by Dennis Dalman
It’s no wonder the annual Tour of Saints, now in its 38th year, has become a generational event with adults still biking the tour who used to bike with parents or grandparents when they were children.
Hosted by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the Tour of Saints, is billed as a bicycle ride, not a race. It will start between 6:30 a.m. (and no later than 8:30 a.m.) Sunday, July 8, at the Haehn Center on the College of St. Benedict campus in St. Joseph. Last year, about 1,000 riders participated. They came from all points in Minnesota and beyond. There are three routes to choose from – an 18-mile one, a 35-mile trek or a 50-mile trip. The end point for all three is back at the Haehn campus center.
Tour of Saints Event Director Michael Doyle of Collegeville Township said he is always surprised by all of the social connections among people through nearly four decades of the event. The ride, for many, has become an exercise in nostalgia.
One rider, when he was a young kid living by Kraemer Lake near St. Joseph, used to ride the tour with his grandfather from Hutchinson. Later, the kid grew up, moved to the Twin Cities and convinced six of his friends there to join him for the tour.
“One of the things I like best about the Tour of Saints is it creates bonds among families and friends,” said Doyle, who has been its director since 1991 – 27 years.
People can register for the race by going to its website at www.tourofsaints.com. Registration will end June 30.
The Tour of Saints is touted as a “heavenly little ride” because its routes wind through beautiful rural central Minnesota countryside, green as Ireland in early June.
The best route for families and bike-riders not too keen on hilly terrain is the 18-mile trek, Doyle noted. It goes all along the mostly flat Lake Wobegon Trail to Avon and then back again after a rest stop with food and refreshments at the Avon trailhead.
The two other routes also follow the Lake Wobegon Trail but then one veers off one way, the other another way on journey loop routes leading back to St. Joseph. Other rest stops include Cold Spring Bakery and Collegeville Orchards.
Back on campus, there will be free showers in the Haehn Center for those who feel a need for one, along with watermelon, sweet treats, refreshments and even beer-tasting sponsored by Beaver Island Brewing and – new this year – Bad Habit Brewing in St. Joseph, along with another new sponsor, Milk and Honey Ciders near St. Joseph, which will also offer tastings.
The Tour of Saints began 38 years ago when two St. Cloud teachers (Tolly Vollen and Phil Rogosheske) and some other people started the ride from Westwood Elementary School along Hwy. 23 to Cold Spring.
Doyle became involved when he was working in public relations for St. John’s University, which was looking for a way to become more connected with a special event. The university asked Doyle if he would consider being its point-man/director. He said yes, and he’s still glad he did.
He credits so many volunteers with making the event such a success – people such as Kay Lemke of St. Joseph, a founding member of the Y2K Lions Club. For many years, Lemke has enlisted the support of fellow club members and others to help out at the rest stops. In return, the tour donates some of the proceeds to the Lions.
A great ride
Dr. Joseph and Mary Belshe, who now live in Florida, often miss the Tour of Saints. Doyle was delighted to receive an email from Mary Belshe last week. She informed him that Joe, now 97, still bikes, swims and walks every day in their retirement community, and Mary still rides up to 150 miles weekly. The Belshes at one time lived in St. Cloud and still visit now and then.
“I truly miss doing the Tour (of Saints),” Belshe wrote to Doyle. “It was just a great ride. Thank you for your steady hand all these years.”