By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
More than 400 cyclists are expected to hit the pavement in support of the United Way of Durham Region this weekend.
The ninth annual Ride4UnitedWay is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 13 and United Way campaign director Robert Howard expects it will once again be a success.
“We’ve probably quadrupled our participation since the beginning, in the first year we had a little under 100 participations,” Howard says.
Money raised from the Ride4UnitedWay supports about 200 programs provided through the organization’s 30-funded agencies across Durham Region.
With a goal for 2017 for $50,000, the United Way is looking to add to the excess of $300,000 the ride has raised so far in eight years.
“The critical point is all the money stays in Durham Region,” Howard says. “The cornerstone of our campaign is ‘give where you live’. If you can solve problems a local level, you have a greater chance of success.”
Two new highlights to this year’s event include the Whitby 50 and a ‘Mystery Ride’ course.
The 50 kilometre route in Whitby was added because “the ride has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to complete,” and is aimed at “more-recreationally-orientated riders”.
“It’s a whole lot flatter and it’s calmer,” Howard says.
According to the event’s website, the Whitby 50 contains 30 per cent fewer hills than the traditional 60 kilometre route and riders can go at it alone or take part in a guided group.
The Mystery Ride route adds a bit of unpredictability to the event.
Developed by John Vieira, owner of Bicycles Plus in Whitby, the route is 150 kilometres and will remain a secret until riders arrive on the day of the event.
Those who complete the Mystery Ride will be eligible for 150 celebration prizes (which are also a secret).
In addition to these new challenges, the Ride4UnitedWay will include the traditional 60, 100 and 160 kilometre routes.
The event has benefited from partnerships with groups such as the Durham Cycling Club and Oshawa Cycling Club.
“The key thing is we’ve made friends with many in the cycling community and [the event] is thought of as a well-executed, safe ride,” Howard says.
Building these relationships has helped Ride4UnitedWay grow beyond just a local attraction.
“It really is a GTA-wide event,” Howard says, noting that riders come from communities such as Ottawa, Mississauga, Toronto, Milton, and Kingston.
Howard believes the event is on the cusp of reaching the next level of recognition and popularity among cycling enthusiasts.
“We are at the point where we’d really like to grow the event and I think we are in the right direction,” Howard says.
Registration is open until the day of the event, and can be completed at ride4unitedway.com or calling the United Way of Durham Region at 905-436-7377.
Details on start times and prizes can also be found on the website.
There is still room for volunteers to serve in capacities such as set-up and take down, event marshals, rest stops and sign detail.
This is also an opportunity for high school students to earn volunteer hours required for graduation.