GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - As the hub of Colorado's Wine Country, the Grand Valley is already known for its agri-tourism. But, what about its world-class bike routes and singletrack? Enter the inaugural Tour of the Moon Cycling Classic Saturday, Oct. 6.
"Our goal is to bring a quality event to Grand Junction and to have an economic impact on the area," event organizer Mike Heaston said. "I think the Moon will have a big impact on Grand Junction as a cycling destination. We've been working on bringing this specific event to the valley for two-plus years."
This new road-bike event is expected to bring almost 2,000 visitors to the Grand Valley - 80 percent of which are coming from the Front Range of Colorado or out of state. Saturday's event will not only showcase the Colorado National Monument as a place to cycle, but rangers will also be available to answer questions about the scenery, the landscape and its history as cyclists head through the area.
"We want to encourage people to take it all in," Heaston said. "A good recreational road ride will educate and be social."
Registration for the Tour is still open through Saturday, but it's capped at 2,000, Heaston said. As of Wednesday, Oct. 3, there were 1,834 people already registered.
"We have 36 states represented, including Colorado," Heaston said. "It's bringing in a substantial number of people from outside the area. There will be between 50-75 local riders, too, from Fruita, Palisade and Junction."
For this weekend's Tour of the Moon event, the median age of participation is 50 years old and the event is 62-percent male, he added.
Heaston also organizes two other Grand Valley events - Tour of the Vineyards and Fruita Fat Tire Festival - through his business Event Marketing Group (EMG). The Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle, another EMG-run event, happens in August with Copper Mountain Resort as its base. The Copper Triangle pulls in cyclists from all 50 states, and from other countries as well. Heaston said he hopes Tour of the Moon will grow into an annual event like that.
"Our retention rate is very good," he said. "That's important."
Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau spokeswoman Mistalynn Meyeraan said, as of Monday, Oct. 1, downtown hotels were already sold out, with other area rooms filling up quickly.
"We're estimating $200,000-$250,000 in local tourism dollars this weekend," Meyeraan said, with most of those dollars coming from Saturday's Tour of the Moon. Other events this weekend - like Oktoberfest, Colorado West Marching Band Festival, the Conservation Lands Foundation Friends Rendezvous, and the AAA Colorado Wine Country Experience President's Train will also contribute.
"It's a really large, important weekend for our valley," Meyeraan added. "In October, tourism dollars tend to wind down after the wrapped festivals. We still see independent leisure travelers coming for biking and hiking though."
Besides bringing tourism dollars to the area, The Tour of the Moon will also raise funds for the Colorado Riverfront Commission and Bicycle Colorado.
According to Tour of the Moon's website, "cyclists will start and finish at Two Rivers Convention Center in downtown Grand Junction. Riders will head to the Colorado National Monument, entering through the east entrance and exiting through the west entrance. Cyclists can choose to continue into the beautiful farm country surrounding Fruita for the metric century or take the short-cut (41-mile cut -off) returning back to Two Rivers Convention Center via the country roads at the base of the Monument.
Aid and rest stations will be positioned throughout the courses. Participants will finish the tour with the "Harvest Moon Celebration." The post-ride party with music, an up-scale lunch, prize drawings and cycling expo will continue throughout the afternoon."
For more information on event pricing, the routes or to register, visit www.tourofthemoon.com. For additional information about Event Marketing Group, visit www.emgcolorado.com.