Breathtaking views of Santa Barbara’s coast and picturesque mountains, athletic camaraderie and autumn weather were combined Saturday for the Santa Barbara 100 cycling event.
Solo cyclists and tandem bikers geared up to participate in a mega challenge for charity.
More than 1,000 bikers strapped on helmets and road cycling shoes to raise money for the Cottage Children’s Medical Center Family Assistance Fund, which helps families facing a financial crisis when their child is hospitalized.
“Cottage is the major hospital in the area and almost everyone in town has a connection with it,” said Tricia Middleton, board president of the SB100.
“We wanted to show support and get the community together.”
Middleton said she hopes the event continues growing and raising even more donations for the charities.
The nonprofit organization contributed more than $79,000 last year, and the goal for 2016 was to raise $100,000.
In past years, SB100 has donated to the Emory Foundation, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Andrew Popp Memorial Scholarship Program, the Cottage Children’s Medical Center, doling out more than $280,000 in gifts.
In addition to raising funds and awareness, SB100 representative Van Holmes said the ride takes place in one of the most beautiful and challenging locations in the United States.
Four distinct courses were offered to suit each cyclist’s ability.
“Each course offers a world-class Santa Barbara cycling experience,” Holmes said. “It combines one of the most epic century ride routes with a great charity mission. Riders can enjoy an amazing ride from the beach to the mountains and back, and know that their entry fees are going to help some great causes.”
The event featured two different 100-mile round-trip courses, including one with more than 9,000 feet of climbing and a second with 7,000 feet of evevation.
It also included a 62-mile ride and 34-mile route with a few short climbs along the way.
The early morning marine layer began to roll in at 8 a.m. once the last set of riders crossed the start line at Leadbetter Beach.
The courses moved through Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Montecito and the flatlands of the Goleta Valley.
Peddlers could cycle at their own pace, since this was not a race.
The ride featured views along the Santa Barbara waterfront, riding toward La Cumbre Peak along East Camino Cielo then descending to Painted Cave and Old San Marcos roads, and continuing through Hope Ranch.
Riders traveled past neighborhoods and citrus and avocado orchards in the foothill areas.
They then headed back toward the ocean for a beachfront finish at Leadbetter Beach.
Riders tackled the “Gibraltar Wealth Management Challenge” near Mile 25 on one route.
The seven-mile, 3,000-foot climb on Gibraltar Road featured a mountaintop finish.
The best uphill riders were timed and honored with awards at the closing ceremony.
Open Air Bicycles manager Ewan Campbell was ringing bells and cheering on riders as they passed the start line.
The local bike shop was offering mechanical assistance to bikers before the race started.
Campbell said a skilled rider, someone who would qualify to ride in the Tour de France, could ride the challenging Gibraltar Road course in less than five hours.
Although the route was tough, he said preparation and training are key.
“Riders have to be familiar with their bikes and how it works,” he said. “They have to train in intervals and build up endorphins.”
The ride was open to cyclists of all levels, and drew crowds from around Santa Barbara County, as well as Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
Considering Santa Barbara’s popular bike culture, the event was perfect for community members, Open Air Bicycles owner Ed Brown said.
“There’s a lot of locals participating who ride the area and streets almost everyday,” he said. “We haven’t seen too many crashes.”
Brown said his mechanic team fixed about 14 flat tires in previous years.
Orange County resident Christina Serrano was one of the intrepid riders on the one-day challenge.
She said the feel-good activity was a fun and healthy way to spend time outside with her friend.
This event was her fist bike challenge.
“I’m only doing the shorter course, but it’s exciting to be able to say I accomplished it,” Serrano said. “I get to enjoy the scenery and ride next to good company.”
SB100 sponsored two Santa Barbara youth cycling programs.
Thirty young cyclists from the Echelon Junior Team and the Riviera Youth Bike Team participated with free entry to any of the four courses.
The Echelon Junior Cycling Team is a local bike club that is committed to developing riders’ skills, as well as fitness and their personal growth in the community.
The Riviera Youth Bike Team is a cycling group for children ages 10-13 struggling with bullying, low self-esteem, obesity, financial difficulties and learning differences. The team recognized its riders with special awards for their completion of the 34-mile course.