The roots of the Unity Ride go back as far as the First Free Republic of Latvia in 1930’s. It is certainly the oldest ride of its type in Europe which is open for both professional and average cyclists at the same time. The ride was first organized in 1936 and named the Latvian Cycling Unity Ride. The name itself represented the deeper meaning of the ride - unity that is indelibly written into the history of Latvia. The primary initiator and the author of the idea of the ride was Robert Plūme, a participant of two Olympic Games, multiple-time winner of national cycling and skiing championship. He called on the President of Latvia Kārlis Ulmanis to encourage Latvian people to participate in a large-scale cycling ride aimed at strengthening the national unity, health improvement, promoting cycling and manufacture of bicycles. This mass event was surprisingly well attended. The 4th Unity Ride in 1939 brought a record number of participants when a total of 6090 people from all regions of Latvia registered for participation while a total of 5306 cyclists finished the ride. About 30 000 supporters were waiting for the participants of the Unity Ride at the finish line and the President Kārlis Ulmanis and other noted public figures greeted and awarded the cyclists in a special parade. Many organizations supported the Unity Ride and there were more than a hundred prizes awarded at that time. The winner of the first three rides Arvīds Imermanis received a gold watch as an award from the President himself.
The Unity Ride was renewed after the restoration of independence of Latvia in 1995. It was initiated by the noted cycling coach Ernests Pūce with direct support from the President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis. The idea of the ride was the same - improvement of health, strengthening the sense of national unity and protecting and preserving the environment. The event has always been well attended by Latvian people and popular public figures. The start and finish of the Unity Ride have traditionally been held in Sigulda, on the first Sunday of September. A total of 25 Latvian Cycling Unity Ride has been held so far. In line with the tradition, the President of Latvia opens and frequently attends the event.
Among the most remarkable cyclists who have participated in the Latvian Cycling Unity Ride are world champions Emīlija Sonka, Romāns Vainšteins (Latvia), Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), Konstantin Hrabcov (Russia), Piotr Chevardov (Georgia), Tour de France contestants and stage winners: Piotr Ugrumov (Latvia), Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia), Rolf Aldag (Germany), Brian Holm (Denmark), Arvis Piziks, Kaspars Ozers, Gatis Smukulis (Latvia), as well as local celebrities: Ringolds Kalnenieks, Baiba Evīna Caune-Morzika, Dainis Liepiņš, Dainis Ozols, Ainārs Ķiksis, Ivo Lakučs and many more.
Today racers have an opportunity to choose between 4 distances: Sports (100 km), MTB (50 km) and the popular Public distance (36 km), which usually gathers the largest number of participants – around 5000, and Retro velo ride (~ 40 km). The total number of participants amounts to about 6000. The cyclists always start and finish the ride in Sigulda.
Starting a new tradition – Retro Bike ride
This year, on September 2, the cycling festival in Sigulda will be special – the 28th Cycling Unity Ride gives an opportunity to take part in a unique project, held already 2nd time in a row – Retro Bike tourism ride organized in cooperation with the Latvia's Antique Bicycle club. The route is specifically designed to combine nature and tourism objects of Latvia and tasting of Latvia’s flavours. This years novelty is option to order a specially designed cycling form.