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Rebecca Rusch-‘Movement is Medicine’
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Tuesday, August 29, 2023
 

STORY BY GEORGE MURRAY

PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Rebecca’s Private Idaho comes through town for its eleventh annual cycling race Aug. 31 through Sept. 3.

For Rebecca Rusch, founder of the event, it’s an opportunity to share her passion for cycling, the outdoors and connecting with community. She says the purpose of the race hasn’t changed in 11 years,

“I launched the event to show people how special Idaho is in hopes that they fall in love with the place, fall in love with the movement, and then want to protect it and explore further,” she said. 

Rusch came to the valley herself 25 years ago.

“Like most people I came to visit for a while and never ended up leaving” she said.

Rusch has been a professional multi-sport adventure athlete for decades, her career accolades spanning multiple mountain biking world-championships, multiple Iditarod Invitational victories and a gravel bike racing world championship. Her reason for starting the annual race was to give back to the communities who have helped her along her journey.

“I moved to the valley for personal reasons and quickly began to see how special the place is. I knew I wanted to give back to the cycling community and thought that I could do that by hosting an event that challenges people and shows them the healing powers of movement in nature,” she said. 

Rusch has made an effort each year to make the race more accessible for riders of all skill levels.

“I believe that movement is medicine,” she said, “And sending people out on an adventure like a ride over the Trail Creek Summit is an impactful way for people to discover themselves and discover nature. We’ve expanded the race each year, we’ve now added a 20-miler, a 50-miler and a 100-miler over the four-day event.

“We have a lot of junior riders who come out to try the ‘tater-tot’ route, which is the shortest route. We try to expand the event each year so that no matter the level of the rider, from professional to beginner, they can go exploring on the bike in Idaho.”  

Rusch had always considered putting on a mountain bike race in Idaho, but she decided gravel biking was more welcoming and less intimidating.

“Gravel cycling has grown a lot in the last ten years, it’s the fastest growing segment of cycling.”  

The annual event also serves as the largest fund-raiser for Rebecca’s foundation, The Be Good Foundation.

“The Be Good Foundation started seven years ago after I did a bike ride on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which is where my father died in the Vietnam War. I came home from that ride understanding that I could use my bike for more than personal podiums. The foundation is named ‘Be Good’ because that’s how my father signed all his letter's home to us from Vietnam.”

Rusch’s ride on the Ho Chi Minh Trail is documented in her movie “Blood Road.” 

“The initial project with the Be Good Foundation began when I learned that there were still millions of unexploded bombs along the trail from a war that ended 50 years ago,” she said. “People in Vietnam are still being affected by these explosives today. The initial project with the Be Good Foundation was to try to do something about that and help clear unexploded ordnance along the trail that I rode. That has expanded into many other projects, such as providing bikes for school transportation for kids in Africa, and local efforts like working with the Wood River Trails Coalition to fund women’s trail building crews. Private Idaho is the biggest fund-raiser of the year for the foundation.” 

The Be Good foundation also has a scholarship program for individuals interested in getting involved with Rusch and her movement.

“We have eight people coming into this Private Idaho event on scholarships from the foundation,” she said. “We have applications for people interested in scholarships on our website https://www.thebegoodfoundation.org.

 As for the event, there are opportunities for people to participate who aren’t interested in riding in the race.

“On Friday before Labor Day, we have a foundation fundraising party that’s open to the public. Anyone can come, you don’t have to be racing in Private Idaho to stop by,” she said.

Rusch is looking forward to continuing work with the Be Good Foundation over the coming years and, after this event, she’s getting ready for personal adventures in Idaho.

“I’ll be going into the backyard and exploring Idaho on my own a little bit. Fall is my favorite time of year, so I'm looking forward to doing some self-supported multi-day bikepacking adventures soon.”  


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