The RTC’s annual cycle-fest, Viva Bike Vegas, is on hold for 2014. Long-distance road bikers will have to get their century fixes somewhere other than Las Vegas – at least for the time being. But, in the long run, this may not be such a bad thing.
The ride originated with the Las Vegas Valley Bicycle Club, a community-minded band of bicyclers who devote as much time to advocacy as to spin class. The RTC got involved as a headline sponsor for the club’s Las Vegas Century, and then, in 2008, took over organizing the ride itself. Change ensued – much of it meant to raise the event’s profile. Over the years, the transportation agency changed the name to Viva Bike Vegas, staged it on The Strip, added varying distances (ranging from 17 to 100-plus miles), moved the date to coincide with cycling-industry trade show Interbike, persuaded big-name professional cyclists and bike brands to participate, and enlisted Zappos.com as a platinum sponsor.
It worked. The event grew from a few hundred locals to several thousand people from all over the world. Last year, Outside Magazine picked it as one of the top 10 gran fondos (“big rides”) in the U.S.
But did this make it better? Depends whom you ask. Out-of-town cyclists, who saw the event as an excuse for a trip to Sin City, have expressed disappointment at its postponement. Many local riders, on the other hand, say they won’t miss the overcrowded, overpriced scene that Viva Bike Vegas had become.
I finished the full-distance ride in 2012, my first and only Viva Bike Vegas. When my riding buddies asked if I’d tackle it again last year, I declined, opting instead for a women-only century in Northern Utah. Compared to similar rides I’ve done in Central and Southern California, Viva Bike Vegas is a great route – challenging and picturesque – and the event is well-organized. I simply prefer not having to elbow my way through a scrum of newbies on a major tourist thoroughfare in order to break through to the good stuff.
The RTC says it will shift its focus this year to “community cycling activities and initiatives, including several smaller rides throughout the year.” It doesn’t mention motivation, but, regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, the end result is the same: a return to the ride’s roots. Here’s hoping the community will embrace the renewed locals focus as enthusiastically as visitors jumped into the gran fondo fray.