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Want some hills? Take your lumps at Pedal Through the Pines, Saturday, March 8

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Let's say you live on Houston's west side and you're looking for a road cycling event early in March. The Raven's Revenge up in Huntsville on Saturday, March 8 looks promising, but… wait… there's a great ride over toward Austin the same day. Yippee: only half the BP MS150 training crowd will be on this one, with the other half headed north. And there will be hills, too: where do you sign up!

The westerners' choice is the 2014 version of Pedal Through the Pines, the 12th annual version of this great event. Riders will roll out of Smithville, Texas, at 9:00 a.m. in this charity benefit for the Bastrop Family Crisis Center.

This year's riders get to choose from among 17-, 27-, 47- and 62-mile courses, all on paved roads, that wind in and around Bastrop and Buescher State Parks. The metric century course swings up toward Giddings (on US 290) before heading back southwest. All routes follow Highway 71 for about ten miles and then loop back through the Lost Pines, which were the site of that devastating forest fire three years ago. Houston homies, be forewarned: the parks are renowned for a collection of small but steep hills!

Registration is available on-line at BikeReg.com or - to quote the organizers - spend 40-some cents for a stamp and mail in the form from their website. Fees are $40/person until February 27th and $45 February 28 through the day of the ride, including registration at packet pickup and on-site (online registration closes at 19:00 on March 6). Only the first 800 registered riders are guaranteed a ride shirt.

If you're going, the start is at Riverbend Park, 107 Highway 71 West, Smithville . That's (about) 120 miles from downtown Houston via I-10 and Texas 71, or 40 miles east of Austin via Texas 71. Lodging is available in Bastrop and east Austin; it's definitely far enough away from the Bayou City to rate an overnight stay..

Details: Pedal Through the Pines is a BP MS 150 recommended training ride. As with all MS150 recommended rides, safety rules will be enforced: helmets are required, headphones and earbuds are prohibited. SAG and medical support will be provided as well as staffed rest stops and course marshals. No refunds, event takes place rain or shine.

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