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Big Charity Bike Race Coming to State College

by on March 09, 2015 6:00 AM

Ever since Andrew Artz got out of the military and came to Penn State, he’s felt a sense of family and belonging here in State College.

He found a community of like-minded friends through the Penn State cycling club, and became a driving force in scheduling some of the group's big races. But something was bothering him – he wanted to do something to give back to State College.

After his success with organizing last year’s Nittany Cycling Classic, an idea occurred to him: a charity bike race that could benefit local non-profits, the State College economy, and the area’s dedicated biking community all at the same time.

Enter the Nittany Stage Race: a two-day, multi-event cycling tournament set for the first two days of August with a total prize purse of $12,000. The best part? All proceeds will go to the Bestwick Foundation, which benefits everyone from cancer patients to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“We have so many 5K’s and triathlons here, so to have a legitimate bike race with criterium, time trial and road race elements to it is huge,” says BMX biker and X Games legend Jamie Bestwick of the Bestwick Foundation. “I’ve been waiting for something like this in State College for a long time, and I think a lot of cyclists are going to be very excited.”

Centre County Visitors Bureau executive director Betsy Howell says the event could have a huge impact on State College this summer.

She says the Tour De Toona (a big bike race held in Altoona that was canceled several years ago) used to bring in tons cyclists and visitors to Central Pennsylvania, but adds that no event has stepped up to take its place – perhaps until now.

“Any time you’re going to bring people into the area, there’s going to be a trickle down into our local businesses,” Howell says. “And that’s a really good thing, especially with a two day event like this that will have people staying overnight.”

Artz says that helping the local economy was one of his goals when he came up with the Nittany Stage Race. He saw how much business slowed down in the local economy once the majority of the students went home over the summer, and he heard from business owners how the effects of the national recession were still lingering.

Artz sees the Nittany Stage Race as a small way to try and alleviate some of those pressures. For him, the race is a very community-oriented event.

The event is sponsored by local businesses and will benefit such causes as Coaches Versus Cancer, the Centre Volunteers in Medicine and the Youth Service Bureau through the Bestwick Foundation.

“Our race is going to have an equal prize purse for men and woman, which is almost completely unheard of in cycling,” Artz says. “It’s hard to grow the sport without making it fair in the first place, so this is another way to make the race more accessible to everyone in the community.”

Bestwick says Atrz's vision of a community-focused race is very fitting for the sport. Though many people see cycling as a solitary kind of sport, Bestwick says it’s a great chance to bond with other people who share the same interests while enjoying the natural beauty of the State College area.

Though Artz says he’s not sure what kind of turnout to expect in August, he he hopes to see the Nittany Stage Race evolve in an annual event that can continue to benefit State College and the Bestwick Foundation.

“It’s about bringing our cycling community together, and it’s about finding a way to give back to those in need in the State College community,” Bestwick says.

You can learn more about the Nittany Stage Race at RaceStageCollege.com. Registration begins March 30, costs $70 and can be done online.

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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