It's April again, and for many cycling enthusiasts in the Birmingham area, that means it's time to gear up for the Tour de Blue.
On April 28th, cyclists will take to the roads around Birmingham to raise awareness about prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Proceeds will benefit the Urology Health Foundation (UHF), a local nonprofit group that provides free prostate cancer screenings across Alabama, especially in underserved areas at highest risk.
This year's Tour de Blue will honor the memory of Dennis Goodwin and his courageous fight against prostate cancer. UHF President Dr. Thomas Moody said, "We hope that by honoring his memory more people can get behind this effort to raise awareness about prostate cancer and to provide an opportunity for early detection for as many men as possible."
For Dr. Moody, the need for prostate cancer screening is especially urgent in Alabama. It is a state which has the third highest death rate due to prostate cancer in the nation. By holding the Tour de Blue, Dr. Moody hopes that his Foundation can achieve greater awareness of this disease and raise funds for the free screenings that his Foundation provides across Alabama.
Birmingham has much to offer the cycling enthusiast. Author Warren St. John has written that Birmingham is in many ways "a cyclist's paradise." Birmingham, he said, has "great bike shops, amazing weather, easy access to quiet country roads not far from the city, and a wide variation in terrain, between flat valley floors and leg-shredding ridges." http://bit.ly/u6I88f
Now in its fifth year, the Tour de Blue is hosted by the Birmingham Bicycle Company (BBC), located in the Crestline Park neighborhood of Birmingham. It will have three ride options covering 100, 75, and 60 miles, respectively.
The ride will start from the bike shop with a police escort, and then take cyclists on a route through Jefferson, Shelby, and St. Clair counties before returning to the bike shop for lunch. Registration on event day will open at 6:30 a.m., and riding will begin at 8 a.m.
According to BBC's President Mike Fisher, cyclists participating in the Tour de Blue will enjoy a wide variation in terrain. After leaving the east side of Birmingham, they will pass through some very rural countryside in Shelby County. They will also experience some challenging climbs on Coosa and Oak Mountains, reaching elevations of about 900-1000 feet.
For cyclists going on the 100-mile route, the vast expanse of Logan Martin Dam will greet them after the half-way mark.
Mike Fisher stressed that the courses will be well-marked with hundreds of Tour de Blue arrows to help keep the cyclists on track. In addition, starting this year, cyclists can download map files from the UHF website and preview the routes in advance. They can also use them for navigation on the day of the ride by loading them onto GPS units.
The idea of the Tour de Blue originally came from a collaboration between Dr. Brian Christine—a Urology Centers of Alabama physician and an accomplished triathlete—and Sherry Wilson—a long-time advocate for prostate cancer awareness.
For Dr. Brian Christine, this will be his fifth year in the Tour de Blue. He commented: "I appreciate the opportunity to help promote awareness about prostate cancer as well as a healthier lifestyle. This is a good event for the men and women of Alabama. It is extremely well organized, and it is for a good cause. The money raised by this event stays in Alabama to help men in underserved areas of the State."
Cyclist Emma Wang has also participated in the Tour de Blue and plans to ride again this year. She said, "The number of participants makes this a very manageable, fun ride. The route goes over Coosa and Oak Mountains, top of my list of favorite routes in the Birmingham region."
Recipient of many awards for his prostate cancer awareness work, Dr. Moody said that the response from the cycling community has been very enthusiastic, and that over the past several years, the number of participants has gradually increased.
Dr. Moody is excited about the Tour's prospects later this month: "Cyclists as far away as Ohio and Kentucky have signed up for the Tour, and we are pleased to receive support from many cycling clubs in Alabama and other states."
Among the clubs supporting the ride this year is the Magic City Cycle Chix, or MC3 for short. Kim Cross, founder of this women's cycling group, said there will be a MC3 group in the Tour, led by Laural Wierenga. "Anyone who is new to this ride format or distance is welcome to join them for support and camaraderie."
Cross added: "Supported charity rides like the Tour de Blue are great on several counts. You get to ride with your friends. It's non-competitive. And safer than riding solo. The bonus? You're also supporting a good cause."
Tour de Blue sponsors include American Medical Systems, Amgen, Birmingham Bicycle Company, California Pizza Kitchen, Inc., Charter Media, Coloplast, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Meda Pharmaceuticals Inc., Physician Sales & Service, Inc., Sanofi, ServisFirst Bank, Urology Centers of Alabama, P.C., Walter Energy, Inc., and Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
For more information or to preregister, visit www.UrologyHealthFoundation.org or contact Sherry Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-445-0117. The cost of the ride is $40 and includes an event t-shirt. Blue Bagel will provide lunch after the ride.
You can find the Tour de Blue on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/tourdeblue and on Twitter @TourdeBlue.