ALPENA - The League of Michigan Bicyclists Sunrise Bicycle Tour will be using Alpena as the new beginning location for this year's Northeast Michigan weekend rides. The three-day event, being held Friday-Sunday, will offer fresh routes each day to experience the area's natural beauty on wheels and provide an opportunity to shop, dine and explore museums, lighthouses, and other attractions when not riding.
Terri Rondeau, a member of Alpena's organizing committee, said the tour offers a new perspective for local people, but also has captured interest from as far away as Kentucky.
"It gives us a chance to experience the beauty that we have. I think we forget how pretty our area is because we're in it, and always think somewhere else is better. This is seeing it through (visitors') eyes," Rondeau said.
Rogers City has hosted the sunrise tour in the past, and Rondeau said she is excited Alpena has been sought out.
"This is a great biking town," she said.
According to Rondeau, 91 riders were registered as of Thursday, about a dozen of which she guessed are local. There is still time to sign up, and registration will be held all week, including the day of.
Visiting cyclists will check in to their motel of choice on Thursday, and a wine and cheese reception will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Friday morning, after breakfast at Alpena Community College, Mayor Matt Waligora will welcome the group.
Rondeau said riders will get a good feel of the weekend's itinerary before the first ride kicks off to Hubbard Lake, offering three loops ranging from 33 to 59 miles. Saturday's is the shortest ride available, clocking in at 27 miles to Presque Isle, though there are two longer options up to 65 miles long. Sunday gives two ride choices along the Thunder Bay River - 27 or 47 miles.
Rondeau said you have to be "somewhat fit" to endure the rides, however, Sunday's ride would be a fun one to "get your feet wet," and State Rep. Peter Pettalia will address the group. It starts at 8:15 a.m. from ACC with a police escort until Bolton Road.
ACC will be the central hub, where locally catered group breakfasts and dinners will be served. Riders also will set off on their route each day from the college. Rondeau said SAG (support and gear) stops will be available along the rides, where cyclists can stop and drink water, eat a snack, and use the restroom. Local service clubs, including the Dork Brothers, Thunder Bay Trails Association, Exchange Club, Kiwanis, and the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, have agreed to donate their time at the SAG stops to provide assistance and serve as ambassadors for the community.
"We got lucky with the way things worked out, everything kind of lined up," she said. Alpena's Downtown Block Party is taking place Friday at 5:30 p.m., Blue Phoenix Books is hosting a seersucker ride at 3 p.m. on Saturday - "a leisurely, easy six (mile) ride" - and Concerts in the Park begins Saturday at 6 p.m. in addition to the all-day Presque Isle Wooden Boat Show.
Rondeau said it is important for drivers to recognize that cyclists share the same rights on the road.
"People on peddle bikes have every right to the road that motorists do and are entitled to part of the road. A lot of people think they're not. We want to raise awareness all summer long to be on the lookout for cyclists," she said.
Amy Essex, Terri Riopelle and Kim Krajniak are members of the organizing committee with Rondeau. Sue Krafft and Stan Mischley have been heavily involved in planning also.
Helmets are required to be worn when riding, and Rondeau recommends using road bikes over mountain bikes, as the tires are thinner and smoother.
For local people, the sunrise tour costs $40 on Friday, $40 on Saturday and $25 on Sunday. The cost includes dinner, a map, SAGs, a T-shirt, and rider gifts. Those who opt out of dinner pay $30 for Friday and Saturday's rides. Registration forms are available at Bay Athletic Club or by contacting Terri Rondeau at 354-1040. For more information, visit www.lmb.org.
"The T-shirts were made local, printing was done local. Everything we could keep local we're doing. Fifteen percent of the net is coming back to the community for cycling so we can keep growing this thing.
"If Mother Nature cooperates like (this week) ... wow, just perfect," Rondeau said.
Jessica Nikolich can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 343.