51st Great Western Bicycle Rally enjoys all Paso has to offer
The 51st Great Western Bicycle Rally was a full weekend of cycling and enjoying all that the Paso Robles area has to offer. The event was attended by around 800 people, most from outside the county. Event owner Jo Panzera said that the vast majority of participants were from California. She said there was even one person from Norway.
“The event was fantastic,” Panzera said. “Great energy and really positive feedback from people on the changes we made. The addition of the community aspect was a big hit. People loved the Artisan Market and the vendors said they really enjoyed it and it was definitely worth their while coming.”
The Artisan Market has local vendors showcasing their wares. The vendors included TheraBee, The Wandering Cookie, Action Wipes, Heaven Squared Brownie Co., Kiler Ridge Olive Farm, Dude Girl, Calfee Design, Jump Start Body Fuel and JoeBella Coffee.
“I am just pleased at how many vendors I’ve seen here,” Best Bike Zone owner Steve Fluery said, adding that his business led a 32-mile coffee ride that morning with the most riders it’s ever had. “It’s exciting and I think the event is being upscaled. Probably more attendees than I’ve seen … and it’ll probably get bigger.”
The even officially began Friday morning with participant registration at 8 a.m. and the first ride, Best Bike Zone Early Bird Group Ride, starting at 9 a.m. The event Hub was held at Paso Robles Event Center with the Artisan Market and daily events such as a food truck, beer and wine tasting, bike stand competitions and more. Olympian John Howard gave a talk Friday evening and Sunday evening. Sean Simonson was the Saturday evening guest speaker.
Paso Robles resident and avid cyclist Bill Haas led wine rides on Saturday and Sunday. Both rides left from the Hub at 10:30 a.m. and went into the afternoon. The 31-mile ride on Saturday included stops at Castoro Cellars, Donati Family Vineyards, Opolo Vineyards, Brecon Estates Kiler Ridge Olive Farm. Sunday’s 33- mile ride included stops at J&J Cellars, Le Vigne Winery, Graveyard Vineyard and Derby Wine Estates.
“I was going to do the century or the 62-mile, but this is so much fun,” Mike Jones of San Diego said during Saturday’s wine ride. “This is as cool as anything I biked in Italy. This is spectacular.”
Brecon owner and winemaker Damian Grindley said he chose to be an official stop on the ride because he loves to cycle. “I used to cycle everywhere,” he said.
“I love doing this,” Haas said, adding that he’s led wine tours for the last 10 years. “[It was] flat-out gorgeous. Wonderful weather, fabulous wineries. Great people.”
The bike routes ranged in length from 5.5 miles to 104 miles. The rides were self-guided, guided, supported or competitive.
- Dave Smith Memorial Time Trial
- Willard Hellman Hill Climb
- Ultra Distance Competition
- Track Stand Competition
The two fully supported rides took place on Saturday and Sunday. The Velo de Femme was open to women only and riders could choose between 33- and 49-mile routes. Giro di Paso was held on Sunday and riders could choose from 46-, 63- and 104-mile rides with 2,300, 5,700 and 8.500 feet of climbing.
The shortest ride of the weekend was Pasoport Wanderer, where people had to ride to different businesses in Paso Robles and get their cards stamped. Panzera said it was a very popular ride and something that would be expanded next year. Stops this year included We Olive, Paso Robles Children’s Museum, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, General Store Paso Robles, Paso Arts Fest and Best Bike Zone.
“This is confirmation what a great place this is for cycling,” Paso Robles City Councilman Steve Gregory said.
The event is held every year over Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the event, go to www.greatwesternbicyclerally.com.