Rain fails to dampen spirits at annual ride
Somewhere in the middle of Sunday's persistent rains, a few hundred bicyclists made their way through the city of Shawnee.
The 17th annual Tour de Shawnee was one of the wettest on record, with three-quarters of an inch of rain falling the day before and another four inches the day of the ride. The weather limited the number of riders in the event, but with few accidents or other problems, participants made the most of the ride, despite the wet conditions.
There were several bright spots through the rain. With 709 total registrations, 59 of them on the day of the ride, the tour had its highest number of registrations ever. Tonya Lecuru, deputy director of parks and recreation, said that meant the number of people who preregistered was just short of last year's total number of riders.
"If we had had a nice weather day, we really would have had a nice turnout," Lecuru said. "But as it is, people had a good time; they didn't let the weather stop them at all."
Lecuru said it was hard to estimate exactly how many of those registered actually rode, but based on the number of rider packets that were picked up and the number of lunches handed out after the ride, organizers estimated there were between 400 and 450 total riders on the three routes.
But as all of those who had preregistered had already paid, the tour succeeded in raising about $4,800 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
After the 8 a.m. start, the tough bicyclists rode through about an hour's worth of rain before the skies finally let up. But some said they preferred the wet to the muggy conditions that followed.
"Actually, I kind of like the rain better, because then I'm not sweating," said Dan Yates of Shawnee, stopping at the Erfurt Park rest stop not long after the rain stopped.
Others were glad for the break in precipitation, like Rebecca Thompson of Overland Park, who was using the tour to train for the MS 150.
"It helps not having that rain in your face," Thompson said. "But you've gotta ride in whatever weather."
Bob Coyne and Angie Davis of Lenexa had the slightly tougher task of riding a tandem, or two-person, bike in the tour, one of about four tandems that were in the ride.
"You've gotta figure you have twice the power to get through the ride -- but then you have twice the weight to carry up the hills," Coyne said.
Coyne said he took part in the tour by himself last year and thought it was a fun ride with a pretty route. He said that's partly why he and Davis chose to do the 45-mile route over the 25- or 11.5-mile routes.
"If you're going to do these things, you might as well do the longest route and enjoy it," he said.
Riders enjoyed five rest stops along the longest route this year, one more than in previous years. The breaks provided oranges, bananas and water, as well as a restroom break. For the first hour of the ride, however, the most popular thing at the rest stops were paper towels, which cyclists used to wipe off glasses and sunglasses that shielded their eyes from the rain.
Mary Lynch and Jack and Judy Murray, representing the Shawnee Irish-American Club, spent much of their time at the Stump Park rest stop handing out paper towels while trying to keep them dry.
"We've been doing this for about 16 years, and I don't think it's ever rained this hard," Lynch commented.
Lecuru said she had heard that it rained once several years ago, but this is the first time in her eight years organizing the event that it had rained during the ride.
"We've had rain right up to the start before," Lecuru said. "It stopped in time for the ride and things were fairly dry by the time we got there, but this was the first time it's been this wet."
Even with the slick conditions, the ride didn't produce any significant accidents or ambulance calls.
"We had our spills around corners and bent or flat tires," Lecuru said. "People really made an effort making sure they took their turns wide and slowed down. The speed was down a little bit from last year based on the finishing times."
This year's top finishers were Dan Fenton, 11.5-mile route, at 40 minutes; Bill Koehn, 25-mile route, one hour and 35 minutes; and Paul Fanshier, 45-mile route, at two hours and 15 minutes.