Wheeling through the county: Tour de Blount offers four rides celebrating Blount beauty

It’s the 20th anniversary of Tour de Blount, and the Foothill Striders are bringing the popular cycling event back to its roots.

The ride, which hopes to attract 400 cyclists, begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14, in downtown Maryville at the Greenbelt Pavilion. There are four rides of varying length and difficulty to choose from on this anniversary ride.

“We wanted to bring our ride back home, get some cost control and give people a great ride through beautiful Blount County,” says Mike Morrell, a vice president with Foothill Striders. “Ernie and Joyce Frey, who are ride co-directors, have an exciting ride planned for our 20th anniversary.”

Incorporating downtown Maryville has also been a priority for the ride committee.

“We want to also celebrate downtown Maryville and introduce our visitors to our wonderful downtown,” Morrell says. “Riders and their families can enjoy the shops and Farmer’s Market. We have a ‘punch card’ from area merchants that will get visitors a free gift if they get it filled up by visiting the shops downtown.”

After the ride, Papa John’s pizza and drinks will be served at the Greenbelt Pavilion behind the Blount County Courthouse. The meal is covered in the $30 registration for riders and non-riders can purchase a $5 wristband that allows them to eat as well. For the cyclists, rest stops are stocked with fluids, fruit, cookies and snacks.

“We would also like for the community to come out and cheer on the riders as they leave at 8 a.m.,” says Morrell. “It is a fun, festive atmosphere and a great way to start your Saturday.”

The courses are:

27 mile - The Jeff Roth Memorial Course

Although this is the shortest route, you will still get a chance to experience beautiful Blount County hillsides and country roads. The route has been dedicated to Jeff Roth. See www.jeffrothcyclingfoundation.org for further information.

45 mile - The Warpath

As with all the courses, the first 15 miles get to experience our Blount County country side. This course then veers further south into the agriculture and rolling hills of middle Blount County.

62 mile - The Metric Century

This course parallels Chilhowee Mountain with a 4,000 ft. elevation gain over the length of the ride.

70 mile - The Wall

This is the pinnacle of the Tour de Blount and the most advanced route. Be prepared at mile 16 to start the climb over Chilhowee Mountain with some grades of 12 percent.

To register ($30), go to www.Active.com. More information is also available at the Foothill Striders website: www.foothillstriders.org.

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