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BikeMaine organizers preparing for Aroostook County

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — MaryBeth Luce, BikeMaine ride director, is excited to take a test ride of this year’s route, a seven day, 325-mile ride through central Aroostook County and the St. John Valley.

Sometime in June, Luce and a team from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine will be test-riding the route that in September will have more than 450 riders on a week-long group bike ride starting and ending in Presque Isle.

“I think we have chosen a route through some of the most beautiful farmland that people have seen in their lifetimes,” said Luce. “Riding along the St. John River is going to be beautiful.”

This year is the sixth annual BikeMaine tour and the first time the event has ventured north of Bangor, said Luce. The seven-day, 325 mile ride runs Sept. 8-15, and includes overnight stays in Caribou, Madawaska, Fort Kent and St. Agatha.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine unveiled the route for BikeMaine 2018 during a kick-off event in Presque Isle over the weekend. “Acadia in the St. John Valley – La Terre Entre Deux” will bring 450 cyclists to Aroostook County for a week in September. (Bicycle Coalition of Maine | BDN)

“We definitely knew we wanted to be in The County this year,” Luce said. “We really wanted to showcase the Acadian culture of the St. John Valley and get riders to the top of Maine.”

BikeMaine is billed as a celebration of a Maine’s people, places and culture, and a way to bring sustainable tourism to rural parts of the state.

“One of our missions is to really drive economic development from cycling tourism,” Luce said.

For Aroostook County, this year’s BikeMaine will be the largest event since the 2016 World Cup Biathlon, said Kim Smith, public information officer for the city of Presque Isle.

Smith is helping with the organization of the event in Presque Isle, along with Mike Chasse, co-chair of the local BikeMaine committee.

The 450 bikers, plus more than 50 support staff, will be staying in Presque Isle on Saturday, Sept. 8, before starting the ride on Sunday and hosting a farewell lunch on the last day, Sept. 15.

Smith said the bikers will be camping on the athletic fields across from the Sargent Family Community Center, and that the city will be hosting a welcome party and concert that will be open to the public. Smith also is working on putting together a map of Aroostook County’s museums, landmarks and cultural assets for bikers during the tour.

“These riders are people we want to come back to the area,” Smith said.

Luce said that the event will be a good opportunity for small businesses in communities along the route and area farmers and food producers.

The BikeMaine event provides riders with breakfast, lunch and dinner for six out of the seven days, Luce said. The organization purchases the food directly and provides a stipend for nonprofit organizations or service groups to prepare group meals.

“Providing local food is a huge part of the mission of Bike Maine,” Luce said, adding that farmers and food producers can contact BikeMaine directly about food sales.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated MaryBeth Luce’s with BikeMaine.

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