Cyclists share stories, experiences from Tour de Charleston


Raine Zhu

Cyclists line up at the start line during the 3rd annual Tour de Charleston on June 1. The Tour’s start and finish line were between the Charleston Chamber of Commerce and City Hall buildings. More than 300 cyclists participated this year.

Zoë Donovan, Staff Reporter

More than 300 cyclists filled the Square in anticipation of the Tour de Charleston June 1, marking its third year.

The Tour consisted of three different routes; these included a 12 ½-mile race, a 25-mile race and a 50-mile race.

Cyclists of each route started at the same time, and a chip within an ankle band marked their time from start to finish.

This is the first year that a 1-mile family fun race was implemented; this allowed for younger and less experienced riders to participate and have fun.

Raine Zhu
Greg Voudrie, retired police officer from Mattoon, finishes the 12 ½-mile route in first place at the Tour de Charleston on June 1.

Greg Voudrie, a retired police officer from Mattoon, was the first cyclist of the day to cross the finish line. Voudrie finished the 12 ½-mile with a time of 34 minutes and 25 seconds.

Voudrie said he has participated in triathlons for the last six years; he has participated in every Tour de Charleston.

“Most of the triathlons I do are sprint distance tri’s, so the bike ride is comparable to this; it’s usually 12, 13 miles,” Voudrie said. “I’m just trying to see what I can do going all out on a bike. It pushes my expectations.”

Voudrie said he has been interested in racing and competitive cycling since he was a child.

“I watched the first ‘Iron Man’ on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and I got in the back of my mind that I always wanted to do (that),” he said.

One young competitor did not let the multi-mile race get the best of her. Five-year-old Claire Cobert rode tandem with her father Ray throughout the 12 ½-mile course.

Ray said he is a mechanic at the local Charleston bike shop, Bike and Hike.

Raine Zhu
Families with young children were encouraged to participate in the 1-mile Family Fun Ride at the Tour de Charleston. This is the first time the Tour has implemented the 1-mile route, intended for families with young children and inexperienced cyclists.

He said they have not had the opportunity to train prior to the Tour, but they were eager to get on the 12 ½-mile route together.

“We haven’t been training very long. We actually just picked up her bike this week,” Cobert said. “It was more or less spur of the moment that (Claire) was going to join us.”

This was not Claire’s first race, either; Jessica Millburn, the overall female winner of the 12 ½-mile race, was standing by and said that Claire had also participated in the Kiwanis bike race.

Cobert said they chose to participate in the Tour de Charleston to support the community.

“It’s great that we have a local ride here in town, and it was only a few blocks away for us. What better way to spend the day?” Cobert said.

Alex Johnson, a nursing major at Lake Land Community College, finished first-place in the Men’s 18 and under division and 3rdplace overall for the 25-mile race circuit.

Johnson said he has been training for his third go around on the Tour de Charleston for the last few months in preparation.

He said his father got him interested in cycling competitively.

“When (my father) was younger, he used to ride a lot; he almost went pro, actually,” Johnson said.

Raine Zhu
Justin Blue, a car salesman from Champaign, finishes the 25-mile route in first place during the Tour de Charleston on June 1.

Johnson was also a part of a larger group of individuals who participated with the local bike shop Bike and Hike, he said.

“We’re all kind of like a big family—kind of go out and ride together and do different races. It’s really nice to see people you recognize,” Johnson said.

Johnson is looking forward to participating in another bike race in Indianapolis in July, he said.

Of the finalists of the 50-mile race, Josh Bommelje, a Charleston native and physiology major at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, placed first overall in the Men’s division.

Bommelje said he was raised riding dirt bikes.

“Cycling was just a more available form of a similar sport. I got into that because you can just go out and ride whenever,” Bommelje said.

He scouted the route in anticipation for the race and to better prepare himself, Bommelje said.

One of the biggest challenges cyclists can face is proper pacing, he said.

“It’s easy to get too caught up early and burn your legs before you’re close to even being done,” he said.

Results for the 12 ½-mile and 25-mile races can be found here. Results for the 50-mile race can be found here.

Zoë Donovan can be reached at 581–2812 or at [email protected].