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While the Santa Ynez Valley may be growing as a bicycling hotspot, the Santa Maria Valley – its bigger sibling to the north – isn’t going to let it get all the publicity.

A group of dedicated riders in northern Santa Barbara County are making sure people know about the back roads they call home. Early on Saturday, July 16, more than 250 riders rolled out of Santa Maria’s Pioneer Park near the airport on the first section of the Windmill Century. The ride is hosted by Santa Maria’s Tailwinds Bicycle Club and has run for nearly two decades. Dave Cantero, the club’s president, said this year the ride kept to a well-loved and traditional route. Making more or less a lopsided figure-8 in and out of the park, the course offers riders the opportunity to ride a quarter, half or full century.

Riders left Orcutt and made their way to Los Alamos before taking back roads to Sisquoc. A special agreement with Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards meant riders could avoid busy traffic on the 101. After crossing through Orcutt on Clark Avenue, the century riders had a lunch stop back at Pioneer Park. The final 50 miles of the ride took bikers out to Guadalupe back down to Casmalia and nearly back to Los Alamos before returning them to Orcutt on Highway 135, and Graciosa Road.

Cantero said money raised by the ride stays in the community. He said that most of the money went toward bicycle education and giving bikes to children in need. He said the club even helped purchase a tandem bicycle for a school for blind students so they could experience riding.

Giving back isn’t the only way the club is helping their community. “We’ve joined the chamber of commerce. We want to represent and promote the Santa Maria Valley,” said Cantero. He said almost half of the riders were from out of the area and were staying in local hotels. According to Cantero, one rider from a previous Century loved the area so much that he bought a house and moved from Big Bear.

For additional information about Tailwinds Bicycle Club, visit them online at www.tailwindsofsantamariabc.org.

– Report and photos by Isaiah Brookshire