Registration is now open for what organizers hope will be the city’s largest-ever cycling event next year, an array of rides for both serious racers and recreational cyclists staged by a group affiliated with the Tour de France.

L’Etape San Antonio sponsor Michael Brown and local sports and tourism officials announced details at a press conference Tuesday, following news last month that Brown had chosen San Antonio as the site for the event, set for April 10, 2022.

“Basically, anybody with a bicycle in San Antonio can race or ride with us,” Brown said in a Tuesday interview. “We’re just really excited to get going.”

For less experienced riders, L’Etape events will include several untimed rides just for fun. For a registration fee of $60 per person, anyone 11 or older can participate in the family ride, using any type of bike, on a 10-mile course that will be closed to vehicles and include regular aid stations. Riders will get a “finishing item,” likely a shirt or jersey, along with a sling bag and medal, Brown said.

For more serious cyclists, L’Etape will include 25-, 60-, and 100-mile races extending from San Antonio into surrounding rural areas. The 100-mile race will be laid out, timed, and organized the same way as a stage of the Tour de France, Brown said.

“It’s not set yet, of course, but you know, we are looking to go up to the Hill Country,” Brown said. “Obviously, it’s going to be a tough course. It’s going to be challenging. But it’ll feel exactly like the Tour de France experience.”

Races will start at a “Village Depart,” echoing the impromptu villages that spring up around starting points along the actual Tour. The L’Etape San Antonio version will include a bike expo and Tour de France museum, along with workshops, demonstrations, and tastings of the gels, chews, shots, and bars that make up high-end sports nutrition.

For an early bird rate of $629, a participant can “ride like a champion and be treated like a VIP” with the Classe Spéciale package, according to the L’Etape San Antonio website. It includes a full Tour de France San Antonio cycling kit, including a jersey, shorts, and socks, along with access to an evening reception with former Tour de France champions.

“L’Etape” translates to “the stage,” referring to a stage of the Tour de France, the world’s most famous bike race. The amateur series began in 1993 as L’Etape du Tour, where amateur cyclists trace the same route as professional riders.

L’Etape events will take place in at least 15 countries in 2021. Brown, a Canadian who resides in Edmonton, Alberta, holds the licensing rights to L’Etape events in the U.S. San Antonio Sports and other tourism officials bid for the opportunity to host the event, responding to a request for proposals from Brown’s company.

“We had a long list of cities that we were looking at, and San Antonio really came to the forefront with the support of the local community, as well as Visit San Antonio and San Antonio Sports,” Brown said. “It’s a big deal. I mean, there’s only going to be two or three of these in the United States.”

L’Etape San Antonio is the first such event in the U.S. since L’Etape California in 2018, Brown said.

Also on Tuesday, San Antonio Sports leaders announced that L’Etape San Antonio would be part of Fiesta FitFest, planned for April 8-10, 2022. Fiesta FitFest includes 5k and 10k runs and the Alpha Warrior Fitness Challenge obstacle course. Organizers will announce details and registration information for those events in the coming months.

The goal is to add a more physically active event series to the lineup of San Antonio’s Fiesta celebrations planned for 2022, said Russ Bookbinder, San Antonio Sports’ CEO.

“We want to have fun during Fiesta,” Bookbinder said. “We want to have, you know, all the good food and all the good drinking that we do at Fiesta, but we also want to shine a light on fitness.”

Bookbinder spoke with other San Antonio Sports officials and local tourism leaders at a gathering Tuesday at Confluence Park on the San Antonio River. The 37-year-old nonprofit has previously landed Final Four events and the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which organizers credit with expanding interesting in running in San Antonio.

Now, it’s clear local tourism officials increasingly see potential in large cycling events. Andres Muñoz, a vice president with Visit San Antonio, said social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic “has brought a significant increase in attention to and desirability of biking.”

“It’s only fair that Visit San Antonio gets behind this, because it’s a way to promote our beautiful city,” he said.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He serves as the assistant manager of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.