For three years, Rich Bell dreamed of organizing Hawaii Island’s first 100-plus mile endurance cycling event. Come April 5, Bell will see those dreams turn into reality.
The inaugural Hawaii Century ride is gearing up to offer cycling enthusiasts an adventure and opportunity to experience some of North Hawaii’s most awe-inspiring natural and historic wonders on two wheels.
Century rides are some of the more popular noncompetitive cycling events in the U.S. The featured distance is always a minimum of 100 miles, with shorter routes often included to accommodate varying fitness levels. The inaugural event will feature 112-mile Century, 62-mile Metric and 30-mile Short distances.
“I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now,” Bell, an avid cyclist and service manager for Bike Works Beach &Sports, said. “I grew up on Oahu and I remember doing one of the shorter distances of the Honolulu Century Ride as a kid. It was something fun we did as a family.”
Annual century rides already take place on Oahu and Maui, and it was only a matter of time before someone like Bell would bring the popular event to the Big Island.
“It’s not a race and certainly not a Gran Fondo,”Bell said. “It was something that we lacked on our race calendar and I thought the weekend after Lavaman would be a good time to do it.”
Bell hopes the event would encourage visitors participating in Lavaman to stay longer, and inspire others to use it as a training goal. In addition, net proceeds of the inaugural event will go to a good cause.
North Hawaii Hospice will be this year’s charity recipient. This nonprofit provides compassionate care for terminally ill patients and support for their family members during the final stages of life. For Bell, it has a more personal meaning.
“My dad passed away two years ago and Hospice was a tremendous help,” he said. “I wanted to look for a way to give back and it just seemed to be the perfect fit.”
Bell chose the route of the 112-mile ride to loop through all of North Hawaii. By doing so, he felt it would benefit the entire community.
“I wanted to pick a charity that had a good reputation and with a universal appeal,” Bell said. “This would encourage people to join the ride to help support the charity, and in turn, the community will support those riding out on the roads.”
Century riders will begin the sociable affair at 6:30 a.m. at Spencer Beach Park in Kawaihae and meander their way up the Kohala Coast, capturing views of the majestic Kohala Mountains to the right and Puukohola Heiau to the left. A look out into the Pacific may offer a glimpse of a seasonal humpback whale flipping its tail with Maui’s Haleakala as the backdrop.
Participants will then experience dramatic climate changes as they wind their way up and around the coastline. From hot and windy rust-brown lava fields to the cooler, lush, pastoral lands of Kohala before entering Hawi.
The real climbing begins once riders head up Kohala Mountain road, known for its panoramic views of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai, steep gradients, frequent rain mists, open expanse of ranch lands, and patches of ironwoods before reaching Waimea.
From there, riders can enjoy the cooler temperatures along Mamalahoa Highway before heading down Hina Lani Street and back on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. On the final stretch to Spencer Beach Park, riders will cruise past some of the world’s premier destination spots, coastal resorts and nationally ranked beaches.
“It’s a challenging ride and a good accomplishment for those who haven’t ridden it before or who wouldn’t go without support,” Bell said. “And it’s absolutely gorgeous out there.”
The Metric and Short distances will be out and back courses from Spencer Beach Park with the 62-miler starting at 7:30 a.m. and the 31-miler at 8.
With aid stations located every 20 miles, breathtaking views to take in, a genuine camaraderie among participants, including a fantastic post race barbecue and finisher T-shirts awaiting, it’s guaranteed to be a hit this year and for many more to come.
For more information and to register for the event visit hawaiicyclingclub.com.