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Bike classic to pedal tourism dollars to area next weekend

NATCHEZ — Next weekend, local tourism dollars will be generated with pedal power.

More than 100 cyclists are expected to gather in Natchez for the inaugural Young Professionals Natchez Bicycle Classic on Sept. 19.

“It has been almost 20 years since we had a race,” organizer Matthew Hall said. “I remember going to it when I was a young kid. It was a race back then.”

Hall is a member of the Young Professionals of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, the group that is bringing the popular event back to Natchez — with a twist.

Instead of a series of competitive races, this year’s event is more about the rides than the races.

“People will be able to go at their own pace,” MArketing and Advertising Chair Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff said about this year’s event.

Laukhuff and Hall both said that event was created to bring tourism dollars to the community. The hope is that riders from out of town will stay, eat and shop in the area.

“We wanted to bring people and let them spend money in Natchez,” Hall said. “It is good exposure for the Chamber, a good promotion for Natchez and a great opportunity to bring back a really cool event.”

Laukhuff said organizers are already excited about the number of cyclists that have already signed up for this year’s event.

“As of Friday morning, we have had 89 riders sign up,” Laukhuff said. “Considering we are a week away from the event, that is a very good sign. From then on, we are anticipating about 10 people sign up a day.”

Laukhuff said that others who have experience with similar events said the number of people who have already signed up for the event points to a good weekend.

Earlier this year, Greenwood hosted 500 bicyclists for a similar ride, Laukhuff said. In the past, more than 1,000 cyclists attended the annual event in Greenwood, but because of COVID-19 the organizers of the event had to place a cap on the number of riders that could attend, Laukhuff said.

Laukhuff said this year’s race has the potential to attract many bikers because it includes the Natchez Trace.

“The Natchez Trace is considered a mecca for bicyclists, and we get to have an event that celebrates that, since we are the beginning of the Trace,” Laukhuff said.

With four rides a varying length, cyclists will start on Broadway Street in front of the Natchez Grand Hotel and be escorted to the Natchez Trace or Cemetery Road depending on which ride they choose. The distance of the rides ranges from a few miles to 56 miles on paved or gravel surfaces.

All events will start at 7 a.m. and will be complete by 2 p.m.

Organizers hope participants will come to Natchez on Friday and spend the weekend to eat, stay and have a good time in the city in addition to the Saturday bike ride.

Using the guidelines issued by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and local officials, organizers of the event said they are taking all of the necessary steps to ensure participants, volunteers, and residents’ safety and well-being.

All events will take place outdoors.

All Chamber employees and Chamber-authorized volunteers will be provided and required to wear appropriate masks and other protective equipment. The state’s 6-foot minimum social distance guideline will be observed throughout the race. Participants and volunteers will be required to sign a COVID-19 waiver.