A group of cyclists gathered at Dead Horse Point State Park during a previous Moab Century Tour ride. [Photo courtesy of Skinny Tire Events]

The fun and challenge of a long hill climb rewarded by a chiseled red canyon vista stretching into an infinite blue horizon is enough to get many cyclists out onto the roads around Moab. Add the camaraderie of an organized event and a meaningful cause to support, and riding 100 miles of canyon country becomes a truly luxurious experience, participants say.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, more than 500 cyclists from around the world and the U.S. will meet in Moab for the 14th annual Moab Century Tour, featuring three fully supported road rides of varying lengths through some of Moab’s most iconic features.

After abandoning road cycling for decades as motherhood and other life callings took her attention away from the sport, Sharri Caster decided to ride in the race in 2003 when she and her husband met event co-organizer Mark Griffith. His story and description of the landscape brought them out initially, and the event itself re-lit her fire for cycling.

She’s returned every year since, and this year will volunteer for the first time. This January, inspired by their positive experiences with the Moab Century Tour, Caster and her husband moved to Moab from Denver. Instead of riding on Saturday, she’ll be managing an aid station near the beginning of the hill climb to Dead Horse Point State Park at the junction of U.S. Highway 191 and state Route 313.

Caster is looking forward to the opportunity to give back to an event that has been so supportive over the years, she said. The shuttle service, aid station frequency and communication support provided to participants are first-rate, compared to other challenging road events she’s participated in across the country.

“You’re so well taken care of,” she said. “If you stop to take a picture on the side of the road, someone on the road will see you and will stop to make sure you’re OK.”

“Mark and (co-organizer) Beth (Logan) really do want people to have a great experience,” Caster said. “They put on rides that are a beer cost, but a champagne experience.”

That’s exactly what he and Logan are after, Griffith said. He began Skinny Tire Events in early 2000 after his brother passed away from cancer. Hoping to make a difference somehow, Griffith began organizing the Moab Century Tour and the springtime Skinny Tire Festival as a way to raise funds for people with cancer and cancer survivors, while offering a fun and inspiring experience.

“People come a long way for this,” he said. “We want to make sure they make the most of their time here.”

Griffith said he is especially proud of the event’s communications capability, with ham radio operators making it possible for a rider to hail a shuttle at literally any point on any of the three courses. The follow-on vehicles, often intended just for mechanical or medical emergencies, are set up to function as shuttles for this event, he said.

“We really encourage people to take advantage of everything we offer,” Griffith said. “Don’t wear yourself out on a hill climb and miss the great landscape. We want people to feel like this is their experience and make the most of it.”

Riders registered for the 64-mile Moab Canyon ride, 38-mile River Portal route or the 102-mile route combining both will embark together from the Aarchway Inn at 1551 N. U.S. Highway 191 for what Griffith described as a “Tour de France” experience. A self-paced tour and not a race, the event culminates in an after-party catered by the Cowboy Grill at Red Cliffs Lodge.

Proceeds from the event support the infusion therapy center at Moab Regional Hospital (MRH), which makes it possible for local residents to receive cancer treatment in Moab, MRH spokesperson Sarah Shea said.

“They’re our biggest, strongest supporter,” she said. “They care so much about supporting cancer patients and survivors in our community.”

The staff members look forward to the fun of the event every year, too, and volunteer to staff an aid station along one of the routes.

Knowing it’s all for a good cause adds to the “champagne” quality of the experience, Caster said.

“I ride for the sake of raising money for cancer survivorship,” she said. “It’s a great reason to get together with people and have a really good time, while helping others.”

Moab Century Tour supports good time for a good cause

What: Moab Century Tour

When: Saturday, Sept. 23

Where: Routes vary

Cost: Varies; donations encouraged

Information: 435-260-8889, 435-260-2334, or skinnytireevents.com