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Local bike riders compete in annual event to benefit Special Olympics

April 01, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

Hardcore bike racers might finally have a chance to win something when the 18th annual Le Tour de Manure Bike Race to benefit Special Olympics rolls through the Valley on Saturday.

Rick Webb is considering plans to leisurely ride in the 6-mile race and help youngsters instead of riding in either the 50- or 25-mile races.

"I'm going to give the other guys a break," he said with a laugh last week between tuning bicycles at the Finish Line Bicycle Shop in downtown El Centro. "I've got enough trophies as it is."

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All kidding aside, there is another reason Webb is considering riding the short route in the event, sponsored by Jacques 'N Jills Health Club of El Centro.

"This is a family event," said Judy Kelley, aerobics director at Jacques 'N Jills and one of the coordinators of the ride. "We want as many families and kids riding in it as we can get."

Most of the youngsters probably will ride in the 6-mile event.

"And I think I will ride along the route and help protect the kids from any cars and traffic," Webb said.

Not that there is any cause for concern. Webb designed the runs and tried to make sure it is safe as well as scenic. Hardcore racers might not really notice much of the scenery, as they will be racing all-out competing for prizes and trophies.

"It is a race," Kelley acknowledged.

"It's a fun day but it's also for a good cause," said Jacques 'N Jills' Malinda Van Dyke.

She noted those involved in the event raised more than $1,500 for the Imperial Valley Special Olympics last year.

Le Tour de Manure has attracted upward of 100 riders. Event organizers are hoping for more this year as they are heavily promoting the family aspect.

"We want to get the kids involved," Kelley said. "If they ride this year they might keep coming back year after year."

Webb has designed the courses so all riders should enjoy themselves.

All three rides begin in front of Jacques 'N Jills at 220 Wake Ave. The 50-miler begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by the 25-mile race at 9 a.m. and the 6-mile ride at 9:30 a.m.

The 6-mile ride is basically for novice adult riders, youngsters and adults assisting children. It heads west on Wake Avenue to Highway 86, south on 86 to McCabe and west on McCabe to La Brucherie before returning to Jacques 'N Jills along the same route.

The 25- and 50-mile routes continue past the 6-mile ride south on La Brucherie. The 25-mile route continues south to Kubler before heading west. Eventually it makes it way back to the start-finish line.

The 50-mile ride continues past Kubler on Farell and past Highway 98 to Anza. Eventually it winds north past Interstate 8 to Seeley before returning to the start-finish line.

"When I designed the course I tried to put in as many river bottoms and bridges as I could find," Webb said.

He conceded it is a rather scenic ride if people take the time to sightsee.

"There are a lot of cattle yards," he said.

If the wind is blowing just right, riders will know when they are approaching those yards.

"That's where we got the name, Le Tour de Manure," Webb laughed.

The 50-mile ride comes close to the Mexican border, Webb said, before it heads west past the old Westside School. It also goes past the new cheese factory, he said, "which is way out there. You are almost on the edge of the desert."

The main points of interest are the cattle yards, Kelly said, noting the feedlots accommodate a quarter million head of cattle.

Riders also will go past fields of grazing sheep as well as pigs, goats and chickens on various farms along the routes. Crops in season include asparagus, melons, onions, alfalfa, cotton, corn and grain.

The most popular ride is the 25-miler, Kelley said. The 50-miler attracts the more seasoned rider who is strictly out to compete in the timed event. And the 6-miler should interest most families and younger riders.

"Last year we had a few adults pulling kids in buggies," Van Dyke said, adding one of the children was her daughter.

Ages of riders vary. Kelley noted last year they ranged from 5 to 50, although Webb noted there were some 60 year olds participating.

There are different age divisions n 4 to 7 and 8-13 for the 6-mile ride, and men's and women's separate 14-29, 30-49 and 50 and older categories in the two longer rides.

Trophies will be awarded to the winner in each of the age divisions. All riders will receive a free T-shirt.

There will be a number of prizes awarded, including a bicycle from Finish

Line.

"We have more than 15 businesses who have helped sponsor the event," Van Dyke said, noting many have donated prizes.

Riders have an opportunity to obtain more raffle tickets by collecting sponsorships. Van Dyke noted last year Steve Birdsall raised $700 by getting people to sponsor him for so much money per mile. For every $5 riders get in sponsorships, Van Dyke said they receive another entry ticket in the raffle.

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