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Natchez to host annual Belles on Bikes ride

Published 12:01am Sunday, March 31, 2013

NATCHEZ — A host of ladies will peddle through Natchez for a recreational ride Saturday as part of the annual Belles on Bikes event.

Event director Allen Richard said the women-only ride will start at Bowie’s Tavern at 8:30 Saturday morning, ride up State Street and head toward the Natchez Trace. Several routes are available to cyclists once they reach the Trace, depending on how far they wish to ride, he said.

“There are distances of 16, 30, 50 and 60 miles,” Richard said. “The longest route will take a loop through the Natchez State Park.”

The annual ride draws cyclists from south Louisiana and cities like Jackson and Madison, in addition to local riders. In years past, it’s even featured women from the LSU cycling team who wish to use it to help train for their upcoming season.

“Our goal is to grow beyond that area — to bring in a larger group,” Richard said. “But our regular following comes from those regions.”

Richard said the idea of a women-only ride came about more than six years ago when he and local Tommy Smith discussed an event to try and get people to visit Natchez.

“There’s a pretty loyal group of women who participate that want to come back,” Richard said. “They enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship. Cycling is very much an equalizer type sport — many women are stronger cyclists than same-age men.”

Though the event usually coincides with Blues Fest, Richard said they moved it up a weekend to tie it in with the final weekend of Spring Pilgrimage. He said local sponsors are helping with Pilgrimage-related door prizes, and event coordinators are helping get the word out to participants about Pilgrimage events.

“Natchez is a great spot for a girls’ weekend,” Richard said. “We’re trying to encourage people to come out and participate in those events.”

Registration is open at natchezbike.org, and Richard said there’s also a Facebook page with information about the event. Pre-registration and packet pickup will be at the tent in front of Bowie’s Tavern Friday night, and registration will also be at 7:30 a.m. Saturday before the start of the ride.

For more information, call Richard at 601-597-5744.