Jim Hemig: The Gold Country Challenge, an elusive win-win | TheUnion.com

Jim Hemig: The Gold Country Challenge, an elusive win-win

Jim Hemig Publisher The Union
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Those who know me know I’m always looking for the elusive win-win.

What’s a win-win? To put it simply, anything where all parties benefit. A win-win could be a business arrangement, a friendship or even a community event.

I think I have found the ultimate win-win in the Gold Country Cycling Challenge.

Our small community tends to be divided when it comes to seeking economic opportunities. Most folks agree that we need to do something to support economic growth to fund our community services and infrastructure. Yet when ideas are brought up, the detractors shout down most of the possibilities.

I agree with Bob that the goal of bringing people to our community is an economic win for us. If we can attract people to participate from outside the area, our hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail businesses win.

We have folks fighting over whether we should add more housing developments or shopping centers. Some are against firing up the logging industry or resuming mining. Looks like leveraging our marijuana expertise as a revenue source is on its way out, too.

From my point of view, only business development and tourism are viable economic possibilities. We, as a community, have shut the door to everything else.

But maybe that’s not so bad. I spent some time recently in Reno and Sacramento. Each time I wander that far away I’m reminded why I like living here – there is too much traffic and too many people in the cities. We do not want to be like those places.

However, I also believe that we need to seek economic growth. But the focus needs to be on growth that fits, and does not diminish, our small town quality of life.

We do seem to have some resources we can exploit that fit these criteria.

We have beautiful forested hills, quiet country roads and some very nice people; everything needed to put on an epic bike ride.

Former American professional road racing cyclist Greg LeMond, who won the Road Race World Championship twice and the Tour de France three times, used to ride these very back roads. We even named a route, the LeMond Loop, after him. If our hilly terrain is interesting enough for a cycling legend, I’d bet we could leverage that to interest others to visit and ride in our community.

Last Saturday Teresa Baker wrote in an “Other Voices” piece, “What did take me by surprise, perhaps due to my perception of the area, was the friendly and inviting atmosphere. From the moment I entered festival headquarters, I was met with nothing but sincere welcomes and offers of assistance.”

These are qualities that the Grass Valley Rotary folks have turned into a great win-win by creating the Gold Country Challenge: a weekend cycling event held in May that includes 100, 74, 54 and 35-mile bike rides through the beautiful and historic backcountry of Nevada County.

All of the rides are fully supported with water, rest stops, lunch and assist vehicles. Afterward everyone meets at the fairgrounds for food, live music, beer, wine or chocolate milk.

Current Grass Valley Rotary Club President and Gold Country Challenge founder Bob Long told me the reason they are doing the ride is that it fits with the Grass Valley Rotary’s core goals.

“It’s healthy, attracts business to town, is a good example to youth and promotes an active lifestyle,” he shared with me.

He continued, “We wanted to bring people to Grass Valley, not raise money within the community, but bring money from outside.”

I can imagine this happening. Our hilly roads are challenging, hence the name Gold Country Challenge. I know we have bike riders here, but maybe not enough to warrant a ride of this size. The larger statewide cycling community is always looking for a challenge like this. The first year the event drew 100 riders, last year 150. This May they hope for more than 200 for the third annual event.

This event has drawn people from outside our county with the allure of our country hills and roads. This can be a “win” for the regional cycling community.

All proceeds from the event go toward funding Nevada County projects supported by the Grass Valley Rotary. Examples include college and technical school scholarships for high school graduates, Rotary youth leadership programs for middle school and high school students, international youth exchange programs and the annual music and speech contest. Money brought in from outside our area supporting local community youth efforts is definitely a “win” for our community.

I agree with Bob that the goal of bringing people to our community is an economic win for us. If we can attract people to participate from outside the area, our hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail businesses win.

The ride event is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, so there is plenty of time if you’d like start training to participate or volunteer to help. All the ride and volunteer information is on the Gold County Challenge website at http://www.rotarygoldcountrychallenge.com.

I am already planning to ride the 54-mile distance. Want to join me in a win-win?

To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email jhemig@theunion.com or call 530-477-4299.

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