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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

OK, I'm a little late with this, but I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year! With the coming of the new year, it's time to reflect on 2007 with a best/worst list:

BEST EVENT OF 2007: By far and away, the Tour of Missouri was the best event of 2007 for those of us in the Midwest. At first, I wondered whether Missourians would embrace the race, but big crowds at all the finish lines in the event proved that Missourians and the Midwest would come out for world-class cycling. Especially impressive was the fact that the final stage in St. Louis drew about 55,000 people despite the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams also were playing in downtown St. Louis that afternoon. The fact that Tour of Missouri was the U.S. swan song for the Discovery Channel team no doubt was a factor in the large crowds, and it was most fitting that George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong's longtime lieutenant, won the race.

BEST/WORST WEEKLONG RIDE OF 2007: The West Shoreline Tour in Michigan. It was my only weeklong tour of the year. The ride was great because of the scenery and because I managed to miss an August heat wave in St. Louis that week. The ride wasn't so good because I didn't get enough training in beforehand, meaning I rode much slower and with more rest breaks than I what I was used to.

BEST SINGLE-DAY RIDES OF 2007: One of them was my first significant ride of 2007 back in March, when I and three other friends did a 40-mile trip from Alton, Ill., to Pere Marquette State Park. Another was the "Donut Trail" ride, an informal ride with three other friends that toured some of south St. Louis's best doughnut shops. And, of course, the Belleville Area Bicycle and Eating Society's winery rides at Hidden Lake Winery near Aviston, Ill., and Ravissant Winery in Belleville, Ill., always rank among my favorites.

BIGGEST SURPRISE OF 2007: The Tour de Stooges drew more than 700 riders last year, about 200 people more than our previous high! It still continues to amaze me that people from 14 states attended the ride. I'm a bit nervous about the 2008 ride because we had to move the ride from its longtime home at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., to Highland, Ill. However, even well-established rides such as the Hilly Hundred in Indiana have had to move because the ride outgrew their facilities, so we're confident the move will be a good one for the ride.

BEST TREND OF 2007: The willingness of the Illinois General Assembly to pass bicycle-friendly legislation. In a year not known for productivity in state government, lawmakers did approve a bill that requires motorists to give three feet of clearance when passing cyclists, allows cyclists to use their right arms to signal a right turn, among other things. The legislature also passed a bill that requires driver's education courses in Illinois to educate people about their obligations to share the road with cyclists. The most impressive triumph was the legislature's ability to override a veto by Gov. Rod Blagojevich of a "Complete Streets" bill, which requires bicycle and pedestrian ways to be considered when constructing roads in urban areas in Illinois.

As for 2008, it looks like May will be a hectic month for me. In addition to Tour de Stooges, I will be working with friends and relatives of Gerry Frierdich, the Belleville cyclist critically injured when his recumbent bicycle was struck by a pickup truck in August, for a fund-raising ride. Gerry is continuing his long recovery at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, but the good news is that he may be able to return to Belleville later this month.

Despite the organization work that goes into those rides, my goal is to balance that out with more cycling miles in March, April and May so that I will be ready for weeklong tours in the summer and fall. I haven't determined which rides I'm doing, but I should know by February.

I hope all of you will be able to reach your cycling goals for 2008!

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