Taking a spin: Hundreds participate in Tour de Marco

Lance Shearer

The key thing to remember about the Tour de Marco, George Abounader told the riders, is “it’s not a race.” Abounader, retired principal of MICMS and spouse of South Collier–Marco YMCA CEO Cindy Love, took to the bullhorn to address the bicyclists departing from the YMCA campus on Sandhill Street before they headed out on their 15-mile jaunt around the island Sunday morning.

“We’re going to deal with the wind, and when it’s behind us, we’ll enjoy it,” he told the group on the breezy, sunny morning. “This is a great way to see parts of the island you don’t normally get to.”

Over 200 cyclists pedaled Marco Island from Caxambas Pass to Tigertail Beach, with a smaller group doing a 30-mile ride that also took in the gated community of Key Marco and the challenging hills of the Estates district. Many of the participants added the round trip from their homes to the YMCA to their total distance.

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As a group, the mass of cyclists in matching fluorescent lime green t-shirts made an impressive sight, drawing questions from pedestrians strolling the streets and quizzical glances from solitary cyclists out for their own rides. The Tour riders stayed in the right hand lane on Collier Blvd., but tended to take over the smaller streets, and blew through some stop signs and even red lights. At major turns, volunteers displayed enormous directional signs to direct the cyclists.

Under his event tee, YMCA board member Chuck Thomas, 87, wore a second t-shirt that proclaimed he also does triathlons.

“This is a great event. It gets people out, together but still distanced, and reminds people what the Y is all about – staying healthy,” said Thomas. “There’s no better way to stay healthy, especially at our age. And it forces people to get on their bikes to get ready for it.”

The Tour drew riders on every type of bicycle, from fat-tired beach cruisers to exotic racing machines. Thomas rode a carbon fiber Trek bicycle that he said “cost more than my car.”

Michael Passero brought a passenger along for the ride. Luke, his full-grown but petite Havanese dog, sat happily in the front basket taking in the scene.

“Luke loves to ride,” said Passero, whose company Paradise Cycle Boat Cruise co-sponsored the event, and knows something about pedal-powered travel. “We want to support the Y. We like what they do, and we love being outdoors.”

The event t-shirts proclaimed this as the 11th Annual Tour de Marco, and while it has been 11 years since the Tour began in 2011, it was canceled last year in the first flush of the pandemic panic, along with other YMCA fundraisers including the Taste of Marco and Mutts & Martinis, said Love. And in 2015, there was no official Tour de Marco, due to construction at the Y campus – but who’s counting?

“This is a great event. It gets people exercising. We can be outside and social distance,” said Steve Lampar, who is director of development for both the Marco and Naples YMCAs. Proceeds from the Tour de Marco, he said, would go to the general campaign, funding kids’ after-school and early learning programs.

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