Italy — After camping out on the Italy High School grounds the previous night and after awaking to a 6:00 a.m. pancake breakfast served up inside the Italy High School Cafeteria, hundreds of cyclists began converging at the corner of College and Park Street for the 8:00 a.m. start of the 29th Annual Tour d’Italia bicycle ride.
A prayer was giving by local pastor Joseph Barrett, with the Central Baptist Church of Italy, and was preceded by City of Italy Mayor James Hobbs reading the event proclamation. Mayor Hobbs then presented Lone Star Cyclists president David Shuford with a golden key to our fair city. All the riders then placed their right hands, in unison, across their hearts for the playing of the National Anthem.
And with that, Mayor Hobbs released the riders as they began peddling their way under a large Tour d’Italia banner hanging above the street. As the speed of the riders gained momentum, the endless colors stretched two whole blocks sparking longtime Italy resident Linda Goodman to comment, “I think this is the most riders I have ever seen.” Goodman’s prediction proved prolific as a total count of all the cyclists that signed up in Italy was added to the totals from surrounding towns for a new event record of 1,175 riders!
With the “race” the 3rd Saturday of every June, participants arrived in from several parts of the country to enjoy the tour. Riders from as far off as Missouri, Houston, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Irving, Arlington and Tyler, just to list a few, rode in groups, or with family members, as couples and as lone riders of course. One rider even peddled in from Koppel the day before the start of the race and then peddled all the way home after riding in the tour. Local riders Stevan Varner and his daughter Jill Varner completed 30 miles together after waving goodbye once past the College Street starting line.
There were actually many paces and distances to choose from — 20, 30 and 40 miles to 50 and 63 miles for the true road warriors. The longest route began in Italy but let riders venture all the way out to Highway 55, thru Blooming Grove and Silver City, back down Highway 31 toward Hillsboro before passing Navarro Mills Lake using Highway 667 toward Frost. Riders then turned left onto Highway 744 to reach Irene and then, took Highway 308 to Mertens, turned right onto Highway 22 back to Frost and then turned left back onto Highway 667 and returned to Italy. A shorter 12 mile tour was also available that kept riders in and around parts of Italy itself.
Lone Star Cyclists has 200 members and their families along with friends of the club work the annual event. Five different bike stops were strategically setup along the bike routes and S.A.G.s (Support and Gear) patrolled the routes as well, ensuring everyone’s safety. Italy High School’s National Honor Society Members helped with shirt and water container sales. NHS’s early risers were were Jessica Hernandez, Levi McBride, Cody Boyd, Ryan Connor and Madison Washington. Larry Mayberry, Sr., and Ervin Green helped with the grilling duties outside the cafeteria to help provide lunch for the riders upon their return. Volunteers Blake Godwin, Jaclynn Lewis and Kyle Tindol helped mow pit-stops and sweep streets the day before the race began.
Lone Star Cyclists Scholarships are the club’s biggest charity but the club donates to M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers) who had their members working the bike stop in Frost. Italy High School senior Joseph Sage was on hand and in a black collared shirt with a red tie as one of the four scholarship winners from the school who received the award from Shuford back in May. Sage was recognized just before the start of the race.
Shuford offers a special thanks to the City of Italy and Mayor Hobbs, Pastor Joseph Barrett, to the Italy ISD School Board for allowing their school to serve as event headquarters, to all the local Police Departments from Italy, Milford, Blooming Grove and the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department, to the Ellis County Radio Operators for all their efforts, to the Ennis Fire Department Command Van and to our countless volunteers and supporters!
As successful as this year’s Tour d’Italia bicycle race was, Shuford is already geared up for his club’s 30th Annual bicycle race next year where he hopes to go all out for that one, in hopes of setting a new participation record!
29th Annual 2014 Tour d’Italia Sponsors:
- Richardson Bike Mart
- Bicycles, Inc.
- Mad Duck Adventure Sports
- B&B Bicycles
- Worldwide Specialty Advertisers
- CLIF Bar
- Italy High School
- Lone Star Cyclists
- CrossPoint Church of Christ
- Italy Neotribune
- The Village Company
- Cox Farms
- Brookshire Brothers Food & Pharmacy
- Mountain Sports
- Ellis County Amateur Radio Club