The Tour de Louisiane bicycle stage race is one of the more difficult competitions avid cyclists can enter in the Gulf South each year.

The 45th annual race is set for Saturday and Sunday on the north shore. While cyclists of varying abilities will participate, the tour champion will emerge after posting the fastest cumulative time in an 80-mile road race near Folsom and a 3-mile time trial near Mandeville on Saturday, and a 60-minute criterium in downtown Covington on Sunday.

Several hundred cyclists from the southeast U.S. will compete, though the majority of riders hail from Louisiana. The event is sponsored by the New Orleans Bicycle Club and is designed to be challenging, but not so much that it deters people from participating.

“We want the tour to be accessible to the average bike rider, which is why the rides are of different lengths and times, depending on your experience and the results of other races you’ve entered,” said tour director Randy Legeai. “The course is manageable. It’s not over the Alps, and there are no 60-mile-per-hour downhills. It’s a manageable distance and a manageable course. Then again, I don’t recommend this being your first bike race ever.”

The road race will begin at 9 a.m. in Stoney Point. The 16-mile loop course features near-constant rolling hills, though it does have some opportunities for breakaways, Legeai said.

“There are no mountains around here, of course, but the hills are pretty steady,” he said. “That’s why we have the race up there.”

The time-trial will be begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday near Lakeshore High School, which is located on La. 1088. Racers will start in 30-second intervals, and will be grouped by class.

Sunday’s course is set among the business-lined streets of old Covington, with riders hugging turns at corners, and pedaling hard through straight-aways. Juniors will begin with a 30-minute race at 7:30 a.m., and different categories of riders will follow (masters, women, etc.) until the hour-long Category 1-2-3 race goes off at noon. The start-finish line will be near the Tammany Trace Trailhead depot in Covington.

Matthew Davis of Team La’Sport won last year’s tour with a cumulative time of 4 hours, 22 minutes, 7 seconds.

Legeai said $6,000 in prize money will be awarded in several categories, and some businesses in downtown Covington will be open during the tour to serve the viewing public. The Tour de Louisiane is a USA Cycling-sanctioned event, and participants should be USAC members to ride (or can purchase two one-day licenses for an additional $20 to participate.) Licensed NOBC members ride for free. Riders must participate in all three stages of the race.