Thousands to ride with Lance Armstrong at Tour Down Under

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If you're looking for the surging interest in cycling that Lance Armstrong's return to the peloton is sure to bring, consider these two facts:

— Nearly double the number of recreational riders have signed up to ride Stage 4 of this year's Tour Down Under ahead of the pro peloton.

— And South Australia has pumped another $1.5 million into the ride to handle the influx of visitors and media.

Challenge bike ride

With five days remaining to register for the citizen's challenge ride, Tour Down Under reports that 6,312 are ready to ride this year, compared to 3,400 bicyclists last year. Among those riding this year, are 1,500 visitors from other countries, including the US.

The Mutual Community Challenge Tour takes place on Jan. 23 and enables bicyclists to leave early in the morning to ride the Tour Down Under bike route from Burnside Village to Angaston ahead of the peloton. Registration closes at 5 p.m. Jan. 9.

You can register for the Challenge Tour bike ride online. Although it says ridership is capped at 5,000, apparently they're forgetting that limit. The cost is $130. The distance is 96 miles (155 km).

More funds

Meanwhile, the state government has budgeted another $1.5 million to handle extra accommodations for media, exta security, and extra stands. A government official said the event is “bigger than Ben-Hur.”

The Tour Down Under earned $17.3 million in tourism dollars last year; they must be looking for more income this year.

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