Bienvenue dans le Maine. Profitez de votre balada a velo!
These words — Welcome to Maine. Enjoy your bike ride! — might be uttered many times as Vélo Québec brings a bicycle tour with some 2,000 cyclists to the state in 2013.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development announced the non-profit bicycling association is coming to Maine for a week in 2013 for its 20th annual Grand Tour Desjardins.
The bicycle tour is expected to be a big economic windfall for the state. The cyclists will stop in many of Maine’s small towns clamoring for food, entertainment and lodging as they travel for 600 miles over a 7-day period.
Vélo Québec will use local caterers, equipment rental and security companies to support the group. While most of the cyclists camp in host cities, organizers told the state more than 200 would be seeking lodging at inns and motels every night.
The hungry cyclists also are expected to purchase 36,000 meals from businesses during the bike tour.
Economic and development commissioner George Gervais said the Grand Tour was a “tremendous economic opportunity” for the state, and his staff will be working with the communities “to maximize the economic potential” of the tour.
Vélo Québec chooses a different route for the Grand Tour Desjardins every year. This summer, the cyclists will tour the scenic roads of the Gaspe Peninsula.
Next year’s bike tour will mark the Grand Tour’s first visit to Maine. The 600-mile loop starts and ends in Waterville, with overnight stops in Bangor, Bar Harbor or Ellsworth, Belfast and Newcastle.
The nonprofit Vélo Québec also presents smaller bike rides in Montreal and around province, as well as sponsoring bike tours to international locations. It is one of the bike tour companies sanctioned to provide bike tours to the Tour de France.
Vélo Québec also oversees development of the Route Verte, the internationally renown 3,000-mile bike route network that cris-crosses the province.
Interestingly, the Route Verte was touted at the National Bike Summit 2012 Wednesday morning in a session about the community economic benefits of bike tourism. Opening in 2007 at a cost of $160 million, the route brought in $134 million in economic development its first year.