8th annual Tour de Belleville bike ride is ready to roll

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

Marie Oelrich has a royal-blue, 7-speed Eddie Bauer bike that her late husband bought at a police auction of confiscated and found items.

That's what the 80-year-old plans to ride in the Tour de Belleville on Friday.

This will be Oelrich's sixth year participating in the evening ride through city streets. One year, all six of her children joined in.

"It's fun," Oelrich said. "It's like a party atmosphere. You get together with 2,000 of your closest friends at Union United Methodist Church (before the ride).

"Along the way, people are out in their front yards, cheering you on, especially if you're going up an incline. It's like a parade. One gal has a garden hose, and she'll spray anyone who wants to be sprinkled."

Oelrich plans to cover the 5-mile route, although a 15-mile route is available for those feeling more energetic.

The eighth-annual, non-competitive bike ride is sponsored by Belleville Parks and Recreation. The starting time of 8:30 p.m. is a half-hour earlier than usual.

"We're thinking a little more light will help us get off the parking lot easier," said Debbie Belleville, parks and recreation director. "And with it being a family event, maybe we'll have more participation (by families with children)."

About 2,400 people showed up last year. All ages are welcome, but training wheels and pets are prohibited.

Streets on both routes will be closed to vehicular traffic with designated stops for water and restrooms. The city distributed notices to homes along the way.

"A lot of people have neighborhood gatherings and little parties so they can cheer on the cyclists," Belleville said.

This year's pre-ride party at Union United will begin at 6:30 p.m. with music by the band Social Remedy.

The ride's theme is "A 3-Hour Tour," referring to the "Gilligan's Island" song. Cyclists are encouraged to wear tropical clothing, decorate bikes and enter a decorating contest near the main stage at 8 p.m.

Registration costs $16 on Thursday at the Parks and Recreation office or online or $25 on Friday (includes T-shirt and water bottle).

Proceeds from the ride are used to buy safety equipment for the city. Last year, the police department received a $10,000 gas-powered Polaris four-wheeler.

"It's got a little more muscle than our golf carts," said Sgt. Craig Stafford, 56, who uses the vehicle to patrol bike trails, parks and special events in downtown Belleville.

"(The golf carts) don't go that fast, and the batteries won't go the full distance of the bike trail," he said.

Tour de Belleville's honorary first rider this year is Angie Hutchison, 48, of Belleville, whose husband, Scott, and 9-year-old son, Zachary, were killed in a car accident on March 1. Friends and family have been inspired by her strength and spirit.

"You have to honor the people you've lost and keep moving," she said. "That's all you can do."

Hutchison suffered a shattered ankle, four broken ribs, a punctured lung, a concussion and other injuries in the accident. Her 14-year-old son, Jacob, suffered a broken leg.

Hutchison's ankle is healing well, but she's still having some balance problems because of the concussion.

"The decision was made to put me in a vehicle of some sort (on Friday night) instead of me riding a bike," she said.

Big Daddy's in Belleville also invites the public to a pre-ride luau at 5 p.m. Friday with Phil Elmore's Mobile Music Machine and The Photo Booth Doctor.

Photographer Adam Gray, 33, is offering free souvenir photos of bicyclists with Tour de Belleville-related backgrounds.

"I've lived in Belleville since '93, and I don't mind doing something like this for the community," he said.

At a glance

What: Eighth-annual Tour de Belleville

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Ride begins at Union United Methodist Church, 721 E. Main in Belleville

Routes: Five or 15 miles through streets of Belleville

Pre-party: 6:30 p.m. at Union United

Decorating contest: 8 p.m.

Registration: $16 on Thursday at Belleville Parks and Recreation at 520 W. Main St. or www.tourdebelleville.com or $25 on Friday ($52 for a family with two adults and two children under 12)

Bring: Helmets required and lights requested.

Don't bring: Bikes with training wheels, pets or alcohol

Information: Visit www.tourdebelleville.com or call 233-1416.

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