It’s a tremendous honor and economic opportunity for the Central Savannah River Area, said Paul Farrow, the executive vice president of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, at a press conference Friday to kick off this weekend’s 2012 Georgia-lina Bike Summit.
As a newly designated IMBA Ride Center, Augusta joins just 10 national and global cycling destinations, including Park City, Utah, and Taupo, New Zealand. The designation was made based on the 17 trails in five counties that bring 150 miles of riding opportunities to cyclists. They include the Forks Area Trail System, a 36-mile mountain bike trail in South Carolina’s Sumter National Forest.
Farrow said mountain bike riders take the Ride Area designation into serious consideration when planning a vacation. They’re also looking for activities for their downtime and for the non-riders in their family, Farrow said.
“Augusta is a perfect place for downtime,” Farrow said.
Augusta has already earned a reputation for sports tourism a Half Ironman and the USA National Cycling championships. This Ride Area status further solidifies the role Augusta plays in pushing sports tourism beyond golf, said Brinsley Thigpen, the CEO of the Augusta Sports Council.
Friday’s announcement was made in advance of bike summit, which is the first in the nation to bring together cycling advocates from two states. The summit, held at Augusta State University, will teach advocates how to encourage safer community cycling on the grass-roots and state level.