GrapeRide draws thousands

01:52, Apr 17 2009
READY TO ROLL: Cyclist Jon Cunliffe is looking forward to his fourth GrapeRide and has already started carbo-loading with a big plate of pasta.

An abundance of tight lycra and shaved legs around town can only mean one thing it's time for the Forrest GrapeRide.

GrapeRide co-organiser Pete Halligan said more than 4000 people were expected to pour into the region today to take part in or support people cycling the 101-kilometre ride.

He said 2200 of the 2500 riders were from out of town, including groups from Japan, New Caledonia, Britain and the United States.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce president Brian Dawson said he could not put a dollar figure on what the GrapeRide was worth to Marlborough, but he was in no doubt it was "fantastic" for the economy.

"We're extremely lucky to have committed people who organise things like this."

The event, which is followed next weekend by the Classic Fighters Air Show, comes at a time when tourism traditionally starts to wind down for the season.

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He said with tourist numbers dropping it was a good opportunity for accommodation providers.

"It's nice to have that cash at the end of the summer season."

Mr Dawson was planning to do the GrapeRide as part of a team, but last week fell off his bike while training in wet conditions and suffered concussion.

Instead, he would support his wife and her team on the day.

Bluebridge ferry spokeswoman Wendy Pannett said about 550 people were arriving on sailings today and heading for the GrapeRide.

Meanwhile, KiwiRail marketing communications manager Nigel Parry said the Interislander ferries were also busy with bookings up by a few hundred.

Shona Etheredge of Colonial Motel said the motel had been fully booked for six months.

Mrs Etheredge said in the four years she had been running Colonial Motel, this year had attracted the most interest.

She estimated each entrant would spend about $120 per day, including accommodation.

Bella Vista Motels owner Graham McCarthy said all 18 units plus three apartments had been full for six months.

He estimated 60 per cent of his customers would take part in the race.

The rest were supporters.

"We are booked out a lot earlier than in previous years."

Bike HQ Marlborough owner Ray Dunstan said his business would have about double the usual amount of staff tomorrow.

Seven staff members would be on hand to help out with bike repairs, checks and the purchasing of energy food.

"We have been flat out all week. It's awesome for business and for the town," he said.

Chequers Restaurant and Cafe co-owner Carolyn Coles said bookings had been going well for the weekend, with Saturday being particularly busy.

"It's quite a good weekend it brings a lot of extra people into town," she said.

Cornerstone Bar and Restaurant bar manager Becky Bulman said the GrapeRide always brought with it extra bookings.

She said a variety of pasta dishes would be available for riders wanting to load up with carbohydrates before the event.

The Marlborough Express