A different style of cycling

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Lance Armstrong enjoys touring foreign countries -- France, particularly -- on his bike.

So does Judy Cureton. The difference is that Judy doesn't win races like Lance does. Then again, she doesn't want to.

"I'm a tourist," Cureton said. "I have no interest in competing. I do it for enjoyment, to see the country, to meet people and to relax. I'm not into competition at all.

"When you have an American doing what Lance is doing, that's great," she added. "It's not my style of bicycling, but it's still bicycling. It's good to see bicycling of some type becoming more popular."

Cureton, a 66-year-old Cape Girardeau resident, has been on wheels since she was a toddler. She eventually became interested in touring not only in the United States, but also overseas.

Cureton toured for two months in New Zealand, a month in Germany and was part of a 35,000-cyclist tour in South Africa. She also has spent time riding around in Brazil, Canada, England and Wales.

"I met a friend in New Zealand, and we tour together," she said. "I got hooked, and I love bike touring."

In 1976, Cureton rode for three months across the United States, starting in Oregon and ending up on the East Coast. A couple years ago she rode across the U.S. in another direction, traveling from Canada to Mexico along the West Coast in 24 days.

"I really enjoy it," she said. "It's really peaceful and relaxing to get out and ride. Unfortunately there's too much of a mentality that a bicycle is a toy. Actually we're keeping the air cleaner and not burning oil. It's a shame, because we're out there working hard; you don't see too many fat bicyclists."

Iowa, Indiana were big

She has joined 5,000 riders in Indiana and 10,000 in Iowa for tours. Other events, however, are limited; a ride in Louisiana, for instance, permits only the first 250 entries.

"If they would open it up, there would be 500 in a heartbeat," she said. "But different rides have different amounts of people. The tour in Iowa is just a crazy thing with that amount of people."

Cureton said most tours are biker-friendly, providing food, places to stay and transportation for bikers' belongings.

"I've had to carry my own gear before on my bike, but most rides now will carry the gear for you," she said. "We'll stay in school gyms, and they'll provide us with food and all. We've gotten free beer and free crawdads before. They really set them up for people."

Part of local club

Cureton, a retired teacher and part-time worker at Cape Bicycle Cycling and Fitness, has been a part of the Velo Girardeau Bicycle Club since it began in 1979. She bikes three days a week with the club and another two days by herself.

Cureton still has plenty of touring ideas in mind.

"For a long time I wanted to ride the length of the Mississippi River," she said. "The thought is still there, but I kind of put it on the back burner right now.

"I love New Zealand, and I would love to ride the length of it. That would just be a really neat ride and really involved. And my friend is trying to get me to go to the Far East, and I might try to ride in China. You can basically ride in any country you want to."

The cyclist plans to keep touring until she can't, but isn't the slightest bit interested in racing.

"That's using a bike in a whole different way," she said. "I'm definitely a tourist. I'm not out to kill myself doing it."

Mark Unterreiner is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian, and his Spotlight feature appears every Thursday.

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