GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - To raise funds and embrace the beauty of the Grand Valley by bike, Community Hospital Foundation will host its 24th annual Tour of the Valley cycling event this Sunday, Aug. 26. "Local cyclists have long known the vast diversity of cycling our beautiful valley has to offer - from the rolling orchards of East Orchard Mesa to the challenging climbing and stunning red-rock canyons of the Colorado National Monument - The Tour of the Valley is a showcase of some of the best cycling in Colorado," Community Hospital's marketing director Becky Jessen said.For the second year, the Tour of the Valley will also run in conjunction with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge - a new road race which runs for seven consecutive days and 683 miles - from Aug. 20-26 - with its competitors moving through the Colorado Rockies in stages. It's one of the largest cycling events held in the U.S., with more than 1 million spectators expected throughout Colorado.According to Jessen, since its inception 24 years ago the Tour has been planned for the last Sunday in August, to coincide with school starting. However, Community Hospital event organizers are now concerned with the Pro Challenge affecting Tour of Valley participation."With the Pro Cycling Challenge only two years old, we're looking at the potential impact to our (event) ridership," Jessen added. "Our hope was Grand Junction would get a stage in the 2012 Pro Challenge, and we could have the Tour as part of the week's associated cycling activities."Organizers will continue to evaluate the timing of the Tour as more information on next year's Pro Cycling Challenge race stages become available.
AN EARLY START FOR TOUR CYCLISTSOnline preregistration for the Tour of the Valley is encouraged, and it officially concludes by end-of-day Friday, Aug. 24. Rider check-in will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel on Horizon Drive, and it will run from 7-8 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $45 for adults and $20 for children (14 and under). It's also suggested that cyclists get an early start, some time between daylight and 8:30 a.m. (especially participants riding the longer routes).While Jessen said this year's Tour of the Valley doesn't have official fundraising goals, her hope is to raise at least $5,000 for community groups in need. "Event participation is growing fast, and we're hoping for 700 riders this year," Jessen added.A post-ride party will be held at the DoubleTree, along with a TV-viewing celebration for the conclusion of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge - a final stage/time trial ending in Denver. Food will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.Everyone's invited to Sunday's USA Pro Cycling Celebration/Watch Party, too. All local cycling enthusiasts, representatives from the Grand Junction Local Organizing Committee, and members of the Colorado Mesa University cycling team are expected to be in attendance.
The Tour of the Valley is not a race, and everyone is encouraged to set their own pace, event organizers said. Multiple routes are planned for Sunday, featuring a variety of distances - 30-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile route options - to accommodate different skill levels and scenery. And this year's 100-mile route will continue to include a ride across the Colorado National Monument's Rim Rock Drive."It's exciting that the Colorado National Monument still allows us to use Rim Rock Drive," Jessen said. "A portion of this year's proceeds will go to the CMU cycling team, and also the diabetes support group for youth - Diabetes Counts."Diabetes Counts Network Group, comprising local kids from kindergarten to 12th grade with Type 1 Diabetes, has about 30 regular members, said Terri Thompson, a nurse with Community Hospital's Diabetes Education Center. Fifteen of those kids will be cycling in the Tour's 30-mile route. Otherwise known as the "family fitness route," the 30-mile trek will travel west toward Fruita and back.As part of Sunday's event, Kerry White - a female professional long-distance cyclist on Team Type 1 - will also be speaking with Diabetes Counts kids on the importance of exercise when managing their disease. "It's really good role-modeling for kids on how important physical activity is," Thompson said. "An active lifestyle is more healthy."For more information or an event schedule, call Community Hospital at 970-242-0920 or visit www.yourcommunityhospital.com/Tour_Schedule.cfm.