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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Many to wheel into East Prairie for Tour de Corn

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Allen Meks of Sikeston cycles down North Ingram. He is preparing for East Prairie's Tour de Corn.
EAST PRAIRIE -- The 60-mile route Tim Sanders and Allen Meeks of Sikeston signed up for in this weekend's Tour de Corn didn't sound like enough. So, the two friends plan to bike the round trip to East Prairie, too.

"That will make it about 100 miles," Sanders said.

This will be Sanders' second time biking the tour and Meeks' first. Last year, a woman Sanders knows from the Velo Girardeau cycling club he belongs to attempted an even more difficult challenge: biking from Cape Girardeau and back -- a total of over 175 miles biked in one day.

But not all participants will be able to bike to the tour. So far, people are registered from Florida, California, Maryland, Kansas, Arizona and Mississippi, to name a few, said Silvey Barker, coordinator for the event. "We get them from all over the United States," she said.

This is the fifth year for the Tour de Corn, a charity event. "We always choose a charity that benefits our local children," Barker said.

Shriner's Children's Hospital in St. Louis will benefit this year. Past donations have been directed to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Kenny Rogers Children's Center.

This year's Grand Kernel for the start of the ride will be Rob Kespelher, pastor of the First Church of God in East Prairie. "He has been active with the Tour de Corn committee and several community activities," Barker said, adding that he is leaving in July. "We're just honoring him for his participation in our community."

Since its debut, the Tour de Corn has steadily grown every year. There were 154 bikers the first year, and Barker said the registration at this point has surpassed the 320 registered at this time last year.

Event coordinators still expect the registration to grow higher and pass last year's 500 mark, too. Online registration ended at noon today, but same day registration is available on Saturday until the race begins at 7:30 a.m.

Not all participants have to bike the 60-mile trek. Two other distances are offered: 15 and 30 miles. "They choose the route," Barker said. "For families, the 15 mile route is popular. There are a lot of children and entertainment at the rest stops -- it's a party."

Rest stops are set up every 10 to 15 miles along the route, offering water, sports drinks and other refreshments. Additionally, one of the stops on each route has fresh-picked sweet corn.

That's a stop Sanders said he skipped last year, because it was the first on his route. "Usually, I think people who are going to ride the long distances skip the first stop," he said. "Some skip all of the stops, but we usually take two or three."

The flat terrain is a big attraction for participants, Barker said. "It's a fun ride," she said, emphasizing the tour is not a race.

A good time is what Meeks is anticipating. "I'm just looking forward to the ride and the countryside, meeting different people and all," he said. As for the terrain, he admitted he had no preference. "You get through it a little bit quicker and its not as hard," he said of the flat ride in East Prairie. "But I like hills -- they're more challenging."

And Meeks knows a thing or two about cycling. "I've been on a bike since I was 12," he said. Along with his family, he did BMX racing all over until he was about 17.

For now, he and Sanders have prepared for the big day with others in their group since February. "We started as early as we could based on the weather," Sanders said. "We just ride a lot."

And by a lot, he means anywhere from five to 30 miles, three or four nights a week. "Now that the days are longer, we're able to put in more miles," Sanders said.

To register or learn more about the Tour de Corn, log on to www.tourdecorn.com.