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Natchez Bicycle Classic will be Ride not Race

It’s a Ride not a Race!

The Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals and Leadership Natchez are delighted to announce the rebirth of the Natchez Bicycle Classic on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

Though we initially scheduled it for May, the Young Professionals Executive Committee could not have predicted that we would undergo a global pandemic. This ride will be compliant with COVID-19 guidelines and, thankfully, this event is held entirely outdoors, and cyclists can be spaced easily.

For the past four years, this collaboration has held the Color Natchez 5K. Since this committee felt that this event has “run its course”, it was decided to go a different “route.” The Color Natchez 5K primarily catered to the local market/participants and we are venturing to think bigger.

Debbie Hudson, President and CEO of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce, was reading about a similar ride in Greenwood, Mississippi that occurs in August. Their most recent ride brought over 1,100 riders to their area (in August). So, our group once again met and figured out how to make this happen in Natchez. Our focus has been on the potential economic impact it could bring to our area and planned it on an open weekend in Natchez and an open weekend on the Mississippi-Louisiana Bicycling Association Calendar. Lucky for us, it is Memorial Day weekend.

The Natchez Bicycle Classic’s inception was in 1989 and ended in 2000. Through its years, the race aided the “Keep Natchez-Adams County Beautiful” campaign. We see the direct benefits every day, though we may not realize it. The barricades for parades, as well as the “Natchez Green” benches and trashcans downtown are direct fruits of the race.

In its peak in 1991-1993, this race brought over 400 riders to our area, dining in our restaurants and putting heads on beds. People came from all over the country to race through downtown Natchez, from as far away as California, Michigan and New York. Their efforts were by word of mouth and printed materials. This was before the time of social media and digital marketing. Think of what we can do now.

With our reincarnated Natchez Bicycle Classic, we have changed a few things. First of all, it’s a Ride, not a Race. When we began our research to this niche market, our group realized we were on a learning curve and learning a new language. And, they are cyclists, not bikers. By marketing digitally from New Orleans to Nashville, we are able to geo-target specific demographics to attract people to our ride.  Instead of riding through downtown Natchez, our riders will head to the Natchez Trace, which in the cycling world is considered the Mecca of rides.

They will begin at 8am on Saturday, September 19 on Broadway Street along the Bluff. The riders will then be escorted to the Natchez Trace Parkway by police and led by the host riders of the Natchez Bicycle Club to begin their various road distances of 16 miles, 26 miles, 35 miles, and 57 miles. We will also have a gravel ride with various distances for cyclists who prefer that terrain. Along the rides, the Young Professionals provide several SAG (Support And Gear) stops for the riders to replenish with snacks, beverages, and comradery. Post-ride, we will be providing a meal and beverages for the participants. 

We plan to have many events for our riders to attend. Friday: Packet Pick up and Welcome Reception; Saturday: Ride and SAG Stops; Post-Ride Party on the Bluff; Afternoon Pool Party; Evening Reception; Sunday: Recovery Ride led by local host riders; Brunch.

Along with the events listed, riders will also receive a T-shirt with the original Natchez Bicycle Classic design by Charles Moroney, and custom socks among other goodies from our contributing sponsors. If you would like to have the opportunity to add your swag to our bags with your sponsorship, please contact Sela Gaude at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce at 601-445-4611 or by email at manager@natchezchamber.com and she will be thrilled to give you the details. Especially since many events either have been rescheduled or cancelled, it is imperative for our community to have an event that brings visitors in to support our local businesses.

I reiterate, this is not a Race, it’s a Ride. This particular niche of riders are not necessarily Lance Armstrong and this is not the Tour de France. This is a leisurely ride with no time restrictions or sanctions. In our research we found that although all ages attend these rides, the target age is 25-40. How appropriate that the Natchez Young Professionals want to sponsor an event that brings their age to Natchez.

If you would like to participate, please visit www.natchezbicycleclassic.com to register and please follow our Young Professionals Facebook page. Come for the Ride; Stay for the Party!

Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff is the marketing/advertising Chair of Natchez Young Professionals.