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Cyclists pedal safety, fun at Tour de Corn

Bicyclists prepare to begin their route early Saturday morning for the Tour de Corn. More than 280 entrants participated in the 20th-annual event. The first group of bicyclists took off at 7 a.m. to complete the 100-mile route. (Justin Harned/For The Daily Republic)

A cloudy and humid Saturday morning marked the 20th annual Tour de Corn charity bike ride.

For Mitchell native Jay Fritzemeier and his daughter, Jasmine Fritzemeier, riding bikes together is nothing new, but the Tour de Corn provides them another opportunity to ride together.

"We ride together quite a bit in the morning and this is something we get to do together," Jay said. "It's been a couple years since we've ridden in it, but I actually was involved in the first one way back when. We've been around it for a long time and enjoy it."

Jasmine doesn't need anymore motivation to get out of the house other than knowing she is going to ride the Tour de Corn with her dad, she said.

"I just kind of follow him around. It feels like I push him now-a-days," Jasmine said with a smile.

The first group of riders who were competing in the 100-mile route left at 7 a.m. from in front of the Corn Palace. The second group left at 9:30 a.m.

More than 280 people participated in the Tour de Corn, but it was an average year for attendance, according to Tour de Corn volunteer Marci O'Connell. Last year 305 participated in the ride.

"We had more registered, but I think the weather held them back," O'Connell said. "I'm thinking this year because of the threat of rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, we probably lost a few people that would have come today."

Registration cost $30 and all the benefits and proceeds will go toward promoting bicycle safety, awareness, youth and health and fitness in the community. Mitchell Middle School will receive some new bikes and helmets, Tour de Corn lead organizer Bill Platz said. The school received help last year, as well.

"They were in dire straights for good bikes, kids were bringing in their own bikes with flat tires, broken chains and rusted spokes and they were having all sorts of problems," Platz said. "Safety is a big issue. We want to promote safety and bike trails, that's kind of our focus -- get people out riding and let other people know that there are people out there riding so they're aware of it."

The 100-mile route wraps around Lake Mitchell and travels up 404th Avenue to Letcher, then heads south to Mount Vernon. It passes through Ethan, then heads north and leads the cyclists back into Mitchell, ending in the afternoon at Hitchcock Park for lunch. Ron's Bike Shop raffled off a hybrid bike this weekend along with other prizes

The 15-, 35- and 65-mile routes began at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Corn Palace. Jay Fritzemeier said the 35-mile route works well for him and his daughter.

"Starting and ending in the same place makes it so a family can go out if one wants to ride a longer distance and somebody wants to ride a shorter distance with the kids they can," Jay said. "They're all going to meet up in the same place. It's just a nice family atmosphere."