By C. Julia Nelson

Grab your helmet; grab your bike; grab your spandex – it’s time to take a bike ride through the Taste of Sandy Springs.

Wait. What?

It’s true; this year’s second annual Taste of Sandy Springs has joined forces with the inaugural Sandy Springs Bike Challenge and the finale Criterium bike race of the USA CRITS Speed Week Series that starts in Athens a week earlier.

International bike and local food enthusiasts alike will come together for a day of competitive exercise and eating on Sunday, May 4 as the three events merge for what may be the first of many years to come.

As an avid cycling enthusiast and Sandy Springs City Council member, Dianne Fries has been at the helm of coordinating these events in conjunction with Gene Dixon of the Criterium races and Keith Cooper of the Taste of Sandy Springs, Inc.

“The vision was to create an event in the heart of Sandy Springs that would not only help promote our city and cycling but would be a community event that all ages could enjoy,” Fries said. “I want to make this a huge annual community event that can grow.”

Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge

The Sunday, May 4, events will begin with a debut cycling event sponsored by Sandy Springs Challenge, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sporting events in Sandy Springs.

Its first endeavor as an organization is the 62-mile Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge for local amateur riders, which will begin at 9:00 a.m. with registration starting at 7:30 a.m. It will take riders through the metro area beginning and ending at Heritage Sandy Springs, 135 Hilderbrand Dr. N.E.

As part of the challenge, the police and fire departments of Sandy Springs will host a friendly cycling competition as well.

Registration is $30 by April 29 or $35 after that date and may be submitted online at

Proceeds from this race will benefit the Sandy Springs Police and Fire Departments.

USA CRITS Speed Week Finale

Later in the day May 4, Sandy Springs will serve as the finale to the eight-day, seven-city USA CRITS Speed Week, which will start in Athens, Ga. on April 26.

Gene Dixon of the USA CRITS Speed Week said the finale race will bring professional male and female speed cyclists from around the world to Sandy Springs to compete for $150,000 in prizes.

“It’s a world class, spectator event you can have in your own city,” Dixon said. “The Taste is right on the 0.7-mile course and the riders will come by every minute to minute and a half. They are really the best in the country. It’s the best Criterium racing in the world.”

Criterium racing, known for its sharp turns at 30- to 40-miles per hour and comparable to a car race with cyclists, draws cyclists from Serbia to Canada and beyond.

The Criterium finale will encompass a 50K race in the heart of the Sandy Springs. It will run about 50 laps along Hildebrand Drive, Sandy Springs Circle and Blue Stone Road and will cut through the City Walk Plaza near Meehan’s Irish Pub.

Trials will begin at 10:00 a.m. with an approximate finish time of 5:00 p.m. Dixon said the bulk of the spectator-friendly racing will begin at 1:00 p.m.

He said the combination of the three events is a perfect way to bring a community together for a day of entertainment and exercise.

Taste of Sandy Springs

After cyclists cross the finish lines, they will have the second day of the second annual Taste of Sandy Springs to look forward to, beginning at noon and ending at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

“Adding the Taste of Sandy Springs to the mix seemed to be the perfect partnership,” Fries said. “People coming for the Taste will now have a premier cycling event to watch and the race fans will have a wonderful assortment of food to enjoy during the day.”

Keith Cooper, chairman of the board for the Taste of Sandy Springs, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to helping smaller non-profits raise funds, agreed with Fries.

“It’s a great idea because the people that are coming to a seven-hour race have to have something to eat and drink,” Cooper said. “It’s a natural marriage. We’re actually supporting one another that way.”

More than 35 restaurants – including fine to basic dining and everything in between – from around Sandy Springs will have tents set up along Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mt. Vernon Highway, which will be closed from midday Saturday, May 3 through Sunday, May 4. Local businesses and non-profit organizations will also have booths scatted throughout the area.

Taste offerings will be available at each restaurant’s tent; ‘Taste’ tickets will be $20 for 10 tickets. Proceeds from the Taste will benefit the Sandy Springs Mission as well as other non-profit organizations that support the Sandy Springs community.

Other highlights of the day will include a rodeo, face painting, moon walks and crafts for the kids, fine dining food demonstrations and an antique car show and (SAFETY HOUSE)

A live auction will be held for a half hour around 2:30 p.m. and a silent auction will be ongoing throughout the early part of the afternoon.

Cooper expects about 8,000 to 10,000 people to attend the event compared to about 2,000 last year based on a beefed-up marketing campaign and the combination of all three events.

“I’m convinced it’ll be a very successful event and will be done again in the future,” he said.

“Young or old, cyclist or not, this joint effort of events will be a wonderful way to spend a beautiful spring day in Sandy Springs,” Fries said. “I anticipate this event becomes a real draw for people to visit Sandy Springs.”

For more information about the Taste of Sandy Springs visit