Coming full circle: Tour de Steamboat counts on community, sponsors to keep on turning
Bicyclists ready for large Saturday ride
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a town full of bike races, the Tour de Steamboat sticks out, as it’s just a ride.
Cyclists aren’t timed, and they don’t earn prizes or medals. The goal is to enjoy the scenery, while fundraising for community nonprofits.
While taking in the view of the Yampa Valley, riders will pedal along five different routes, ranging from 26 to 116 miles, on Saturday, July 20. Registration fees and funds raised are split evenly between the four nonprofit beneficiaries: Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Partners in Routt County, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Routt County Riders.
“The Tour de Steamboat is YVSC’s biggest fundraising event. It has a great impact on our work,” the Sustainability Council’s Communications and Marketing Director Anne Mudgett said. “With recent reports about climate change, it’s clear we need to act really quickly to protect everything we all love about the Yampa Valley … Being a beneficiary of the Tour de Steamboat is critical to us in terms of supporting that work.”
Each beneficiary will be present at Little Toots Park, where the race begins and ends, to explain to the public how the estimated $20,000 donation will help their respective cause.
The funds don’t stop there, though. The pay it forward initiative grants each beneficiary more money to gift to a nonprofit of their choice. In 2018, the Soroco Preschool received $1,500 for playground equipment, the town of Oak Creek was given $2,500 for school-age childcare programs and $1,000 went to the Community Assistance Fund, according to Mudgett.
In the end, community groups reap the ultimate reward, but ahead of the event, the Tour de Steamboat benefits from the community.
“Without our community doing this with us, we wouldn’t be able to do it for our community,” Tour de Steamboat Co-Director Katie Lindquist said. “It’s a benefit ride. People volunteer because one, they know they’re going to be supported as a volunteer. They know what they’re doing. They know what their job is. But, they also volunteer because they know that together we can give a lot more to our community, to give back as a group more than we could give (alone).”
Two weeks after the conclusion of the 2018 Tour de Steamboat, the planning for this year began. While co-directors Lindquist and Abi Slingsby lead the way, staff and board members of the four main beneficiaries also play a huge role in the planning.
The Sustainability Council focuses on the marketing and permitting throughout the year, but as the event approaches, it’s all hands on deck. Anything that needs to get done, the beneficiaries are there to help.
On Thursday, the Sustainability Council’s Executive Director Sarah Jones spent hours printing out signs.
“Very glamorous,” she said with a laugh, “Like, ‘No dogs allowed in the park’, ‘Registration A-Z’, those kind of things.”
On Friday, she’ll meet the port-a-potty man, and on Saturday, she will be what she calls the ‘beer wench,’ serving beverages at the post-ride barbecue and beer garden.
All the odd jobs by the beneficiaries add up to a successful event, which, in return, powers their programs.
“We rely on that every year for all of our programs,” Jones said. “The nice part is, a lot of our grants are specific to one program. The great thing about Tour de Steamboat is we can put it where we need it.”
If the Tour de Steamboat is a wheel, and the sponsors are spokes holding that wheel together, the volunteers are the tire. Everything runs much smoother with them there.
“We continue to be an all-volunteer organization and raise money for four beneficiaries,” Lindquist said. “Plus, at least four to five other beneficiaries, so up to eight beneficiaries will receive over $100,000. Last year, I think we gave away $115,000. Although we’re sold out, we still need volunteers. It’s a lot of fun. You get a t-shirt. We have just a great group of people who volunteer for us, and we have a huge return rate. We always could use volunteers, but we have a really nice, loyal support system.”
Volunteers direct traffic, hand out water and food at aid stations, which is vital for the riders in the middle of a 100-mile ride. In total, more than 200 volunteers are needed to cover all the ground across the courses, which run through Routt and Grand County.
New this year is a 100-mile gravel course that runs along rural roads between Rabbit Ears Pass and Gore Pass, where there is limited cell service.
“We set our volunteers up to succeed. We make sure they have emergency numbers, contact information, first aid, we have EMT’s riding the course and driving with SAG vehicles,” Lindquist said. “We want our volunteers to succeed in having our riders be happy and taken care of. That’s what’s really key about this event. We want everybody to have a good time, and we don’t want volunteers to feel like they needed something and didn’t have it.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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