Celebrating 28 Years of Women's Cycling

Little Red keeps on rolling.

Jenny Willden May 1, 2016

Every June, 3,500 women travel to rural Lewiston in Northern Utah, donning spandex shorts and helmets for a bike ride on quiet roads through Cache Valley’s lush farmlands. Called Little Red Riding Hood (or simply Little Red by participants), this cycling event has become so popular in recent years that a lottery system was recently instituted. Riders come from across the United States and Canada. There’s a Boise biking team for women with cancer, and a few years ago two women came all the way from Australia for the race.

Little Red’s mastermind is 92-year-old Zions Bank employee Alice Telford, who was inspired to start a women’s biking event in 1987 after riding the Cinderella Classic Ride in California. Telford was searching for a place to host this ride when she and a friend went biking in Cache Valley and decided the location was ideal.

Ride for All Skill Levels

Telford created a 100 km course in 1998, and around 25 women rode while she drove in her car to assure the ride went well, staying at the finish until the last riders came through. Little Red continued to grow, reaching nearly 200 participants in the 1990s and ballooning to 3,500 slots in 2012 when the ride sold out in less than an hour.

Now put on by Bonneville Cycling Club, Little Red offers female riders five noncompetitive distances: 27, 36, 50, 70 and 100 miles. According to Little Red committee volunteer and multiyear rider Christina Siwachok, these options make Little Red doable for all skill levels. “You can start out small and build up in future years,” she says. “First year I did 50, second 70, and the last two, 100. I’ll do 100 miles again this year.”

Little Red is made possible by 500 volunteers (many are spouses or friends of riders) who pump tires, cheer on cyclists, stock snacks and even transport those who can’t complete the ride. “Riders love the great rest stops and knowing they’re not on their own,” Siwachok says. 

The courses are primarily flat — making them ideal for beginners — except the 100-miler, which has a doozy of a final climb. All distances cost $70, which includes a women’s shirt, breakfast, catered lunch, and finish-line soda fountain and old-fashioned ice cream bar.

Money Raised for Cancer Research

Since 1999, entry fees also include a donation to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation that is specifically earmarked for breast and ovarian cancer research. The ride raises more than $150,000 annually for the foundation with a new silent auction component looking to boost that total.

Most participants agree it’s the atmosphere and camaraderie that brings them back. “I was instantly sucked in by the atmosphere,” Siwachok says. “I started volunteering as well because I wanted to give back.” Siwachok came to Little Red as a participant in the Bonneville Cycling Club, which hosts more than 1,000 group rides a year. Cyclists who do five BCC rides skip the Little Red lottery.

The lottery for this year’s June 4 ride is closed, but entries are still available for the Huntsman Hometown Heroes team, which requires team members to fundraise $500 for cancer research for the Huntsman Cancer Institute for a spot. HHH team members receive a guaranteed entry, a team jersey and take part in a post-ride celebration in Logan.

A pioneer of women’s cycling in Utah, Telford continues to show women that age is just a number by attending every Little Red. She even rode the course until an injury in 2015. Little Red has spurred on the women’s cycling movement, spawning the creation of similar women’s rides throughout Utah and the nation.

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