It was going to take a little more than an early-morning downpour to dampen the spirits of cyclists taking part in the 25th Tour de Corn bicycle ride Saturday morning.
Hundreds of cycling enthusiasts from around the region were in Mitchell for the three-day event, and despite some early hiccups with the weather, the event came off as another successful celebration of cycling and health and a testament to community spirit.
Elizabeth Campbell, president of the Palace City Pedalers, the organization that puts on the event, said the event has continued to grow and bring in more participants since its inception 25 years ago.
“It takes a lot of people. What’s so cool about this event is that the people who have ridden it start volunteering, and then they start organizing,” Campbell said. “Anytime there’s an event like this it takes a lot of people’s input over time and a lot of good sponsors. We’re very lucky in this community to have a lot of very consistent sponsors.”
Those volunteers have helped take the Tour de Corn from a single-day affair when it began to a three-day event that features rides of various lengths around the Mitchell area. Riders this year were taking part in rides of 100, 60, 35 and 15 miles and enjoying food and music with fellow cyclists.
The rain early Saturday morning did play a factor in the early rides, Campbell said, but most of the cyclists have experience riding in all types of weather. It’s something that comes with activity, she said, and support volunteers were trailing the riders in case any needed assistance.
“The 100-milers took off early, but they did get drenched. Just drenched,” Campbell said. “But we’re all used to riding in different conditions, and the roads are pretty good about draining.”
Campbell said 283 participants pre-registered for the rides, and another 50 to 100 riders usually sign up on the day of the event. While the final numbers were not yet available, Campbell said she was hoping to approach last year’s record of 350 riders.
“I’m hoping we get to that this year,” Campbell said.
After the skies cleared in mid-morning, riders were at the Corn Palace preparing to head out on the 15- and 30-mile rides.
Kitty Allen, of Mitchell, was awaiting the start of the 15-mile ride with her daughter Emma. Her husband, Joel, had already taken off to participate in the 60-mile ride. While she said the family enjoys cycling, finding the time to enjoy it can be tricky, she said.
“We’re members of the Palace City Pedalers, but we’ve never been able to (ride in the Tour de Corn) because of my responsibilities with Dakota Wesleyan University. But we took the morning off because the new students arrived (Saturday),” Allen said.
Allen said she enjoyed cycling because of the health benefits and the opportunity to do something together as a family.
“I do it for the exercise and enjoyment and to do something with my husband,” Allen said.
Lance Fulton, of Fargo, North Dakota, was preparing to head out on the 35-mile ride. He said he’s a casual cyclist and decided to try the Tour de Corn on the advice of his cousin.
“My cousin lives in Sioux Falls and asked me if I wanted to join him on this ride, so I came down last night,” Fulton said. “I’m a hobby cyclist, so I’ll go out here and there. I’m trying to get more into general rides around the area just to have fun and have a good day off riding the bike.”
Fulton said he usually averages around 20 to 25 miles per ride, with his longest ride coming in at 60 miles. And while he hoped to avoid the rains that had hit other riders, he said things could be worse.
“Ninety-five and humid would probably be a lost worse than it is right now,” Fulton said.
Jeff and Debbie Ptacek, of Sioux Falls, were getting ready to do the 35-mile ride together on a tangent bicycle. This was the first time for them taking part in the Tour de Corn, but it wasn’t their first organized ride of the summer.
“We’ve already done 1,100 miles this summer on this tandem bike. We do rides throughout the Midwest, like Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota,” Jeff Ptacek said.
On the lookout for interesting bicycle rides, he said word-of-mouth helped sell them on heading over to Mitchell to see what the Tour de Corn was all about.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve heard a lot of good things about this ride. Everyone we’ve talked to in the past who has done it really enjoyed it,” Jeff Ptacek said.
Campbell said the event is only getting better with each passing year. Volunteer and sponsor support is high, and general support for the Tour de Corn has remained strong in the Mitchell community.
And a growing interest in health and fitness has helped bring increased interest to the event, as well.
“We have so many good people. We have a group of 10 to 12 of us who are meeting regularly and doing things. It all works out,” Campbell said. “And the community is getting more health and wellness-aware and health and wellness friendly. I think the leadership in the community is bringing us in the right direction.”
The Palace City Pedalers and their support system of volunteers and sponsors should be ready to host the next Tour de Corn in 2020. Campbell said it will be another chance to get together with fellow cyclists, enjoy some road cycling and promote healthy activities for the whole family.
And the more, the merrier, Campbell said.
“I’m always excited to see everyone here,” she said.