Dover turns into hot spot for cyclists

Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — It was one hot day for cycling in Dover and its surrounding areas — both literally and figuratively — as temperatures reached the 95-degree mark and bicyclists invaded the city for three separate events on Saturday.

Bottled water and a variety of fruit proved to be handy sidekicks as participants climbed aboard their trusty two-wheeled steeds for the 30th annual Amish Country Bike Tour, the Bike MS: Bike to the Bay and the Special Olympics Delaware’s Regional Cycling Classic.

The Amish Country Bike Tour attracted both young and old cyclists alike as it kicked off at Legislative Mall on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. The start featured riders starting their journeys around Dover and its surrounding countryside behind an Amish buggy.

Riders give the thumbs-up as they travel near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Riders give the thumbs-up as they travel near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“People have told us that they like the bike ride because it’s at their own pace, we have different routes you can take, and then the countryside is gorgeous,” said Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism. “And the best thing for bicyclists is that Delaware is a flat state, so if you’re not into hills and things this is perfect for you.

“This is kind of a fun casual ride that people can enjoy at their own pace. We don’t rush you. Cyclists can start at 7 in the morning and we’re here until 5 o’clock. So it’s not like you have to get back in an hour.”

Ms. Vestfall said more than 1,200 people pre-registered for the Amish Country Bike Tour and they also had a large number of walk-up participants.

Normally, the Amish Country Bike Tour and the Bike MS: Bike to the Bay events don’t take place on the same day. It was just a scheduling anomaly this year.

Riders take a turn on Killens Pond Road near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Riders take a turn on Killens Pond Road near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s been good,” Ms. Vestfall said. “We got a little hurt because of the other bike rides in town. We’re a little down but we didn’t take a humungous hit.”

There was the added concern of the heat so volunteers helped to ensure the participants remained hydrated and extra water was ordered as the cyclists took to the streets early Saturday morning.

Plus, there were Amish pies available to purchase and Where Pigs Fly provided a post-ride barbecue for cyclists when they finished their rides of 15, 25, 50, 62 and 100 miles, each of which started and finished at Legislative Mall in Dover.

Karen O’Lone-Hahn, from Landenberg, Pennsylvania, admitted she came down for the pies.

Bicyclists ride on Chimney Hill Road near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Bicyclists ride on Chimney Hill Road near Felton during Bike to The Bay on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“I’ve never done it before and I was interested in the pies,” said Ms. O’Lone-Hahn, who took the 25-mile ride. “I’m just looking forward to getting the exercise in and hopefully enjoying some nice weather.

“I lost a lot of weight on ‘Weight Watchers’ a couple of years ago, so I’m trying to keep that off.

“I’m an artist so maybe I’ll get some inspiration out in the country and go home and paint.”

Turner Jones, of Bear, was taking a 15-mile tour of Dover with his girlfriend Stephanie Merkel, of Middletown.

“We were looking at ways to do something active together so we started riding bikes this year and it’s proven to be a really fun way to stay active and spend time together,” Mr. Jones said. “We heard about the tour down here and we figured this would be a good goal to hit by the end of the summer.

“This is our first official thing that we’re doing on bikes and hopefully it’s the first of many. I think it’s going to be good and we’re going to feel it at the end of the day.”

Chris Zorger, who owns the Bike Line store at 284 South DuPont Highway in Dover, was especially happy to see so many people out enjoying some fun on two wheels on Saturday.

“We have three vans at the Bike for the Bay event and we have one van for the Amish Tour,” he said. “This is great and now we have our new store that we re-opened, we’re really excited about all of the cyclists in Dover this weekend.”

Mr. Zorger did have one wish though as he tuned up bicycles in front of Legislative Hall.

“This year it’s beautiful weather out,” he said, at around 8:30 a.m. “Last year it was cold and windy and the year before that it was blazing hot. It’d be nice if we could get a balance.”

Meanwhile, about 1,000 cyclists were heading south from Delaware Technical and Community College’s Terry Campus to the Delaware Seashore State Park South Inlet Lot at the Indian River Inlet in Rehoboth Beach.

Like the Amish Tour, the Bike to the Bay event offered different route options for all cycling abilities from 20 to 175 miles and made its’ way through flat farmlands and rural towns of Kent and Sussex counties.

Nicole Lewis, director of Bike MS: Bike to the Bay, was pleased that so many cyclists came out to help in the race’s goal of raising $1 million to fight Multiple Sclerosis.

“It’s definitely very endearing that so many people will come out and support those living with MS in our area and to almost raise one million dollars this year,” Ms. Lewis said.

The MS: Bike to the Bay is geared to the more serious riders. The event is usually held later in the year so that made talk about safety a priority due to the brutally hot conditions.

“We make sure we have enough liquids along the route, shade and a cooling station,” she said. “There’s plenty of food, including a scrapple stop along the route as well. Our volunteers really do a good job of supporting the ride.”

Mattam Schuchman, from Baltimore, Maryland, noted the heat but said he was looking forward to taking off down Scarborough Road and getting his ride to the bay in gear.

“We’re doing a two-day ride. We did it last year, too,” he said. “We go to Rehoboth Beach all around the back roads. It’s for a great cause and it’s very flat in Delaware, which is very nice, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Meanwhile, adjacent to the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, more than 70 Special Olympics athletes from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia competed in the annual Special Olympics Delaware Cycling Classic.

Cyclists competed in races of varying distances, including: 500 meter, 1 kilometer, 5k, 10k, 15k and 20k.

Mark Wise, Special Olympics Delaware’s director of sports training, encourages his athletes to take up cycling.

“Cycling is a wonderful sport for our athletes because it’s a lifetime wellness activity they can do with family and friends even when they aren’t competing,” Mr. Wise said.

As for Dover, it enjoyed its day as the Cycling Capital of Delaware.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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