Handlebars over Paradise: Cyclists cover island in Tour de Marco

Lance Shearer

Organizers of the Tour de Marco kept making one point, over and over again, in the leadup to the bicycle ride that sees riders by the hundreds cycling around the island’s roads – it is not a race.

Sunday, about 175 cyclists participated in the tour, riding one of several routes around Marco, but in every case, beginning and finishing under the “air-nasium” at the Greater Marco YMCA. They had a beautiful day with a cooling breeze that the riders welcomed as long as they weren’t riding directly into it.

The 15-mile riders head out from the YMCA.The eighth annual Tour de Marco saw 175 cyclists biking all around Marco Island on Sunday morning.

No times are kept, said Steve Reynolds, instructing the riders in the 15-mile course, by far the most popular, and more than once, “it’s not a race.” Longtime Tour de Marco organizer and member of the city’s Bike Paths Volunteer Committee Jim Seegers emphasized the point, watching the riders enter and exit the shady streets of Key Marco.

As he spoke, an ambulance carrying a rider who apparently did not heed the admonition headed out.

“A racing bike went down. The rider was more of a racer, collided with another bike and went down,” said Seegers. “We stress safety.”

“Everybody wears a helmet. Nobody wears earphones,” Reynolds told the groups before they headed out.

Group leader Stacy Witthoff shows the route.The eighth annual Tour de Marco saw 175 cyclists biking all around Marco Island on Sunday morning.

Kamal Farhat, swim coach at the YMCA, had been leading the 30-mile group, the longest distance riders, but had to drop out with leg cramps, but those two mishaps aside, a good ride was had by all.

Riders ranged from 20 months (in a carrier propelled by mom) to 88 years of age, and came from 11 different countries, said Reynolds.

“We had Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Australia, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden and Poland represented,” along with the United States, he said. Many of the U.S. riders came from off the island, with cyclists from Naples, Bonita Springs, and one family who drove down from Orlando for the event.

Stacy Witthoff with the Needles Group of John R. Wood Properties sponsored water for all the riders, as well as leading the 15-mile ride. The overall sponsor of the event was Island Bike Shop, which provided mobile assistance as needed for any riders who experienced bike problems.

Michael Passero rode in his first Tour de Marco, 10 weeks after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

“What a pleasure it is to be part of this,” he said. Money raised goes to provide scholarship funds for the Y’s preschool, afterschool, and summer school programs, and was expected to total around $4,000, said Reynolds.

With the Tour in the rearview mirror, Fritzi Holmes and her volunteers are gearing up for Mutts & Martinis, bringing cocktails and cocker spaniels to the Esplanade on March 14.