By Katie Fallon

More than a thousand bicyclists are expected to descend on Sandy Springs May 27 to participate in the fourth annual Green Tour bike race and promote their cause. The event is designed to increase awareness about creating a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly environment in the community to relieve automobile congestion in Sandy Springs as well as throughout the metro Atlanta area.

The May 27 tour includes a recreational ride, with routes varying from five to 45 miles, and the Sandy Springs Classic Pro-Am Criterium, a group of nine professional and amateur races on a course sanctioned by the US Cycling Federation. Beginning at 7:45 a.m., the bicycle races will be followed by the GreenFest, a healthy lifestyle and environment festival with food, music and a cycling-related expo.

The races will start and end at the Parkside at Sandy Springs shopping center, which includes the LeFont Theater, with the competitive races following the community ride. The GreenFest will follow in the Century springs East office park, which is located in the triangle formed by Mount Vernon Highway, Lake Forrest Drive and Hammond Drive.

The GreenTour began in 2004 as an initiative of Sandy Springs Revitalization and members Ron Comacho and Bill Cleveland, who are now the co-executive directors of the event.

Comacho said the idea for the tour came from Cleveland’s idea — inspired by a relative who was a competitive cyclist — to have a bike race in Sandy Springs, and his own desire to create an event that would promote awareness of healthy living.

“It made perfect sense for us to create this community ride,” Comacho said.

Since its inception, the GreenTour has grown in participation every year. This year, organizers are expecting 500 to 700 riders for the recreational bike ride and more than 1,000 for the pro-am race.

Cleveland said the goal of the event is to combine an event that caters to all skill levels of the cycling community with the opportunity to build the public’s knowledge of a less car-dependent future of Sandy Springs.

“We’re taking the healthy community aspect of our event very seriously and our fun community ride with the exciting US Cycling Federation sanctioned races are the perfect vehicle to promote cycling activity and provide an exciting sports event,” Cleveland said. “It may be years before we start to see the kind of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure you see in cities like Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle, but we want to play our part with other metro area organizations.”

More than just a bicycle event, Comacho said the GreenTour is part of an overall desire to create a healthier community both physically and environmentally. If residents are traveling on bicycles and not in their cars, he said, they are not only getting exercise, but also reducing toxic emissions.

“Fitness and the environment are inextricably linked,” Comacho said.

A byproduct of the race, Comacho said, is drawing cyclists to what has become one of the largest community bicycle rides in the state and southeast. The GreenTour, he said, has even drawn a reputation with the competitive cyclists who compete in the Pro-Am Criterium.

“We’ll have some of the fastest riders in the country right here in Sandy Springs,” Comacho said.

In addition to the success of the GreenTour being measured by the increased number of participants every year, Comacho said the real test will come when “green” changes are made in the city.

To gauge GreenTour cyclists’ feelings about creating an environment more conducive to walking and bike riding within the city limits, organizers are planning to include questionnaires in each participant’s registration packet.

“We want to ask them what they think about making Sandy Springs more bicycle and pedestrian friendly,’ Comacho said. “The real success will come when we have more citizens helping plan the bike lane environment.”

For more information on the 2007 GreenTour, call 404-257-1875. Race routes and registration information can be found by visiting