Annual Tour de Houston gets green theme, and date

Jan. 31, 2013Houston Chronicle

It’s all about the green.

Mayor Annise Parker announced Thursday that the Tour de Houston, presented by Apache Corp., will kick off this year on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Funds raised from the event benefits Houston’s reforestation projects.

“We got a theme going here,” Parker said. “It’s all about a greener Houston.”

Joe Turner, director for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, said the annual bike ride, which is expected to draw 5,000 riders, raises money for Houston’s parks and green spaces.

The RE-Plant Houston campaign was announced in January 2012 after severe drought conditions dramatically increased the need to protect what greenery was left in Houston. The mayor and Roger Plank, president and chief corporate officer of Apache Corp., planted the three-millionth tree in Memorial Park last weekend.

Although the bike ride is ideal for cyclists of all levels, it is also a training ride for the BP MS150 in April. Kelli Dreiling, vice president of Houston’s MS Society, recommends that new participants familiarize themselves with group-riding skills since approximately 13,000 riders are expected.

Tour de Houston began in 2005, but budget concerns in 2011 forced organizers to cancel the event. That’s when Apache Corp. stepped in, became the title sponsor and restored the bike ride. The mayor hopes this will become a lasting legacy for the city.

Houstonians can choose between routes of 20, 40 or 70 miles, and the tour will begin and end at City Hall. The first wave of riders should set off at 7:30 a.m.

This year’s route will wind through neighborhoods in River Oaks, West University, West Wood, Sunnyside and South Acres. Participants also will ride around the Hobby Airport area, the 1940s Air Terminal Museum, Ellington Field and Sylvan Rodriguez Park.

Volunteers and participants can attend a post-ride party in Hermann Square, where My Fit Foods will serve lunch and The Slags, from Houston, will perform.

“We really want this to be something that is available to Houstonians who have a bike, want to get out and enjoy what we hope will be great weather on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Parker, who will be riding for the seventh time.