Bicycle believer Levi Leipheimer preached Tuesday to the adoring choir of Healdsburg bike enthusiasts.
"I really believe in Sonoma County," pro cyclist Leipheimer told about 100 attendees at Tuesday's e "News at Noon" luncheon at "I think it's the best place on Earth to ride a bike."
Not surprisingly, everyone agreed with the message.
"Our weather here is a perfect cycling climate -- not too hot, not too icy," said Chamber member Jay Stone, a Realtor who also teaches cycling 'spin' classes at "This is one of the few places in the country that allows cyclists to ride all year long."
Stone said he supports a plan to have town, an idea proposed last week to Healdsburg City Council by Chamber CEO Mo McElroy. Council members said they were in favor of applying to the League of American Bicyclists for their Bicycle Friendly Community award.
(For a list of cities that already have the designation, click on the PDF above).
"I think it's one of the best things Healdsburg could do to leverage the tourism and also take us to a new level," Stone said. "We're already a destination for food and wine; let's make it a destination for cycling."
He said the economic and social benefits would be vast.
"It's not just about creating something for the avid cyclist," he said. "It's about engaging the whole community in the development of a healthy, fit, outdoors-oriented active lifestyle."
Healdsburg shop owner Steve Kirkish of said an increase in cycling tourism would be good for his business, which is a few blocks off Healdsburg Plaza on Healdsburg Avenue.
"Cycling is very family-oriented," he said. "So we might have people riding through the whole town and not just concentrating at the Plaza for a wine tasting event."
McElroy, who came to the Healdsburg chamber in January after being CEO at the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that she is already planning for an uptick in cycling activity in Healdsburg next year.
"The cycling portion of next year's will be hosted by Healdsburg," she announced. Also, McElroy, an avid cyclist, said Healdsburg hotels and restaurants will get spillover from next year's Amgen Tour of California, which begins and ends in Santa Rosa.
McElroy was instrumental in bringing the Tour of California to Sonoma County.
Stone and others say while they love cycling around Healdsburg, the community needs to look at improving the condition of the rural roads, which are Sonoma County's jurisdiction.
County supervisors this week are looking at allocating $4.5 million a year to upgrade the county's rural roads, but it was not immediately clear if Healdsburg area byways are included.
"I think we should use Levi's Grand Fondo model, where he donates money to help repair roads along the route of the race," Stone said. "We could create events in Healdsburg to raise money to fix the roads.
Leipheimer, a pro cyclist, founder of 7,500-riders-strong Levi's Gran Fondo, Tour de France Stage winner, Olympic medalist and three-time winner of the Tour of California, accepted a birthday gift Tuesday from Dry Creek Valley's Dutcher Crossing Winery; a bottle of 2006 Proprietor's Reserve cabernet sauvignon.
Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa resident, turned 38 on Monday.