Cherry-Roubaix has major financial commitment through 2013; event gaining serious momentum

TRAVERSE CITY – Local attorney Peter Worden wanted to get in on the ground floor of sponsoring a new bike race in town, but he wasn't sure it was going to resonate with his firm's corporate office in Detroit. He asked anyway.

The Traverse City office of the statewide Garan Lucow Miller P.C. law firm opened 10 years ago. But despite its presence here, it's had a relatively low profile, explains Worden. "Really no one had heard of us … and we needed to create name awareness. This was a neat way to create an identity."

But why a bike race? Worden is in his second season on the hometown Hagerty cycling team, one of his partners is a mountain biking enthusiast, and another coworker is a fixed gear cycling fanatic. In other words, there is a lot of love for two wheels around the office.

Worden got the thumbs up from Detroit for the inaugural Cherry-Roubaix in 2008. "That first year was such a success," says Worden. The event was a hit, and Garan Lucow Miller got some good exposure. People even called the firm later saying they first heard about them through the event, says Worden.

The firm has now signed on to be the title sponsor through 2013. "We view it as a great way to support the community and market ourselves, while not hitting anybody over the head with it," he adds.

He believes there are a lot of parallels between racing and law – knowing the right time to attack or "make a move," the ability to develop temporary alliances, and the team aspect that is ultimately involved in the win, whether in the race or in the courtroom.

The multi-year title sponsorship is huge for the Cherry-Roubaix, says McLain Cycle's Bob McLain, the event founder. "Any of the race organizations say any time you can get a two-year commitment, that's long-term. This means we can plan now so far in advance. People know this thing isn't going away."

The first year the Cherry Roubaix (say: roo-bay) offered just a single event – a criterium, or "crit"- something most people in Traverse City had never heard of. A crit is a bike race held on a short course (usually less than 5 km) and run on city streets. The name Cherry-Roubaix pays homage to the Paris-Roubaix, one of the oldest professional bicycle road races in the world and famous for rough terrain and cobblestone roads. The TC-based event includes a short section of brick cobblestones on Sixth Street in TC's Old Town.

The 3rd annual Cherry-Roubaix (Aug. 27-29) is bigger than ever. There will be downtown bicycle sprints, a charity ride benefiting the Munson Women's Cancer Fund, a kids ride and a cruiser classic, in addition to the signature criterium and road race.

McLain says organizers are expecting 400 riders for the Cherry-Roubaix Road Race alone, with some commitments from professional racing teams, vying for $20,000 in cash and prizes.

The event is also a participant in a new umbrella organization, the Third Coast Bicycle Festival, which hopes to turn Traverse City into a "two wheel" town the last week of August.

"Cycling in northern Michigan is really growing," says McLain. "People want to come to Traverse City to cycle."

Looking ahead, there is interest in tying the Cherry-Roubaix/Third Coast Bike Festival in with Porterhouse Productions' Microbrew & Music Festival held annually in August. Also, McLain says there is also a possibility of Traverse City hosting the state road race championships next year.

"It's a two-year commitment and a big, prestigious race," says McLain. "The pro teams will start rolling in even more." BN

For a complete schedule of cycling happenings in and around Traverse City during the Cherry-Roubaix and Third Coast Bicycle Festival, visit cherry-roubaix.com and tcbikefest.org.

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