Preparations are underway for East Texas’ premier cycling event, the 24th Annual Garland L. Parise Pineywoods Purgatory, Saturday, Oct. 3, at the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center in Lufkin.
The popular autumn weekend event features four biking routes of 25, 52, 72 and 102 miles through some of the most scenic rural areas in East Texas, and proceeds benefit the Stubblefield Learning Center, a high-performance, non-traditional school for at-risk students.
The home for the Pineywoods Purgatory Bike Race is the Exposition Center with its cyclist-friendly amenities, including plentiful parking near the starting area, 50 full RV hookups, camping spaces, spacious restrooms and on-site showers. Special events will cater to riders and their supporters, and organizers are hoping participants will spend the entire weekend in Angelina County.
“This is a huge event for Texas cyclists and for Lufkin, so we’re pulling out all the stops to make the whole weekend run smoothly,” said Burt Hairgrove, director of the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center. “We hope to have at least 500 riders this year, and we are investing time and resources with the plan that Pineywoods Purgatory will grow bigger every year. We’re working on events for Friday night and a fun, entertaining post-race party, and we’re hoping that a lot of the riders will stay the night and attend Lufkin’s Bistro downtown.”
The weekend begins with an $8-a-plate carb-loading pasta dinner Friday night at the Exposition Center. The race begins with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Saturday, and cyclists can choose from a 25-mile route through gently rolling hills, a more challenging 52-mile route through lush forests, the popular 72-mile route that takes riders through three different counties, and a 102-mile route that lets experienced cyclists see some of the quaint hamlets of East Texas from a whole new perspective. SAG wagons are available to assist cyclists who encounter problems, and volunteers man rest stops along each route.
“Rest stops are very important to riders, and they really let the community shine,” Hairgrove said. “Businesses sponsor them and help man them, and we have a contest to keep things fun. Categories include theme, hospitality and best overall, and we have trophies. It’s a great way to extend Lufkin hospitality to every aspect of the event.”
That hospitality is important to keep cyclists coming back to Pineywoods Purgatory every year, and also to entice them to visit Lufkin for other events, said Tara Watson-Watkins, executive director, Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Pineywoods Purgatory has statewide appeal, so it is an incredible opportunity to showcase some of our greatest assets — our beautiful scenery, our friendly people, our awesome hotels, restaurants and shopping,” Watson-Watkins said. “The cyclists come for a well-organized event and gorgeous routes. Our job is to wow them with hospitality, wine them and dine them at Lufkin’s Bistro and leave them wanting to come back for more!”
Pineywoods Purgatory registration is $35 until September 25 and $45 after. Registration includes a T-shirt, a meal after the ride and other goodies. Groups of five or more registering together can call 936-637-3976 for a group discount. For registration details, visit pineywoodspurgatory.com.