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Cyclists to take to the Hilltowns

CHARLEMONT — While the Tour de France bike race rolls through some of the most challenging terrain in Europe, over 400 cyclists from the Northeast and beyond will take on some of the more challenging terrain in Franklin County on July 26 in the 16th annual Tour of the Hilltowns.

The Northampton Cycling Club race leaves Berkshire East in Charlemont at 9 a.m. and circles through Charlemont, Buckland, Ashfield and Hawley.

Race coordinator Tim Cary described it as a classic New England road race covering 31 or 62 miles depending on a rider’s experience and endurance threshold.

Cash prizes, merchandise, and medals are awarded to the top riders in each race. Cary said the race attracts pros and strong amateurs — racers must be members of USA Cycling.

If watching is more your speed, Cary recommends Berkshire East, the long and grueling climb up Clesson Brook Road in Buckland and Hawley and South River Road in Charlemont.

The cycling club is looking for local cycling fans to volunteer, and their website includes volunteer information as well as a course map for spectators.

The field is divided into nine USA Cycling sanctioned races, start in 10 minute intervals between 9 and 10 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m.

From Berkshire East, racers head east on South River Road, then south into Buckland on Upper Street, continuing out to Ashfield Road/Route 112. Cyclists then turn west and head up Clesson Brook Road into Hawley and Plainfield Road, then follow short sections of Grant and Bow Streets in Plainfield before turning east on Route 116, climbing up though the center of Plainfield. Just before the Savoy town line, the course turns onto Route 8A, descending into Hawley and then Charlemont for a fast downhill finish at Berkshire East.

Visit and follow the links for more information, to register or to volunteer.

The course is new this year, avoiding possible re-paving on Route 9 by beginning at Berkshire East, and Cary asked that drivers be aware of the bicyclists.

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