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Tour de France inspires local cyclists

If Birk McGilvrey needs to get somewhere, he usually can be found traveling on two wheels rather than four.

In fact, McGilvrey, 35, of Brighton Heights, has driven his car only twice in the past two weeks.

His goal the past two Thursdays was to get to the Trek of Pittsburgh store in Robinson for the shop's weekly Tour de France bike ride and after-party at nearby Mad Mex.

"I get up at about 5:15 in the morning for work, but I like staying here until 11 just to watch the Tour," said McGilvrey, who was among a dozen people who attended last week's ride and party, a smaller crowd than normal. "It's also great to meet new people and find out how they train. It's really a great event."

McGilvrey bikes three miles to and from work at the Allegheny Center Alliance Church, where he is a maintenance worker. He doesn't have cable at home, so he usually watches Tour de France highlights or reruns at the church.

That was until learning about the Trek events through an e-mail he received after purchasing bike parts at the store.

Trek Marketing Director Gray Patton said she organized a Tour de France party last year, and it was so successful that she decided to add the riding component this summer.

"My mission is to bring the cycling community together," said Patton, 25, of Lawrenceville. "We enjoy riding our bikes and watching our favorite sport. Mad Mex provides a forum for that."

The Tour de France is a grueling three-week, 2,132-mile bike race. It's considered the Super Bowl of cycling. Trek's Thursday rides are much more relaxed -- sprinting and intense climbing are rare. They last about two hours and cover between 25 and 35 miles.

Tonight will be the last Trek ride, as the Tour de France ends Sunday.

The Trek course varies each week. The group last week rode through Rennerdale, Oakdale, McDonald and Fort Cherry before returning to Robinson along the same path.

Those participating come from across region, with the biggest draw from nearby Robinson. Trek spread the word via e-mail to customers who made in-store purchases.

The rides begin and end at the store. Most drive home, shower and change before returning to Mad Mex -- usually on four wheels.

While cycling generally is considered to be more popular in Europe, enthusiasts are out there in the U.S. of A.

For instance, there's Over the Bar, a cycling bar on the South Side. General manager/part-owner Marty Maloney notices a sizable uptick in business as a result of the Tour de France, with many people stopping by to enjoy drink specials, order off the bicycle-themed menu and watch the race on a 100-foot projection screen.

"There was a guy here the other day who said it was like Christmas in July because he could watch cycling on TV all day," said Maloney, 45, of the South Side. "It helps to get people aware of the sport, and people knowing that we have it on here definitely helps out with business."

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