By ALEX PERRY
SUFFOLK, VA – Distance cycling isn’t easy, whether it’s just 12 miles or the coveted century mark.
John Maher, 65, kept that in mind when he helped design the routes for the 2018 Hampton Roads Tour de Cure in Suffolk.
“Fifty percent of a hundred-mile ride is mental,” Maher said. “It’s the same problem as a half marathon or full marathon. Your body starts to run out of electrolytes and food around an hour-and-a-half, and not only are you running out of energy, but your mind starts going too.”
Maher is captain of Team Portsmouth, which has 104 riders for Tour this year and has raised $25,476 as of Saturday. Maher himself has been cycling long distances for more than a decade.
When it was decided that this year’s Tour would move from its previous location at King’s Fork High School to Suffolk Executive Airport, Maher was asked to help design the new route for riders. He was familiar with that part of southern Virginia and North Carolina from team rides between Sunbury and Edenton in North Carolina.
Maher and his fellow team member Tommy Richardson put their heads together and biked the area to double-check their work.
“Between Tommy and myself, we threw it together,” Maher said.
The 100-mile route will guide riders from the airport, through Gates County, to Hertford in Perquimans County and back again. Rest stops are positioned at scenic waterfront vistas and other locales.
“I tell folks not to think of it as 100 miles, and instead think about it as going from stop to stop,” Maher said.
Maher and Richardson were determined to avoid hills along the route. The former route from King’s Fork High School had an elevation change of about 1,100 feet, while this year’s route has less than 100, Maher said.
That helps riders avoid one of the three biggest obstacles in distance cycling.
“Temperature, wind and elevation. If you get all three of those nasties, then it can really dismantle a rider coming out of winter,” Maher said.
Each rest stop will be equipped with all of the food and hydration riders will need. Maher described the ADA’s preparations for the rest stops as the quintessential industry standards.
“You need different types of food at each rest stop. Early on, it’s protein and electrolytes, but further on, you need carbs with those electrolytes,” Maher said.
The 2018 Hampton Roads Tour de Cure will take place on April 28, beginning and ending at the Suffolk Executive Airport. The route options are 12, 30, 63 and 100 miles. There will also be a 5K run and walk for those that don’t wish to ride.
There is a $30 registration fee and a $200 fundraising minimum. The registration fee will go up to $35 on Tour day. The fundraising goal is $450,000, and approximately $253,425 has been raised as of Saturday.
Visit diabetes.org/hrtdc or call 757-424-6662 ext. 3269 for more information.
(Alex Perry is a Staff Writer at the Suffolk (VA) News-Herald, a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index.)