Weather doesn’t damper Tour de Kota

Participants in the 2011 Argus Leader Tour de Kota roll into Vermillion Thursday. Thunderstorms that day forced changes in the greeting the community had planned for the bikers, but they welcomed the chance to get out of the rain and seek shelter on the USD campus.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Feimer)

The 2011 Argus Leader Tour de Kota rolled into town Thursday, June 9, just in time for a downpour that left more than 2 inches of rain in the Vermillion area.

Despite this, organizers and riders said they were satisfied with how this leg of the tour went.

Its one of those things that I think went as well as could be expected, given the conditions, said Maureen Cashin, visitor and tourism coordinator for the Vermilion Area Chamber & Development Company. All in all, we made it work. It was just unfortunate. But what can you do? Youve just got to make the most of it.

Owen Hotven, circulation director for the Argus Leader and director of the tour, said the riders did the best they could, either seeking shelter on the road or riding through the rain.

Theyre pretty resilient people, and theyre prepared for it. They motor through it for the most part. They dont like lightning, of course, he said.

This was the first year the Tour de Kota riders stayed overnight in Vermillion, although they passed through on other tours.

The University of South Dakota took part by offering riders the option of staying in the Beede and Mickelson residence halls in the North Complex, or to set up tents outside on the lawn.

In the parking lot, businesses including Cherry Street Grill, Jones Food Center, Hy-Vee, Scoops, RED Steakhouse, Pizza Hut and Scotty Ds Built for Barbeque of Huron set up booths to sell food to riders and local citizens.

The next morning, the Vermillion Lions Club held a pancake breakfast for the departing bikers. Although it was originally set to take place outside, the rain made it necessary to hold from the temporary student center near the North Complex.

The Lions were able to bring their griddle inside, and they were able to serve in there, Cashin said. I think they were fairly pleased with the turn-out there.

Another element of the stops planned events a performance by the band Poker Alice had to be moved to Careys Bar downtown.

Cashin said that the cooperation between the tour organizers, USD and the city was excellent.

The whole group has really pulled together to get all the facilities and logistics worked out, and theyve been great, she said.

Tour de Kota has taken place for the past seven years, with an evolving tour map each year.

Hotven described 2011s route as a campus tour. Starting on Sunday, June 5, the riders set out from Augustana College in Sioux Falls to South Dakota State University in Brookings, a length of approximately 83 miles.

The following day, they went to Dakota State University in Madison, and headed to Mitchell on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they rode to Freeman.

The first biker pulled into Vermillion at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Cashin said.

After they departed Vermillion Friday morning, they headed back to Sioux Falls, with their final destination being the University of Sioux Falls.

Hotvet said organizers thought the campus tour would be something different, something fun, and thats kind of what were looking for. Its worked out really, really well. People like it, they like having the dorm option.

Overall, the ride went quite well, he said, mainly because of the weather Thursdays rain notwithstanding.

(Thursday) really went well, he said. We had kind of a tailwind, not too much headwind, and people got pushed along really well. The cool temps helped, they dont need as much fluid.

I talked to one guy on (Tuesday). He said he drank 12 Gatorades and a bunch of water. He finished really well, but today he probably had one bottle of Gatorade and some water. Its really tough to gauge that stuff from day to day, he said.

Tuesday was the most difficult for the riders, Hotvet said, because of the heat and a strong headwind.

Each year, we have a patch to hand out when we have a headwind, he said. We call it the windy day patch.

Geneva Grooters of Rock Rapids, IA, and Connie Hammje of Alexandria, MN, agreed with Hotvets assessment. The women have taken an extended bike tour together each year since 1981, and have been on four of the seven Tour de Kotas.

This is the best year, Grooters said.

With the exception of (Thursday), Hammje added.

They said some of the other tours theyve been on have offered a lot more rain.

Ill take heat any day, Grooters said. When youre wet and cold its miserable. Or, if you have a constant headwind all day. Thats just wearing on you.

Grooters and Hammje said they have enjoyed all the Tours because of the other riders, and because of the communities they visit.

The people are very friendly, Grooters said. All the towns have done a great job.

This year the terrain has really been pretty, Hammje added. Theres been years where weve had a day where it was kind of boring for a while, and it was beautiful coming into Vermillion.

Hotvet said some of the riders have asked for next years Tour de Kota to follow the same route, although he doesnt think its likely to happen.

We just havent repeated one year to the next, he said. Its a lot of work the communities go to to put this on, and as much as anything, I like to mix it up a bit. But I think thats an indication of how people have appreciated this route and the whole tour in general.

Cashin said everyone from Vermillion was happy to help out.

We were excited to showcase our community, and the university was excited to showcase the school and all the great things that they provide, she said. Were happy that Vermillion was on the tour and that they wanted to stay overnight here.

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