential to affect about 1,900 students,” Dick said.
For multiple reasons and myriad causes, Rotary’s philanthropic work is well known in the community. In the case of CHAFE 150 and its impact on education, those works might appear to fly under the radar, given the excitement the race itself generates each year.
Adding to the accolades already heaped upon it for being the “most scenic’ and “best supported” distance ride in the nation, Bicycling Magazine recently placed CHAFE 150 among the top bicycling events the U.S. has to offer.
“They named us as the Number 3 charity ride in the country,” said Dick.
The president-elect feels certain that the positive press has had a favorable effect on early registration, with more than 300 riders already signed up for the ride this year.
“That’s a 78 percent increase compared with the same time last year,” he said.
With more than 100 sponsors supporting the event this year – including “platinum” sponsors Timberline Helicopters, Ting and Re/Max, who ponied up $5,000 each – participation on that level, too, has grown 20 percent over the prior year.
For locals, the most noticeable aspect of the CHAFE 150 rides is the army of cyclists who descend on Sandpoint for the event. Many of them make it a point to attend the after-ride party at Sandpoint City Beach, where prizes are awarded and the mood is tired but ebullient. The post-ride bash, Dick pointed out, is open to the community.
“There’s nothing more fun than watching all these riders come across the finish line,” he said. “Most of the riders say it’s the best after-ride party they’ve ever attended.”
As the CHAFE 150 looks poised to blow past its ridership of 319 cyclists last year, Rotary Club of Sandpoint already is thinking big for future rides, according to the president-elect.
“Our goal is to one day have 500 riders and the entire community down there at City Beach afterward,” he said.
New for 2019 is a special presentation by Canadian Paralympic Gold Medalist Tristen Chernove, who rode in the CHAFE 150 last year. Chernove was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and began riding to preserve as much muscle strength as possible as the degenerative condition progressed. But rather than just staving off the inevitable, the rider found he had what it takes to become a world-class contender.
“He’s just back from a world track championship Italy, where he won a gold, a silver and a bronze medal, as well as the overall point standings,” Dick said.
Chernove will be the featured speaker at a dinner the night before the CHAFE 150 rides, with the meal catered by Trinity at Sandpoint City Beach Park. His talk will address both his affliction and what it takes to become a world-class rider.
“Only one person can say they’re the best in the world at anything,” Dick said. “For cyclists, this is a unique opportunity to meet that person.”
The CHAFE 150 and its associated rides takes place on Saturday, June 15, with the presentation by Tristen Chernove scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 14.