Riding to Paris

Riding to Paris

The world’s best cyclists will complete the last stage of the Tour de France on July 23 by riding from Montgeron to Paris for the traditional finish on the Champs-Élysées. Some local cyclists will challenge themselves on the same day with a century ride from Kickapoo State Recreation Area to Paris, Illinois.

The Kickapoo de Paris century bike ride was created by Rick Danzl (a News-Gazette photographer) as a fun way to get people to challenge themselves with a long-distance ride.

Danzl has been a cyclist -- both a road biker and mountain biker -- since 2009. Last summer, he rode his first century ride of 100 miles from his home in Catlin to Paris and back. This year, he decided to create an informal event to get other people riding as well.

“It’s a challenge, obviously, to ride 100 miles. A century is a benchmark for cyclists, like running a marathon for runners. It’s something to work for and achieve. I wanted to encourage people to push themselves to do a century ride,” Danzl said.

Blog PhotoHe chose a route that incorporates as much topography as possible that is not completely flat. The ride starts at Kickapoo State Recreation Area and covers some hills within the park before heading west for a loop on Rock Cut Road.

“It’s very scenic and shady and has some limestone bluffs,” Danzl said of Rock Cut Road.

Blog PhotoThe route also includes challenging hills along Shangri La Road just south of the park, at both the beginning and end of the ride, and it passes both the Middle Fork and Salt Fork rivers. It then follows Illinois Route 1 through several Vermilion County towns to Paris. Danzl said the road has a wide shoulder and also has plenty of convenience stores where riders can stop to refuel. Alternative routes are in the works for riders not wanting to traverse Illinois 1.

Riders will loop around the town square in Paris at the halfway point. The return route includes a loop through Forest Glen Preserve, past tall grass prairie.

Danzl wanted to make the event fun by playing off the Tour de France finish on the same day in the other Paris. Among his ideas are having his daughter and her friends serve as podium girls, presenting finishers with bouquets of prairie flowers and grasses. Two friends dressed in banana and gorilla costumes will mimic the costumed Tour de France fans who chase the cyclists along the route. The banana and gorilla will chase/encourage cyclists as they pedal up the last hill into Kickapoo at the end of the ride.

The ride will also have a waffle stop in Belgium, where another friend will be cooking and serving homemade waffles early in the ride.

Danzl decided to keep the event informal to gauge the interest of cyclists this year. There is no official registration or entry fee, although Danzl will be accepting donations for the Kickapoo Rail Trail. Cyclists will depart as a group at 7 a.m. from the Walnut Shelter at Kickapoo. A bike mechanic will be on call for SAG support for any cyclist having difficulties.

Riders who don’t want to ride 100 miles will have a 50-mile option. Danzl said a vehicle will be available to transport riders from Paris back to Kickapoo if they don’t want to ride the return trip. And if cyclists want to start at Paris and ride back to Kickapoo, they will be accommodated as well, he said.

Danzl hopes there is enough interest in the ride to continue it next year and make it a bigger event.

“I’m just a guy with an idea, and I want people to bike and have fun,” he said. “I hope people come out and enjoy it and bring more people, and next year we can do it bigger and better.”


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/.


Photos: Cyclists will ride to this Paris (top photo, by Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette), not this Paris (bottom photo, by The Associated Press).


Ride Stuff:

The event has a Facebook page. To find it, click here or search for 2d Annual Kickapoo de Paris century bike ride.


Other area rides:

Ride to the Depot, July 23, White Heath. Routes of 30, 70 and 100 miles, plus a 16-mile family route. http://champaigncycle.com/about/2017-ride-to-the-depot-w-sign-up-pg438.htm

Two Rivers Century, Aug. 6, Kankakee. Routes from 22 to 128 miles. http://tworiverscentury.com/

Cruisin’ the Cornfields, Aug. 12, Sullivan. Routes of 16 and 41 miles. http://www.sullivanartsillinois.org/blank-bomq3

C-U Across the Prairie, Aug. 26, Urbana. Routes from 15 to 100 miles, plus a 7-mile family ride. http://www.prairiecycleclub.org/c-u-across-the-prairie/

Capital City Century, Sept. 10, Springfield. Routes from 10 to 125 miles. http://spfldcycling.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=300348&module_id=245748

Amish Ride, Sept. 16, Arthur. Routes of approximately 20, 42 and 60 miles. http://www.decaturbicycleclub.org/arthur.html

Prairie Pedal, Sept. 24, Decatur. Routes of 20, 40 and 62 miles. http://maconcountyconservationfoundation.org/prairie-pedal/


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