Le Tour de Norfolk attracts over 800 cyclists

Nine-year-old Gabriella Yalaksa of Simcoe and her 77-year-old grandmother, Mary Jolly, of Cornwall, get set to depart from the community centre in Delhi on Sunday to cycle the 40-kilometre course in the 13th annual Le Tour de Norfolk. Brian Thompson Brian Thompson / The Expositor

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DELHI Nine-year-old Gabriella Yalaksa was decked out in cycling attire and helmet as she got set to depart the Delhi Community Centre on Sunday morning in the 13th annual Le Tour de Norfolk.

The Simcoe girl embarked on a 40-kilometre course with her 77-year-old grandmother, Mary Jolly, of Cornwall, who has cycled around the Great Lakes and across Canada twice.

“Next time, we hope to do the 75, maybe even the 100-kilometre course, if she wants,” Jolly said.

Organizer Yvette Mahieu said 872 cyclists registered for the tour, and credited her crew of 50 volunteers who help make the event a success.

“Arrows are painted on the roads all over the place,” said Mahieu, describing cyclists are pointed in the right direction on the 40-, 75-, 100- and 160-kilometre routes around Norfolk County.

“They get maps and written directions,” Mahieu said. “But they don’t need them; they just follow the arrows.”

Richard Baranowski of Simcoe celebrated his 76th birthday by taking part in Le Tour de Norfolk on Sunday along with his granddaughters Alexandra and Nicole Snively. Contributed / photo

Sunday’s weather was an improvement from the heat and humidity that had plagued the area in recent days, but Mahieu said the die-hard cyclists aren’t deterred by weather.

“We make sure we have ice at all the rest stops,” Mahieu said. “We have first aid services here if people are overheated when they return, and we have rented the pool if anyone wants to cool off. We try to take good care of them.”

She said she started the event 13 years ago because she wanted to share her passion for cycling.

“Norfolk’s a great place to cycle,” said Mahieu, noting that more than 80 per cent of the participants are from outside of Norfolk County, many of whom have never seen tobacco or ginseng farms.

A rest stop was located at Ramblin’ Road brewery on Swimming Pool Road for cyclists to re-energize with snacks and water.

At the rest stop was Randy Papple, a retired paramedic from Brantford, who was taking part in his first Norfolk tour. He had returned Friday from a four-day, 400-kilometre ride in Nova Scotia.

“This is kind of nice,” Papple said of the Norfolk tour.

“You see locals and people from out of town. It brings people together,” he said. “The organizers have really fine tuned it, with rest stops like this. The roads are nice and well marked, so you know you’re not going to get lost.”

Riding with his friend, Tom Heyerdahl, from Ottawa on the 75-kilometre route, Papple said he was impressed with patient motorists giving the cyclists lots of room on the roads.

“As we go by the little villages, people are outside waving, which is always encouraging,” he said. “It’s a nice time, a good distance and it’s nice and flat.”