The ride resumes at the 31st Tour De
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Director Christian Hasselberg and the rest of his Tour De Donut team was unable to dodge the bullet that was COVID-19 last summer. Plans were interfered with and the pandemic ultimately led to a cancellation, which ended an annual streak of three decades for the highly-anticipated bicycle race. However, that luck recently changed.
Riders would make their return to the course in 2021 for the 31st Tour, but many thought that Mother Nature wasn’t going to cooperate in the midst of a forecast jam-packed with rain and thunderstorms. Remarkably, on a day in which it was supposed to pour throughout, the inclement weather stayed away from the start of the race until the award ceremony, which Hasselberg classified as being ‘nothing short of a miracle.’
“Everything seemed like it was going to be completely rained out,” Hasselberg said. “I have no idea how we got three hours of just clouds and sunshine. Plus, the temperature was reduced and overall conditions were great. You didn’t have a lot of overheating and it kept it cool for a long time. There was a bit of a head wind too but everybody said it wasn’t too bad.”
Hasselberg said that he was being told earlier in the week to expect the ‘doom and gloom.’ “I just ignored that,” Hasselberg said. “I never trust the weatherman.”
While he was camping out near the starting line with two of his three kids the night before the race, Hasselberg’s optimism took a hit because of a tornado watch that was happening in the area. “We went into a nearby shelter because we and the other campers were all pretty drenched from rain,” Hasselberg said. “It was some pretty loud and nasty stuff going on.”
Hasselberg didn’t sleep all night due to worry for two reasons – one being the weather and the other a delta variant of the coronavirus.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if the state was going to try and impose something on us at the last minute,” Hasselberg said. “It wasn’t lost on me that the state could change its mind at any moment and say that we couldn’t have the race. Thankfully, something like that hasn’t happened yet in the community, but I am legit concerned that that could happen. I’m not sure there’s much of an appetite for it by society, but it is what it is if they do it.”
At 5 a.m. on racing day – July 10, the forecast was still looking miserable, according to Hasselberg. “It showed a little break around 7 a.m., but that was it,” Hasselberg said. “It said that it was supposed to rain again at race time [9 a.m], 10 and 11. We seemed to be out of luck.”
Due to this forecast, the total number of participants (well over 1,000) ultimately decreased due to several opting out of the tour. This brought the count to about 800-plus.
“I was gratified that that many people still came,” Hasselberg said.
Hasselberg said that the race went smoothly as a collective and that there was just one moderate incident that he knew about. “If that’s the only thing that happened, we did pretty good,” Hasselberg said.
The full racing route was the same as it had been for the past eight renditions. The ride started in Staunton and went through 34 miles of Macoupin County countryside, with two donut stops stationed in Mt. Olive and Eagarville along the way.
“The people in these small towns want the race there,” Hasselberg said. “That makes this an even better deal for us all around. Usually, when I go through town after the race, there’s a lot more bikers sticking around, eating, shopping and other things that make an economic impact too.”
Riders additionally had the option of taking a shorter 12-mile route known as the ‘Donut Hole.’
There was plenty of breakfast to go around. According to Hasselberg, 500 dozen donuts were purchased for the big event.
“My favorite thing to do in the whole race is to walk into the store and make that order,” Hasselberg said. “They think I’m nuts. They say ‘Excuse me? You wanted how many?”
Racers took five minutes off of their official time for each donut that they consumed. There wasn’t an eye-catcher on the result sheet this year, but Hasselberg remembered a champion named Yisir Salem that ate 36 total while still being able to ride at a fast pace.
“It’s not just an eating contest,” Hasselberg said. “The most I ever saw someone eat was 41 but he didn’t win because he was too slow on the bike. That’s why the rules say that both donuts and speed matter because we didn’t want this to turn into a ‘puke-fest’ like we saw happen one year.”
Hasselberg was a domestique of Salem’s at the Tour De Donut of Ohio – a copycat edition of Staunton’s original that also appeared in Michigan, Utah and Pennsylvania, and got to witness his eating technique.
“He would consume 12 at a time,” Hasselberg said. “He would smash them down like a pancake and then chip away at it like a little bird.”
Salem told Hasselberg that he took that approach to reduce the stress on his jaw muscles.
“He said that the jaw is one of the first muscles to get tired,” Hasselberg said. “He would never bite down hard. He would nibble then drink water, nibble then drink water, rinse and repeat until it was gone.”
Per Hasselberg, Salem ate another 12 before departing from the first stop and then did his last 12 at the second station.
“He dominated everybody,” Hasselberg said of Salem. “He tried to give me the trophy too. He was a humble guy.”
Hasselberg additionally found out that Salem used to compete with multi-grand champion Joey Chestnut in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and ran a marathon in every state while raising money on behalf of his wife, who died of cancer.
“He ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks,” said Hasselberg. “He was always on a mission.”
This year’s Tour De Donut sponsors were Bike Surgeon, The Cyclery, Madison Communications, Max B. Mullins & Mayfield Landscaping, Neuhaus Heating & A/C, R & B’s Restaurant, Caldieraro Dental, Bank of Hillsboro, Luketich Arms, Mayor Fireball, Tilley’s Tavern, Russell Furniture, Sullivan Drugs, Associated Bank, Turner Hall and Bill’s IGA.
“All of them are greatly appreciated,” said Hasselberg. “I’d also like to give a shoutout to Jennifer Ronen Walker for helping us with the social media.”
Complete racing results have been finalized and can be found at Fleetfeet.com.