Optimum Options

Optimum Options

Cyclists can explore the rural roads of Champaign County this weekend, and cover a distance of 15 miles, 100 miles or something in between, before enjoying lunch at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.

The C-U Across the Prairie bicycle ride is Saturday. It is Prairie Cycle Club’s main event and the main fundraiser for the club, and this year will be the 45th year for the ride.

“I like the different options,” said Frank Modica of Urbana. Modica has ridden C-U Across the Prairie several times, and he’s volunteered at the race for the last several years.

“There’s a fun little in-town, family-oriented ride, up to 30, 40 miles. If you loop all the options together, you can do up to a century (100 miles),” he said.

The routes include options of the 7-mile family ride and loops from 15 miles up to combining several routes for 100 miles. The routes go to Ford-Harris Park north of Urbana; to Lake of the Woods County Park and Mahomet; and to St. Joseph and Homer Lake Forest Preserve.

Because of the different routes and distances, and the SAG support providing help if a cyclist’s bike breaks down, “It’s kind of a ride that can be a gateway of getting people who are beginner riders to try something a little longer,” said Nina Chanlin, president of Prairie Cycle Club.“We try to accommodate all ride levels,” she said.

She said the ride includes some routes that are used for the club’s weekly rides. The regular cyclists know what roads are in good condition and are not heavy with car traffic. The club also tries to include routes with
some “hidden gems” such as horse farms or scenic areas, Chanlin said.

Richard Brannon believes one of the prettiest routes is that between St. Joseph and Homer Lake. Brannon is a Prairie Cycle Club board member and in charge of membership for the club.

He said about 90 cyclists rode C-U Across the Prairie last year, and many are riders from outside Champaign County who are looking to ride someplace different.

The ride started at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet for many years, but the start was moved to downtown Urbana a few years ago. The ride usually coincides with the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, and riders get a coupon for a free ear of corn at the festival.

“I think that’s been really good,” Modica said of the move to Urbana. “That’s been something I’ve really enjoyed — finishing up, whether I’m riding or volunteering, and then going over to the Sweetcorn Festival.”

Another favorite part of the ride for Modica: “Seeing the different bikes people have — the super high-end bikes, and people riding cruisers and hybrids and old bikes and new bikes, and people riding tandems.”

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s ride will be donated to The Bike Project to buy bicycle lights for low-income riders and youths. Chanlin said the club has also used money raised by the ride to support the Kickapoo Rail Trail and to help pay for Bike Month activities organized by Champaign County Bikes.

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.

On the web: For more about C-U Across the Prairie, go to http://www.prairiecycleclub.org/c-u-across-the-prairie/.


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