MARCO ISLAND — Mark and Melissa Burger mounted their bicycles Sunday, looking forward to touring Marco Island for the first time. They drove to the island from Lake Mary, Fla., and stayed at a local hotel to be sure they were up and ready for the 8 a.m. start of this year’s Tour de Marco.
“We’ve done a couple of these types of rides and find we always enjoy them and learn a lot about a community,” Melissa Burger said. The couple recently took a similar tour through The Villages, a community outside of Orlando, to get a curbside view.
The Burgers joined 75 other riders on a planned 30-mile tour of Marco Island, Key Marco and Goodland. In all, nearly 180 riders joined the 5-, 15-, or 30-mile segments of the 3rd Tour de Marco. Rides were not designed as races nor were they timed or scored.
The tour’s purpose was threefold, said event chairman Bob Phelan. First, organizers hoped to build better awareness of the city’s commitment to cycling. The city’s Bike Pathways Committee created the event three years ago in partnership with the Greater Marco Family YMCA.
“We want to get people to learn about the island’s shared-use paths and in-road bike lanes,” Phelan said, “and let the island know about Marco Island’s five-year plan to add additional paths.”
Teaching biking safety was a second goal. Participants were required to follow safe biking practices including wearing helmets, refraining from using headsets while biking and following the rules of the road.
Finally, funds raised from the event were earmarked to helped children in the area.
Allyson Richards, Marco Y’s coordinator of special events, explained how the money would be used.
“Some people think this is for a building, but it’s not. The Y serves ‘951’ kids in summer camp from Lely, Manatee and Parkside,” she said. “These students lose so much they have learned the year before during the summer.”
Y camps offer a way for children to maintain and build on school skills while having fun during summer months.
“Our tests show that 100 percent of the kids in our programs perform at the same or a better level in the fall as they did when they left school in the spring,” Richards said.
Steve Quayle from Australia, Gui Rego from Brazil and Hanna Seegers from Sweden brought an international flair to the 30-mile ride. Quayle and Rego came to Marco from Miami to participate in the event. Seegers moved to the island two years ago.
Vip Grover, long-time resident and supporter of the Y, said he participated because the Tour de Marco was something fun to do and helped him stay active and exercising. Jen Bristow said she was training for an Ironman Triathlon this September in Madison, Wisc. The ride, she said, was just another way to get in shape.
Angie Gutievrez brought her two children, Kaliyah, 8, and Christiana, 7, to ride the 5-mile distance. Her children were not strong riders yet, she said, but she hoped participating in the 5-mile distance would give them a chance to improve.
Riders returned to the Y for refreshments, music and raffle drawings after completing their respective distances. Thirty-one area businesses sponsored the raffle prizes.