Bike riders from all over enjoy rejuvenated Tour

The Ash family of Grand Junction make the most of a cool, cloudy Sunday and join the hundreds of bicyclists pedaling around the Grand Valley during Community Hospital’s Tour of the Valley as they climb a hill along I Road.

A group of 800 riders was enough to tell the organizers of the Tour of the Valley that the event was missed.

After a one-year hiatus, the bike ride sponsored by Community Hospital returned Sunday for its 21st year.

“We took a year off to reenergize,” Tour coordinator Becky Jessen said. “People came back in force, so I think they were excited to have it back.”

There were five different routes that sent riders throughout the valley, the shortest a 15-mile ride that took riders from a starting point at the Doubletree Hotel to Canyon View Park and back. There also was a 100-mile ride that truly toured the valley, as riders traveled from Palisade to Fruita including a trip over Colorado National Monument.

Mike Hair, of Las Vegas, Nevada, took the century ride. In his first year at the Tour, the 57-year-old said it was as tough as he anticipated.

“Going up the monument was quite a climb, but it was fun,” Hair said. “I have ridden about 30 events, and this is right up there. Nice people and great peaches.”

Although the most difficult part of the ride was the monument climb, Hair said his favorite area was getting to ride in Palisade and in the Redlands.

“In Vegas every house is Stucco with a red tile roof,” Hair said. “Here you see different things, people who have lawns that go forever. So I have as much fun looking around as I do riding.”

Hair was part of the 40 percent of the riders who came from outside of Mesa County. Jessen said the Tour had riders from Oregon, Utah, California and the Front Range.

“We thought it might be a building year,” Jessen said. “But people wanted it to come back. We got a lot of emails and calls.”

One reason the race might be so popular is because it has something for everyone. Jessen said organizers see a lot of families who ride together with children riding one of the lesser routes and parents taking on a 50 or 75-mile ride. But the variety provides a rider with the choice of how challenging they want to make the ride.

Greg Bruns, of Grand Junction, was riding in the Tour for the first time, and did the 50-mile ride, which took riders through Palisade and into Orchard Mesa.

“I like the 50, especially this time of year,” Bruns said. “We got blessed with cool weather this morning, and we were really close to deciding to do the 75, but when the heat hit, I was glad we didn’t.”

As for next year, both Bruns and Hair said they plan on returning. Jessen said from the amount of positive feedback they received Sunday, organizers are excited to continue the race.

“It’s interesting that people wouldn’t let it die,” Jessen said. “I think the response today tells me people are glad to have it back.”


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