The Highway 71 Classic is an annual ride held on US scenic Highway 71 in Northwest Arkansas, starting in Fayetteville. This year’s edition of the ride takes place on Sunday March 1st, 2009.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently ran a feature on the ride:
Begun about eight years ago, the Highway 71 Classic is an early-season road-cycling tour that allows riders to test their fitness on the hilly pavement between Fayetteville and Mountainburg.
“The ride has historically been early [in the year] so as to avoid conflicting with an already-packed cycling calendar in Northwest Arkansas,” said Laura Kelly, chairman of the Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks, the group organizing the event.
There are two out-and-back routes. The first is 36 miles and takes riders 18 miles to Brentwood before they turn around and head back.
The second route is about 75 miles, running up and over the slopes of Mount Gaylor then down into Mountainburg before sending riders on a lung-burning spin back over the mountain for the return trip.
It’s a challenging task, Kelly said.
“Most of the Mount Gaylor climb is about 3 percent [grade], with a short section of 8 percent climbing.”
So riders who haven’t tested their legs much over the winter may be in for a rude and painful awakening as the road tilts upward.
There is a payoff, however.
“The descent is thrilling, to say the least,” she added.
Riders of varying skill levels participate, and about 100 are expected to take part.
Read more: Scenic cycling tour is already a classic
The Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks is a non-profit group working to create a more bicycle-friendly community in Northwest Arkansas. “We devote almost all our energies into educating young cyclists on lawful roadway etiquette and the importance of visible, predictable cycling techniques,” Kelly said. “Cycling offers such a wide range of benefits, from increased health to big cost savings, that we wish to share the benefits with more people.”