Tour de Marco: Cyclists cover island in Sunday morning ride

Lance Shearer

All over Marco on Sunday morning, packs of bikers roamed the streets. Conspicuous in their bright yellow t-shirts, participants in the annual Tour de Marco pedaled the island’s main roads and back roads – and yes, the hills – reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise, comradeship, and the satisfaction of doing a good deed, all wrapped into one fun ride.

Before sending out the 186 registered riders on their paths of 30, 15, or as little as five miles, event organizer Tony DeLucia (aka Steve Reynolds) spoke to the groups heading out from the Greater Marco Family YMCA campus on Sandhill St.

“We’re here for the Y’s scholarship fund, for swim lessons with Morgan and her staff,” and funds allowing those who could not otherwise afford to participate in the YMCA summer camp and other programs to be included. “And remember, it’s not a race. There are no prizes for first place,” DeLucia told the riders over a bullhorn.

Morgan Joseph was one of the group leaders making sure the cyclists followed the appointed route, along with signage and volunteers from the Marco Island Academy Key Club at street corners pointing the way. Even with the help, there was some confusion, and 30-milers including Robert Armstrong stopped back at the Y to report missing signs.

The longer, 30-mile cycle took riders all over the island, from the village of “Olde” Marco to Cape Marco, Key Marco, the shell mounds of the estates area, and out to Goodland. Whatever the official route and distance, many riders added to that the commute from their home to the starting point at the YMCA and back.

Philip and Bianca Schaefer, who came all the way from Ontario, though not just for the Tour, pedaled up to Petit Soleil for “le petit dejeuner” or breakfast. Volunteers including Sally and Tom Boyce laid out healthful refreshments for all the riders when they returned from their tour, so everyone got a little nourishment and hydration.

In a driveway right by the Y campus on Sandhill St., teen and ’tween entrepreneurs Lyndsay Lowdermilk, 12, and 13-year-olds Sadie Kopacevic and Bella Frazer set up a lemonade and orange juice stand, willing to give away their merchandise but accepting gratuities.

“We’re raising money for sleepover camp,” they said. Matt Walthour, owner of Island Bike Shop, was a mobile aid station for the cyclists, on call to do roadside repairs such as patching a flat tire should any occur.

“This was a great day,” said YMCA executive director Cindy Love, who rode 15 miles with husband George Abounader, principal of Marco Island Charter Middle School. “I heard everybody had a fabulous time, and it was a beautiful day.

“We want to get people to get out and ride, or walk, and encourage healthy living.”

Love credited DeLucia, along with original Tour de Marco organizers Al Musico and Scott Shook, with making the event run smoothly.

Part of the aim of the Tour de Marco is to make people aware of the island’s bike paths. The people who need to be most aware of them are those on the roads who are not biking, but driving.