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Organizers learn from inaugural Wilsonville 'grand fondo' bike event hoped to draw road bikers to region

SPOKESMAN PHOTOS: LESLIE HOLE - About 50 riders participated in the inaugural Salmon Cycling Classic. According to Salmon Cycling Classic organizer Terrence Clark, the quantity of people who attended the inaugural bike event in Wilsonville July 21 did not reflect the quality of the event.

While he said about 50 riders showed up, the riders who did appreciated the scenic route, as well as the complementary salmon dinner and glass medallion for finishers.

"The ride itself was terrific. The meal was first-class. It was outstanding. We had a really nice medallion for everyone who rode," he said. "I think everyone had a wonderful time.

We'll need to do a much more effective job of get-

ting the word out for next year."

Clark said attendees were generally advanced bikers from five different states, while one biker came from Canada.The event that started at Memorial Park included 50-killometer, 60-killometer and 80-killometer rides.

Along with organizing, Clark rode in the race and enjoyed meandering through fields and mountains and gazing at a bevy of sights along the way.

"It's a beautiful area. To have areas where you can ride where there's little traffic, panoramic views of Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, fields of grain, pastures, cows, stables," he said. "There's a whole lot of stuff that you don't get in the average ride."

Along with an 80-kilometer route and a 50-kilometer route, organizers added a 60-kilometer version that avoided gravel in response to concern from interested riders.

"I was surprised. A number of the people came because there was gravel. They wanted to be in the gravel. For some people it was a negative and for some it was a positive," Clark said.

Wilsonville resident Steve Van Wechel came up with the idea of the bike ride as an attraction that would complement the proposed French Prairie Bridge, a non-motorized span that would cross the Willamette River and enter Wilsonville via Boones Ferry Road. The organizers mentioned the bridge project, which is still being planned and hasn't received funding, prior to the bike event.

"The reason for the ride was to raise awareness for the need for the bridge," Clark said.

Clark said he and Van Wechel funded the route and lost money due to the low turnout. A few months before the route, Van Wechel projected 250 people would sign up. Clark hopes improved marketing and positive reviews lead to greater turnout next year. He also said organizers will look to add sponsors.

"I road around last week, and asked people if they were riding in the Salmon Cycling Classic. They didn't know anything about it and these are local people," Clark said.

"Now that we have proof of concept, we need to improve the numbers and we'll get marketing and sponsorships to do that. I think it's a great opportunity for local businesses."

Clark would also like to drum up more community support and flesh out activities for tagalongs who aren't participating in the ride.

"Next year we'll have more activities for people who aren't going to do the ride and we'd like to develop more excitement in the community," he said.

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