Riders pedal up the hill on Main Street in downtown Middleville during one of the first 36 editions of the National 24-Hour Challenge. The event returns to the roads of Barry County Saturday and Sunday, kicking off at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School at 8 a.m. Saturday, and covering a loop from there to Lakewood Middle School, Baseline United Methodist Church and the Delton Library before returning to Middleville and the Yankee Springs area for its afternoon and overnight loops. (File Photo) The National 24-Hour Challenge board and volunteers have been hard at work.
Rider packets are ready for pick-up, the scoring website is loaded and ready, routes have been checked, socks have arrived, fruit will be delivered, and neutral support facilities have been created.
The 37th Annual National 24-Hour Challenge will roll across Barry County Saturday and Sunday. Registration closes for the annual event at 6 p.m. Friday, June 14 at BikeReg.com.
The race starts at 8 a.m. sharp Saturday morning, taking off from Thornapple Kellogg Middle School in Middleville.
The event opens with the Middleville Rotary Spaghetti Dinner, open to the public, at the TKMS cafeteria Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door.
Number pick-up and door prize displays will be in the TKMS entry way from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.
Late number pick-up begins at 6 a.m. Saturday and runs until 7:30 a.m. There will be a pancake breakfast open to the public from 6 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.
The ride finishes at 8 a.m. Sunday morning (Father's Day). A drawing for door prizes will be held at 8:30 a.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 9 a.m.
Riders typically begin arriving in Middleville Friday afternoon for the event, to set up tents and campers on the Thornapple Kellogg school grounds.
Participants begin Loop One, a more than 120 mile loop along rolling-to-hilly miles through Barry County. The loop has three outlying checkpoints, at Lakewood Middle School in northwest Barry County, at Baseline United Methodist Church in southwest Barry County, and at the Delton Library before riders cruise through the Yankee Springs recreation area on their way back into Middleville.
After the riders depart TKMS in the morning, their crews leave on an alternate route to meet their riders at the various checkpoints.
Riders who complete the opening loop move on to a 24-mile Loop Two that winds from TKMS out to Yankee Springs and back. Riders cover the loop at least once, and can cover loop two as many times as possible until 7:15 p.m. Saturday when the night loop opens.
The night loop, Loop Three, is a 7.6-mile loop that stays open through 8 a.m. Sunday morning with riders moving south along Bender Road, west on Adams Road, north on Cherry Valley Road and east on Finkbeiner Road while making swings through the TKMS checkpoint.
More than 150 volunteers team up to make the event run smoothly each summer.