Bicycles and beers collide this weekend in downtown Mount Pleasant


Bicycle and beer enthusiasts will have something in common this weekend as downtown Mount Pleasant hosts the  6th annual Le Tour De Mont Pleasant race in conjunction with the inaugural Mount Pleasant Craft Beer Festival.

The weekend will also feature the city's 30th annual Summer Festival.

According to organizers for both events, the two parties will profit from the partnership.

"We realized we didn't want the events to compete with each other and we had the potential to create a city-wide event that's beneficial for everyone," said Le Tour de Mont Race Director Ben Rollenhagen.

The Beer Festival, hosted by the Mount Pleasant Jaycess, will take place from 4-9 p.m on Saturday. The event is open to adults 21 years or older. Attendees will be able to sample beer from 19 brewing companies from across Michigan.

Cycling races start Friday, kicking off with a time trial near the Indoor Athletic Center on the campus of Central Michigan University, followed by the Criterium race on Saturday. The Criterium race is scheduled to take place downtown and, on Sunday, a culminating road race is scheduled to begin near Mid-Michigan Community College.

Rollenhagen said Le Tour attracts cycling enthusiasts from all over the state, but caters mostly to a strictly niche audience of athletes and their families. Meanwhile, the Beer Festival was cancelled last year because it could not gain enough traction in the community and sold too few tickets.

Having the events run concurrently presents the opportunity of expansion. Brian Anderson, the director of Middle Michigan Development Corporation, said the combined venture has already proven fruitful.

"The city said there are three big events with three different groups coming to Mount Pleasant for different reasons so we needed to look at it as one big event," Anderson said. "What we wound up with was a pretty good strategy for keeping people around."

Anderson said the city seemed satisfied with marketing efforts thus far, having the advantage of being able to build on the failure of last year's attempt. He said the event benefits from a rising movement in the Midwest toward drinking craft beer, especially as consumers become more refined in their beer drinking habits. This rise in an affinity toward choosing craft beers has made it easier to get more brewers to participate.

One main goal of the event, aside from getting patrons to drink good beer, is getting representatives from the breweries to connect with their consumer base. This is meant to be an educational tasting event, one that allows vendors and beer aficionados to discuss the process of creating a nuanced product.

"We've seen the market grow from consumer side, pallets have become more refined," Anderson said. "Michigan is one of the biggest and fastest micro-brew states in the country. People love sampling beer that was brewed down the road. There's a kind of home-ness that you have in Michigan brewed beers."

The Beer Festival is right in the heart of the Criterium race on Saturday, which starts and finishes near the corner of Broadway and Franklin streets. VIP ticket holders will gain early admission to a VIP area hosted by Mountain Town Station Brewing Co. with access to special brews not available elsewhere. The VIP area will also offer a close view of Le Tour de Mont Pleasant race.

Beer Festival ticket holders receive a sampling glass plus six drink tickets upon admission. Additional drink tickets may be purchased for $1 each.

A majority of the racers are from Michigan racers who come for one of the largest and longest races in the region, but Rollenhagen said it's tough to bring people in from outside the state. Despite this, a competitive and loyal pool of athletes comes back each year, including top professional teams and even Canadian pro teams.

"Cycling and beer go hand in hand," Rollenhagen said. "All the cyclists I know like to recover and relax over a good craft beer. We designed it to be inside the course so you get great shots of the racers as they go by."

Rollenhagen said they expect around 500-600 attendees over the weekend, however 80 percent of their tickets are sold on the day of the event.



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