When Suzanne Johnson comes to Las Vegas next week, it's not the Strip she's excited to see. No, Johnson can't wait to visit Desert Breeze Park, and she's not alone.
On Wednesday , CrossVegas takes over the park at 8275 Spring Mountain Road as about 400 bicycle racers participate in a collection of amateur and professional cyclocross events. Cyclocross is different from road racing in that you can watch almost the entire race from one spot, instead of having to move around to watch the action. It's a mix between road racing and mountain biking, and will take place primarily on the grass at Desert Breeze. An estimated 10,000 people will pay an $8 entry fee and gather to watch.
Four years ago Johnson started training in cyclocross, and for the first time, is eligible to compete in next week's race.
"It's the biggest cross race in the country," she said.
On the same day as the race, Interbike 2012 begins its three-day convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, bringing with it 24,000 bicycle industry attendees. Attendance figures are on par with 2011's numbers, as preregistration is trending similarly, said Justin Gottlieb, Interbike's director of communications.
The show is expecting about 1,200 brands to be represented among its 800 exhibitors. Interbike Expo 2012 is expected to bring a nongaming economic impact of $31.83 million to Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
While helping the local economy in its own right, the trade show also spawned the CrossVegas event, which in turn, helps boost business at local bicycle shops.
"I attended (Interbike) as a member of the bicycle industry for years and there was never much to do if you didn't want to go for a lap dance on the Strip or a steak dinner," said race director and founder Brook Watts.
Thus, out of necessity, the cyclocross race was born.
Initially, 90 percent of the races' spectators were from out of state, and only 10 percent were locals.
"I've watched that shift every year," Watts said.
Based on an entry survey conducted last year, Watts found that 68 percent of his attendees came from Interbike, a statistic that to Watts, signals a shift toward an increase in locals attendance. He said the "vibrant" bicycle scene in Las Vegas makes it easy for him to attract locals and transform the race into a combination tourist-local event.
"It's a very strong scene," Watts said.
A strong player in that scene, Las Vegas Cyclery, is expecting a 15 percent business increase next week as a result of CrossVegas. Store employee Carol Vails said she always sees an increase when races come to the city, and next week should be no different.
Last week's Ironman World Championship, for instance, resulted in a 25 percent increase, and for the Sept. 22 RTC 2012 Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo event, Vails is expecting a similar bump.
Chris Perlewitz, a salesperson at McGhie's Ski, Bike and Board, agreed with Vails.
"Our business definitely increases," he said.
Perlewitz is expecting a 15 percent to 20 percent increase to come from bike tune-ups, rentals or accessory purchases. On average, McGhie's sees 70 to 75 people daily, and of those customers about 75 percent make a purchase, ranging from nutrition items to a bike.
After her race, Johnson plans to patronize one of the local bicycle shops. She said she wants to rent a road bike, then ride out to Red Rock Canyon, something she did when she visited Las Vegas in the spring.
Vails said Johnson's choice to rent a bike after her race isn't uncommon.
"That's very typical. Someone will come in for one event, then they'll come in and rent a road bike to see Vegas like they've never seen it before," Vails said.
However, not all the race participants are looking to spend their time on a bike.
Kristal Boni, for instance, said she probably won't walk into a bike store while in Vegas. She's exhibiting at Interbike with her company, Catalyst Communications, and plans to enjoy some restaurants while in town.
Boni, a licensed rider with USA Cycling, said she is, however, looking forward to the race.
"It's a really well-done event. It's really top-notch," she said.
Boni said it's a "challenging" all-grass course and "unusual" in that it takes place at night. Also, CrossVegas brings out the top racers.
"It's a really good time for spectators," she said.
The race is open to the public, but Interbike is open to tradespeople only. For more race information, visit crossvegas.com.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588.