A pack of 30 or so bicyclists will set off today from Ogden for a six-day, 420-mile bicycle ride through Utah before arriving on the seventh day at Boulder City, Nev., near Lake Mead.
But this is no ordinary peloton of riders in Lycra biking suits. The group is comprised of owners, CEOs, presidents and other top executives of 16 companies that are the cream of Taiwan’s bicycle business — as well as Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, himself an avid bike rider.
Each company has signaled an interest in opening a distribution center in North America, and Caldwell hopes one and all will pick Ogden, which wants to become a destination for bicycle companies in the same way the city became an axis for ski industry manufacturers.
The riders "are real high-level decision-makers in these organizations. They are high enough that if you were able to get a two- or three-hour meeting with them, you would [normally] have to go to Taiwan. For us to have five or six days with them here is amazing," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said ride organizers have put together a string of rides that showcase the best of Utah. This afternoon, the group will set off on their bikes from downtown Ogden on a 28-mile route through Ogden Canyon, around Pineview Reservoir, and up the old road from Ogden Valley to Snowbasin, venue for the men’s and women’s downhill, super G and combined races during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
On Thursday, the group will pedal from Mountain Green to Salt Lake City, a distance of 55 miles. Over the following five days, they will ride from Park City to Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort, Fish Lake through Capital Reef National Park, Boulder to Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks National Monument to St. George, and Lake Mead to Boulder City.
Ogden officials readily concede that the ride is an unusual way to stir up more economic development.
"This is a very unique way to do it," business development director Steve Fishburn said. "It is out-of-the-box thinking."
But it appears to hold promise. After a trip to earlier this year to Taiwan, where Fishburn said 80 percent of the bikes built in the world are made, he and Caldwell decided to invite some of the people they met to Ogden so they could see how the city is building its economy around outdoor recreation.
"We were hoping for a handful. If we got 10 that would be a good response," Fishburn said. "When we doubled that we were just amazed. And then to have the international media jump on, that made it a big deal. It increased the opportunities dramatically."
The media are from Taiwan, too. A film crew is covering the tour. Later, because "these people are celebrities in Taiwan," the crew will produce a documentary film of their trip through some of the most scenic areas of the state, Fishburn said.
"We hope it also creates tourism opportunities," he said. "Folks will see the beauty. Utah is not real well-known in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese business is done on the West Coast and on the East Coast. This will introduce them to the Wild West."
The ride will end in Boulder City on Sept. 17. From there, the group will go to Las Vegas to attend Interbike, the largest bike trade show in North America. It starts the next day.
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