Cyclists from across the county will mount their carbon horses this Sunday for the 10th annual Tour de Tahoe, a 72-mile supported bike ride around the lake that will raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 9, riders will don arm and knee warmers before rolling out of the Horizon Casino Resort parking lot toward Emerald Bay and the ride's first rest station.
For the slightly less intrepid, there's the $140 cruise option. Riders can enjoy breakfast on the lake as they take the Tahoe Queen paddlewheeler to the North Shore where they will start the 35-mile ride back to the Horizon.
The $125 entrance fee for the whole loop buys the cyclists more than a few snacks at the rest stations. There might not be eggs benedict at the stops, but there will be Nature's Bakery fig bars, cookies, energy drinks and power bars. Riders are rewarded about halfway through the day with lunch at Kings Beach where they can consume the calories needed to get over the final grueling climb from Incline Village to Spooner Summit.
Event Director Curtis Fong said he expects about 1,800 riders to bike Big Blue this weekend in the event that he stresses is not a race but rather an opportunity to enjoy the basin's views and the food provided along the way - all while riding for a good cause.
"All people have to do is get on their bikes, ride and enjoy the scenery. I think a lot of people like to ride for a cause, and I think more than likely a ride around Lake Tahoe is one of those things on the bucket list," Fong said.
With signs lining the roadways and almost 2,000 cyclists on the route, riders are afforded more safety than they might otherwise get riding solo around the lake. Even though there won't be road closures, motorists are very aware of the bike traffic, Fong said.
It gives cyclists the chance to relax - if you can call pedaling over 72 miles of rolling road at altitude relaxing - and socialize with other riders from many different backgrounds along the way.
"It's a social ride. It's fun to get out and go around the lake. It's a good reminder of why we live here. For the most part, it's just beautiful and it reminds us that fall is coming" Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin said.
Chaplin, who's ridden the Tour de Tahoe multiple times and plans to do so again this weekend, said the event provides an economic bump during the post-Labor Day weekend lull. According to the LTVA, visitors who come to Tahoe for special events spend on average about $100 a day. Multiply that by the number of visitors coming to the basin for the tour - about 7,000 including riders and their families, Fong said - and you have a significant economic impact.
"They're in the store now," Tahoe Sports Ltd. Manager Eric Bickert said on the Wednesday before the ride.
"There's definitely a bump. It's a critical bump for us after Labor Day. It's a destination event," he said.