Monday, September 17, 2007

History of the Tour

Several people have emailed me about the format and some history of the Tour de Cullman. The ride has morphed over the past 13 years into a fun ride with some serious competition thrown in.

The original tour back in 1994 was a reunion ride for a group of former racers, most of who raced in the eighties. The ride was composed of a couple of category 2 state champions, a master state champion, a professional triathlete and a bunch of guys who loved to spend time in the saddle. We all spent many three hour plus rides together around the University of Alabama, so as most cycling people know you formed that unique bond. In the late 80s we all went our separate ways and had to get real jobs.
The idea for the Tour de Cullman came after seeing a few of the guys years later. We talked about getting back together and going riding again. I put the ride together and hosted it at my house in Cullman. The first year we had 12 riders. The plan was to go out for an easy ride then return to my house, have a party and revisit old times and rides.

You know what happens when you get a group of cyclist together. What started out as an easy stroll through the Cullman countryside turned into a 45 mile hammer session. Even though everyone was out of shape it didn't take long for the pace to go off scale. Soon the chatter in our group was we needed a sprint and preferably ending on a hill top. I thought this was suppose to be a fun ride. We ended up sprinting to a telephone pole on top of Stouts Mountain, with Richard Prewitt edging Arthur Patrick by a fraction of a wheel.

After the sprint we took it easy and rolled back to my house. We refueled with lots of homemade pasta, bread and some great beer. Everyone had a great time and it was a unanimous decision that we had to do this every year.

The next year everyone invited someone/networked a little and had 25 riders. The tour also got a little longer and tougher, moving the KOM from Stouts to Skyball Mountain. One thing that stuck in the format was Jacques Emplaincourt telling me that great European races end with an uphill sprint. Everyone enjoyed the laid back competition but also the challenging terrain of Cullman and Blount counties. The second year I added an official King of the Mountain trophy. This seemed to really unleash the beasts and soon I was informed that it became an official underground race.


An important influence of the more recent Tour de Cullmans is the gran fondo rides in Europe. I think you can make the ride appeal to more people and definitely make it more fun by having everyone start and hopefully finish together. One thing I have found is that hobby riders like a challenge and competition. Even the slower riders like the tough route and want to know where they finished in the KOM compared to the elites. The most important thing to me is to have riders of all abilities, male and female, elite to novice. Over the past 13 years it has been an interesting collection of people.

The Tour de Cullman rolls out at noon from my house on the southeast side of Cullman with a strictly enforced tourist pace (less than 18mph). We have a motorcycle escort and a gentleman's agreement is you cannot pass the motorcycle. We ride with support through Cullman and Blount Counties for 22 miles at a very easy pace. When the peleton crosses Chamblees Mill Bridge the motorcycle increases the speed to 20 mph. This is to separate the faster riders from the people wanting to just enjoy the ride and take it easy. A green flag is dropped once we roll onto "Race Horse" Johnson Parkway. At this point you can drop the hammer and go with the riders competing for the KOM or you can continue on at any pace you like.

The road is smooth and leads up the the first climb of Skyball Mountain where the selection is made. Once you start the first climb you begin the Circle of Death. The circle is roughly 20 miles with several tough climbs and some fast descents. It is also some incredibly beautiful countryside. At the end of the circle you begin climbing the 4 mile accent back up Skyball Mountain. The KOM is on top of the mountain, the 40 mile mark of the ride.

Once the first rider reaches the summit the watch starts and the riders times are recorded. There is a trophy for the overall KOM male and female, masters male and female (40+), most aggressive male and female, and the Cullman division.

The riders celebrate the finish with accordion music and some refreshments. When all the riders have reached the summit we regroup and ride back into Cullman at your own pace. Back in town after the ride, the "Podium" begins at 4:00 with the same format as the first tour; fresh pasta, bread and beer (plenty of other liquids).


Anonymous said...

can any of those original guys still make a 40 mile ride on a nice fall afternoon?

runonce said...

Caption for the photo? Who is who?

brent said...

holy crap! you brung out the emplaincourt!!! that makes me think of tank tops and gold rope chains and eurotuscaloosans...


Free Blog Counter