LAPLACE, La. - Louisiana’s River Parishes Tourist Commission (RPTC) will welcome a bevy of 20 touring cyclists on Sunday, March 28, as part of the inaugural “Highway 61 Challenge.” Riders clipped into their pedals on Thursday, March 25, in Memphis, TN, to kick off the ride’s 500-mile route, which spans the length of the Historic Blues Highway.
The tour, organized by the event management company, Rockstar All Access (RSAA), provides an immersive experience of the landscape and history of three states and 23 counties, coming to a conclusion in New Orleans at the tour’s fourth and final staging area, sponsored by the RPTC. The list of participants is diverse, with cyclists hailing from Italy, Germany, the U.K., and all over the United States. Six of the participants are local residents.
“This ride will provide our riders with the memory of an unforgettable journey with highlights such as the Muddy Water Crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi, or the wetlands of Louisiana. We’re hoping the event will highlight the unique features of these states and cities and allow our participants to experience something meaningful and exciting,” said RSAA owner and Race Director Thomas Walls.
“With over 35 years of event management experience, Walls was the perfect candidate to manage an event of this magnitude,” said Buddy Boe, Executive Director of RPTC. “This is a perfect opportunity to showcase the distinct attractions of our region, while supporting and elevating the experiences of the riders and unique visitors to the area. The commission is dedicated to facilitating experiences like the ‘Highway 61 Challenge’, which actively engages with the local economy,” said Boe.
A year in the making, the “Highway 61 Challenge” originated from “Tour the Trace,” a 444-mile-long timed event covering the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, said Walls, a Mississippi resident. After confirming local and sponsorship interest in the early development stages, the challenge was designed to overcome any potential COVID-19 roadblocks and is structured in accordance with local and state social distancing guidelines. Partners for this event include Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, Visit Mississippi, Memphis Sports Council, PRIMAL, and Visit Louisiana, to name a few.
The tour schedule is as follows:
Check-In: Wednesday, March 24 - Memphis, TN
Day 1, March 25: Memphis, TN to Cleveland, MS - 115 miles
Day 2, March 26: Cleveland, MS to Vicksburg, MS - 109 miles
Day 3, March 27: Vicksburg, MS to Baton Rouge, LA - 156 miles
Day 4, March 28: Baton Rouge, LA to New Orleans, LA - 120 miles
Participants will engage in the established safety measures at congregation points and while on the road. Mandatory rest stops are scheduled every 25-35 miles along the length of the course, where participants will be able to access hydration, nutrition, medical care, and restrooms.
“We’re excited. We hope this event turns into a permanent feature and look forward to hearing riders’ feedback about the experience,” said Walls.
For more information about the “Highway 61 Challenge,” please visit www.highway61challenge.com.