On April 10, approximately 1800 participants of the Fiesta L’Etape San Antonio by Tour de France will be cycling on their courses across Hill Country, part of which will pass through Bandera County and a portion of the town of Bandera.
Starting at the University of Texas in San Antonio, the bicyclists, each riding their respective 100-mile, 60-mile or 25-mile courses, will trek through San Antonio, Boerne, Pipe Creek, Bandera, Bandera Falls, Lakehills, Helotes and Grey Forest.
The riders will have staggered starts and travel in waves in groups of 100-150, according to spokesperson, Aaron Nelson. Their estimated time slot to cross through Bandera County is from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
“We expect minimal obstruction to the flow of Bandera. We want to make a great impression and be able to come back the following year.” said Nelson.
They are proposing a stop at Bandera City Park at the River, but that has not yet been confirmed, as it is still in discussion with city officials and Marshal Will Dietrich.
At a March 24 Bandera County Commissioners’ Court presentation by Nelson, Sheriff Dan Butts stated he had some problems with this event, noting that his office had not been notified, nor had the offices of Kendall or Medina County sheriffs.
“I have yet to see a comprehensive report showing what you will specifically do in this county,” said Butts. “Are those bicyclists going to abide by all the traffic laws? We have narrow roads that they will be traveling on and they’re going to have to follow all the rules. We don’t have the manpower to put people where we need them to stop traffic so bicycles can keep going.” explained Butts.
Butts continued, “On 16, we have a good shoulder for them to ride, but on some of these other roads, they are narrow roads that have no shoulders, and it’s Palm Sunday, so a lot of people will be out going to church. Wharton’s Dock and Bottle Springs Road will be hectic. 1283 and 471 are going to be tough too.”
Nelson said riders are aware and have signed a disclosure they are to fully abide by rules and regulation, especially on narrow roads.
“We also sent TXDoT a packet about the traffic control plan,” said Nelson
Judge Richard Evans responded, “TXDoT is fine, but they don’t manage our roads. DPS for sure needs to know, as well as the counties.”
Commissioner Bobby Harris expressed his concern that time was running out.
“Do you have in your plans to have the bicyclists be escorted by a peace officer with lights flashing to alert oncoming traffic that ‘here we come?’ he questioned, adding Whartons Dock, Bottle Springs, 1283 and 471 were dangerous roads.
“Cars are unable to pass each other on some of these roads, much less bikes,” said Harris. “And when you throw the bicycles out there, God bless ‘em, because some people in this county, for whatever reason, don’t necessarily respect bicycles rights of being on the narrow roads. For their own safety, if you don’t have an escort leading this bicycle parade, you better have, or somebody’s going to get hurt.” said Harris.
Nelson informed the court they will have about 60 TCOLE-certified officers, escort officers with flashers to lead the cyclists, walkie talkies and contracted EMS.
Harris requested a printed plan to be presented to Bandera and all other counties as soon a possible since the event is just a little over two weeks away.
“Bicyclists have a right to use the roads,” said Evans, “but public safety is our duty. We don’t want anyone to get hurt on our narrow roads.”
Race director Michael Brown said San Antonio was the top choice when finding a home for the race in the United States.
“The famous hill country, the active cycling community and the supportive neighboring communities like Bandera made it an easy decision for us,” said Brown. “Giving the riders a chance to experience the Cowboy Capital of the World makes this course unique and truly Texan. We're excited to bring this world-class course and event here as part of Fiesta Fit-Fest. The 100-mile course is going to be a great challenge for seasoned cyclists and the shorter distances will offer new riders a chance to try their first official race. We can't wait for next week."
More information about the event is available at sanantoniosports.org/fitfest.