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Race features Forsyth
Tour of Atlanta to visit May 25
Reality Bikes Ride 3 es
A biking group from Reality Bike Shop make their way through Cumming Wednesday. Some bikers will use the weekly ride as practice for the upcoming Tour of Atlanta, which will include Forsyth. - photo by Emily Saunders
Forsyth County will be featured in this year’s Tour of Atlanta, a bicycling event that draws some 500 cyclists from more than 20 states and several countries to north Georgia.

Part of the Georgia Cup tour, the four-day competition May 22-25 is in its second year and takes place mostly in Alpharetta.

For Eric Neely of Reality Bikes in Cumming, the event is just plain fun.

“A lot of our team will be participating,” Neely said. “I was glad ... it’s on our home turf.”

Neely took part in last year’s event, adding that it is a tough ride for an amateur. He plans to use his weekly Reality Bikes group rides as part of his training.

The best way to train, he said, will be long routes of between 50 and 100 miles, as well as fast-paced short routes.

Despite the wide field of competitors, Neely said locals have an advantage.

“Since it’s in my backyard, once I know the route specifically, I can go out and actually train on it.”

The seven-stage Tour of Atlanta, with a top prize of $15,000, is one of about 20 Georgia Cup races scheduled for this year. Georgia Cup is the largest professional-amateur cycling series in the nation.

James Lowe, event director, said the Tour of Atlanta fills a need in the Southeast.

“[There] was a need of a large, multiple-day, multiple-stage race here in the Southeast that we didn’t have for professionals and amateurs,” he said. “We didn’t have that in the Southeast.”

The Tour of Atlanta may also help fill a cycling void left by the Tour de Georgia, which is taking this year off.

The Tour de Georgia, a cross-state bike race that has struggled to find a title sponsor in recent years, could return in 2010, organizers have said.

The Tour de Georgia passed through Forsyth County several times over its six years, including 2006 when Cumming served as a tour host city. In 2008, the tour’s fifth stage passed through the county.

Lowe said Alpharetta’s warm welcome made it the perfect fit to play host to the Tour of Atlanta.

“We hope to be able to do it every year there,” he said. “The route is definitely competitive. I wouldn’t say any more competitive than some of them, but definitely as competitive.”

The last stage of the race is the longest, taking cyclists 22 miles through Forsyth and three other counties.

Reality Bikes has been tied to the Georgia Cup for years, said Neely, adding that including Forsyth County on the route will help generate business.

“It’s better marketing for us,” he said. “It reaches a more local clientele.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at