Gwinnett Bike Fest draws international racers to Gwinnett County

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by Caryn McGarity
Executive Director of the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau

Whirring wheels, cheering crowds, split-second finishes and hot pink spandex were just part of the scene at the first Gwinnett Bike Fest, an event that will be held annually. Created by the Gwinnett Sports Commission (GSC), our sports marketing division, this four-day, four-venue, "4" charity event was one of our first "created and owned" events and was, by all accounts, a tremendous success!

The race was the brainchild of Sports Commission Marketing Manager Pete Sherrard, who drew from his experience as creator and race director of the Orlando Spin City Classic, a 500-person race. In its first year and sanctioned by the United States Cycling Federation, the Gwinnett Bike Fest drew more than 350 registrants, attracting racers and teams from Australia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Brazil, as well as the Garneau Crocs Canadian racing team, owner of the hot pink spandex shorts!

We also drew racers from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. The events included the Road Atlanta Circuit Race, the Gwinnett Center Criterium, the Competitor Southeast Road Race (Ewing Chapel Road) and the Subaru of Gwinnett Criterium Race, held at the Gwinnett Progress Center in Lawrenceville.

Racer registration exceeded expectations by 30 percent, and we anticipate that the 2008 race will grow exponentially with both additional riders and venues.

The Gwinnett Bike Fest is just one of our sports events that are drawing visitors, both domestic and international, to Gwinnett County. The GCVB and the GSC have taken an innovative approach to the business of sports marketing – in an era of exorbitant bid fees, our staff has begun to create, own and operate events that will bring sports competitions to Gwinnett County. Participants and their families spend their dollars locally in our hotels, restaurants and stores, and then fill up their gas tanks – on their way home!

Our thanks and kudos go to everyone involved, including our race partners, Topview Sports, Frazier Cycling and the Gwinnett Touring Club. We received consistent praise on the tremendous quality, maintenance and level of our courses, including Gwinnett Center, Road Atlanta, Ewing Chapel Road and the Gwinnett Progress Center. Our sponsors, including Subaru of Gwinnett, Addictive Cycles, Cycle Works, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Competitor Southeast magazine, Sun & Ski Sports, Lifetime Fitness, Costco and Jersey Mike”s Subs made it all possible.

Success doesn”t just live in Gwinnett – it also plays here! From volunteering, promotion, sponsorship and participation, our local community was on board. And that support allowed us to give back as well. Our event revenues benefited the Gwinnett Foster Children”s Foundation.

Fall brings the Second Annual Women”s 50K Classic, a pro-circuit tennis event hosted by the Collins Hill Athletic Club. Featuring more than 60 competitive professional women tennis players, the Classic will also feature a new component, the Classic”s Community Festival. Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, and presented by the Tennis Channel and Charter Communications, families will enjoy inflatables, raffles, autograph sessions, kid”s clinics, food, ice cream and more!

Event revenues will benefit the newly formed Gwinnett Tennis Foundation, whose mission is to provide opportunities for the disabled and physically challenged juniors that reside in Gwinnett County.

We”re especially pleased that these events support the GCVB and the GSC”s core mission of generating and promoting events that generate economic impact for Gwinnett”s hospitality community. We”re doubly pleased that we can do that while also bringing our local community together, and putting dollars back into our deserving and loca