After the annual Tour de Houston bicycle ride was cancelled for lack of sponsorship in 2011, oil and gas independent Apache Corporation stepped up in 2012. The city of Houston announced yesterday that Apache has agreed to sponsor the event for a second year, allowing the 2013 Tour de Houston to be officially set for Sunday, March 17, 2013.
The choice of St. Patrick's Day is appropriate, since funds raised by the Tour de Houston benefit the green spaces of Houston. In specific, they'll go toward the reforestation program managed by the Parks and Recreation Department. Participants will get plenty of chances to see the city's trees as they wind through the streets.
Riders can choose one of three out-and-back courses, all of which start at Hermann Square, 900 Smith Street (in front of City Hall). Mayor Parker and State Senator Rodney Ellis will give a big sendoff to the first wave of riders, those riding 70 miles, when they leave at 7:30 a.m. That group will be followed at half-hour intervals by the riders on the 45- and 20-mile courses. The short route passes through River Oaks, West U, and turns around at Westwood. The 45-mile route continues through Sunnyside and past Reliant Stadium before turning around at Hobby AIrport. The long route keeps going past Ellington Field to a turnaround at Clear Lake.
Registration fees are $30 per rider until February 17, $35 up to March 10, and $40 March 11 through walk-up registration at the site. Ages 12 and under ride for a flat $20 per kid; children must be accompanied on the ride by an adult. A mail-in form can be found at the official Tour de Houston website (register before March 8, please) or you can register on-line at EZtoRegister.com. Free parking has been arranged for riders. All participants are automatically registered for drawings, including a bicycle from Sun & Ski Sports and a pair of tickets on Southwest Airlines.
The ride is a BP MS150 Recommended training ride, so organizers expect around 5000 riders. The courses are all flat as pancakes, and there will be SAG support, course marshals, and rest stops for all distances. Helmets are required. The course is entirely on city streets that will be secured by HPD and other local entities