The 23rd annual Tour de Cape will go down in history as not only the biggest tour to date, but also perhaps the chilliest.
Hundreds of cyclists gathered at Cape Harbour at the crack of dawn Sunday, many wearing an extra layer or two of clothing over their colorful cycling outfits as temperatures barely reached 40 degrees.
Going along for the ride was a former state representative, a Florida Department of Transportation secretary and founders of the Cape Coral-Bike Ped movement.
Maria Classon, left, and her mom Dolores try to bear the cold before Sunday’s Tour de Cape.
A record 850 registered riders had the opportunity to bike routes that were 15, 30, 60 and 100 miles and, even though things started out a little chilly, it warmed up nicely as the morning progressed.
Todd King, the city's special events coordinator, credits the new Cape Coral Bike-Ped as having a hand in increasing registration, even as it is still being constructed.
"There are a lot of cyclists in Florida, and establishing bike paths and a good biking community is a positive thing and it's helped the event grow," King said.
Florida Department of Transportation District One Secretary Billy Hattaway joined former Rep. Gary Aubuchon and Cape Coral Bike-Ped organizers Mike Swanson and Craig Dearden on the 100-mile segment that started at 8 a.m.
Hattaway, an avid bike rider, accepted an invitation extended by the city and Cape Coral Bike-Ped representatives to join Aubuchon on the 100-mile ride.
"Two years ago, I was asked to lead the initiative on bike and ped safety in the state. I'm here to raise awareness that we are working to improve bike and ped safety," Hattaway said. "I ride in these events every chance I get. I lead a 40-mile group every Saturday and we ride in a way to create good will with motorists."
Hattaway's office has been supportive of the Cape Bike-Ped bike route signing effort, while Aubuchon had multiple reasons for doing the tour.
"I'm happy to be riding with Billy, who's a big supporter of this. I'm also doing this to raise awareness for Cape Coral Bike-Ped, and finally I'm riding for the Red Cross, for whom I'm trying to raise money," Aubuchon said, adding he hopes to raise $10,000 despite having only taken his bike out last weekend.
Carolyn Conant, who helped found the Cape Coral Bike-Ped, said the 90 miles of routes will be established by the end of the year, with future Tours de Cape likely using those routes.
The riders and their rides came in all shapes and sizes. Some used conventional bikes, others used more unique modes, such as Phil Puglisi of Fort Myers, who along with his wife, rode a 27-speed Catrike with a Ridekick electric motor in the back if any should happen to get tired.
"We can do about 19 mph without pedaling. We're here for the friendship with all the riders and this is a great cause and great exercise," Puglisi said.
Among the youngest riders was C.J. Burford, 8, who came with his mother, Katie, from North Carolina to visit friends and ride in the tour as training for one of his long-distance charity rides by taking the 30-mile route.
Burford, who rode across North Carolina in May and hopes to ride across America this summer, said he would have loved to do one of the longer routes.
"I'm doing the 30 miles. I really want to ride the 60-mile event, but my mom wouldn't do it," C.J. said.