News

Participants rave about bike event

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor

For veterans of the cycling rallies that pepper the province each weekend, it’s like Le Tour de Norfolk found everything bicyclists love, removed every annoyance and came up with a winning event that represents biking perfection.
“This is fabulous,” said Kristen Legault as she got a spaghetti and meatball lunch, topped with cheese. “It’s a great event and I love it!”
“This is a biking mecca!” exclaimed Pam and Mike Chellew from Buckhorn in the Kawartha Lake area. “The roads are quiet and well-paved. The county is awesome.”
“This is our first time and I love it,” said Loreen Holden who rolled in from one of several courses with Stephen Priamo, both from London.
“There’s lots of space to spread out and really take a look around you. I loved seeing the tobacco farms and little buildings, the routes were nice and there were chips, cookies and Twizzlers at the snack breaks! What’s not to like?”
That was the agreed sentiment among the almost 800 riders who came from all over Ontario and were joined by several Americans, including two men from Kentucky, for the day.
And it’s music to the ears of Le Tour’s founder and coordinator, Yvette Mahieu, who sported a hot pink Le Tour de Norfolk jersey on Sunday, along with matching pink socks.
“Sometimes I think I’m crazy for taking this on but on the day of the event I remember why I do it,” Mahieu said. “It’s all the great people and everyone is so happy and it’s great for the county. That was my goal.”
Mahieu has found 80 per cent of the riders at the event come from outside Norfolk County and many are astounded at what they find: flat, smooth roads with little traffic, friendly residents, helpful event volunteers and beautiful vistas.
“To people from Toronto, it’s heaven here!” she said. “They drive past fruit and vegetable stands and see interesting crops in the fields. We’ve had people who have been here for all 11 years we’ve held the event and they keep coming and bringing friends.”
It’s not just the idyllic setting that keeps participants faithful.
Mahieu and about 65 volunteers, many of them family and friends, offer “the royal treatment” to the bikers for their registration fee.
Excellent directions for the various routes, a spaghetti, salad and ice cream lunch, a free swim at the nearby Delhi Kinsmen Pool, road-side assistance for anyone who runs into trouble, a masseuse at the end of the road and upgraded snacks at each route’s break stations are some of the extra touches.
The well-marked routes vary each year and take riders through different parts of the county with new stops along the way. Riders really don’t need the available maps, crafted by John Mahieu, because the routes are also well marked with arrows on the roads but many pick up maps in order to return to Norfolk for later bike trips.
“I love your maps!” one woman called to Ron Vandenberghe, who’s been handing out maps since Year 2.
“I give tips about short cuts that work or don’t work, and possible hazards,” said Vandenberghe. “And if they get in trouble, they call me.”
His phone number is printed right on each participant’s wristband.
This year there were some minor spills and a few muscle spasms that sidelined a small number of riders.
While most of the funds raised at Le Tour go right back to the event, there’s enough left over to buy bike helmets and bicycles for some kids who can’t afford them.
SGamble@postmedia.com
@EXPSGamble