Sporting retro theme in honor of 35th anniversary, Tour des Suds returns to Park City
Thirty-five years ago, a group of guys thought it would be a good idea to ride their bikes all the way up to Guardsman Pass. Not wanting to make it overly competitive, they decided that beer would be an important part of their ride.
And with that, the Tour des Suds in Park City was born.
Fast-forward to the present and the ride that began with a few Parkites has turned into a full-fledged, annual event celebrated by more than 500 people.
“This is one of the oldest ongoing events in Park City and it’s really cool to be able to say that with how much it’s grown since its inception,” said Rick Fournier, field manager for Mountain Trails Foundation. “Usually we have around 300 riders and then countless people lining Main Street hooting and hollering to cheer on the riders. … It makes for a really cool and special environment.”
This year’s race is set for Sunday, Sept. 15, beginning at 10 a.m. at the City Park gazebo and ending atop Guardsman Pass. The course, which makes its way up Main Street amid all the spectators cheering the riders on, will end atop Guardsman Pass, completing the 7-mile, 2,700-foot elevation climb.
While the Tour des Suds is technically a bike race with the winners being the first atop Guardsman Pass, most of the participants use the ride as a way to promote family relations and have a great time on a Sunday. Costumes are highly encouraged, and are made even better by groups dressing up together — last year’s costume contest winners went to “Vladimir Putin and the Russian Dolls” as they held off Santa and his reindeer and a group of sorority sisters.
“I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been doing costumes but that portion of the race has definitely evolved over time,” Fournier said. “Group costumes seem to get the most cheers. … But more than that riders all trick out their bikes to match whatever theme they’ve chosen for the year.”
Also, participants will receive a pair of socks, which have become something of a collectible item according to Fournier, and a retro t-shirt that duplicates the original shirt given away at the inaugural competition.
Awaiting finishers at the top of Guardsman Pass will be beverages, a staple from the first time the race took place in 1985. This will allow riders to relax after the brutal climb.
There will also be festivities for participants of all ages at the end of ride.
“This is definitely a celebration of mountain biking and its rich history here in Park City,” Fournier said. “Because this event has been going on since the mid-’80s, it’s morphed into full-on celebration of mountain biking. It’s all about being a mountain town that embraces the culture that goes with that, and this races emphasizes that.”
Although the name of the race suggests a massive indulgence in beer — the “suds” portion referring to beer — it’s actually more of a family-friendly event, according to Fournier.
Kids 17 and under ride for free, and more often than not, families dress in costumes together. Fournier said inclusion of families is part of what’s driven the Tour des Suds for so long, giving it more of an enjoyable affair type of feel rather than a straight sprint to the top.
Following the conclusion of the race, participants will cycle back down towards City Park, where a party will take place.
“After the race, everyone hangs out up top and then migrates back down to City Park for the real fun,” Fournier said. “We will have Red Rock Brewing where adults can buy beer and a food truck there to serve lunch and beverages. The main party is in City Park, which is great with more of a community feel in the park, truly embracing the culture of the event.”
This year’s event, despite all its fun, will have somewhat of a somber mood. The mountain biking community in Park City will be celebrating the life of Cyndi Schwandt, an avid member of the Park City mountain biking community who died in a biking accident in June..
“It’s been tough because we lost somebody who was very involved in the local mountain biking scene,” Fournier said. “She never missed a Tour de Suds as long as I can remember. We will make a point of recognizing her and have a celebration of her life because she’ll be with us in spirit.”
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