Father, daughter cycle at Indianapolis Speedway

RANTOUL — Thirty-five miles an hour isn't all that fast at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Not in a car anyway.

On a bike? That's another story.

Sara Simpkins got to speed along in the mid-30s on her bike earlier this year. And she got to do it for a good cause.

Simpkins and her father, Paul, both of Rantoul, were among the bike riders who raised funds earlier this summer for the American Diabetes Association while participating in the Tour de Cure.

The event is held annually at different locations around the country.

Sara raised $640, and her father $525.

When Sara first participated in the fundraiser in Indianapolis (this is the 15th year she's ridden in the Tour de Cure), it was referred to as "the smoothest bike ride in the world."

She found that to be true.

"There's no traffic, so you don't have to worry about anyone running you over," she said.

When she clocked 35 mph, she was part of the pace line — a group of riders who ride, as the name says, in a line. The person in the front blocks the wind and enables those behind to go faster. The leader is also the engine to the train, motivating those behind to bike as fast as they can.

"It was a lot of fun to go that fast," Simpkins said.

She got to see the speedway as few do.

"One of the interesting things you don't see when you watch the Indy 500 is there's a hill between turns one and two. It's probably something you only notice if you're riding a bike or running," she said.

She enjoyed her latest excursion to Indianapolis despite getting sick, which caused her to miss part of the fundraiser. Still, she was able to bike about 10 miles.

"I normally do about 40 miles," she said.

Paul Simpkins, who recently began biking year-round for exercise, upped his normal output of about 6 miles or so to 15 miles, "which we were very impressed with," his daughter said. "He also rode faster than he ever has."

He finished in about two hours.

Both have made nearly every Tour de Cure in the past 15 years — Sara missing one year because of a broken ankle but participating another year 10 days after having knee surgery. Paul missed one year because of his wife's illness.

The Tours are held in different locations every year, but the Simpkins like the Indy Speedway the best because of the quality of the course.

The 76-year-old Paul Simpkins rides 5 miles a day every day of the week.

"He started riding a lot this summer," Sara said. "He just decided to get healthy, and to get healthy, he started exercising."

Before, Paul would participate in the Tour but wouldn't really get in shape for it. He'd drag his bike out about a week before to get in some semblance of shape.

Sara Simpkins, meanwhile, rides 100 to 150 miles a week, about five days a week.

"I ride because I enjoy it and because it helps me control my blood sugar," said Sara, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January 1991, her freshman year in college. She was hospitalized for three days.

Type 1 means that her body does not produce any insulin.

Paul Simpkins has Type 2 diabetes, which was diagnosed in the early 2000s. Type 2 diabetics have a difficult time using the insulin their body makes.

There is one requirement for both of them. A helmet.

"It's really kind of stupid to ride without it," she said.

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