Gwinnett Bike Fest kicks off Wednesday

Hundreds of racers of all skill levels will pour into Gwinnett this week to participate in the fourth annual Gwinnett Bike Fest, billed as the largest cycling race in the Southeast.

About 500 enthusiasts, pros and amateurs alike, have already signed up for the race, which is really a five-day, six-race series of competitions starting Wednesday at a variety of venues across the county.

Pete Sherrard, one of the event's masterminds, has been helping put it all together since its inception.

"It takes a lot of people working together, plus a lot of community support," Sherrard said. "We are dealing with a lot of different venues and facilities, not to mention working with the Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett parks and rec and the department of transportation."

Racers will be at Road Atlanta in Braselton on Wednesday before racing at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Thursday, at Harbins Elementary in Dacula on Friday and in Norcross on Saturday before wrapping it all up at the Progress Center in Lawrenceville on Sunday.

More than 500 racers have thrown their name in the hat, Sherrard said, in levels from juniors to full-fledged pros.

In its fourth year in Gwinnett, Bike Fest has maintained its level of success.

"It's going pretty good with the economy," Sherrard said. "It's pretty much staying at the same level, which is good."

All told, the event costs about $30,000 to $50,000 to put on each year, with the program continuing to find ways to save money here and there.

"As you stay around for a few years, you find the routes where you don't need as many police, stuff like that," Sherrard said. "We know which venues let us use their restrooms, so we don't have to get portable toilets. Those are some little things you can do to help offset costs."

Organizing the event is no easy feat -- and the work is never done.

"During this year's event, a few of us will probably sit down and start mapping out next year," Sherrard said.