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A new Cannonball Ride coming to southern Illinois next month

  • Pictured is the route of the Feb. 3 "Cannonball Ride" that begins and ends in Chester.

    Pictured is the route of the Feb. 3 "Cannonball Ride" that begins and ends in Chester.
    Illustration provided

  • Clockwise from center, Rudy Murdich,Cannonball Ride co-Director Maurice Hessel, Chris Boling and Greg Young during a previous Cannonball Ride in southern Illinois.

    Clockwise from center, Rudy Murdich,Cannonball Ride co-Director Maurice Hessel, Chris Boling and Greg Young during a previous Cannonball Ride in southern Illinois.
    Photo provided

  • Cole Memorial Park in Chester will be the starting point of a 57-mile, two-state "Cannonball Ride" bicycle race on Feb. 3.

    Cole Memorial Park in Chester will be the starting point of a 57-mile, two-state "Cannonball Ride" bicycle race on Feb. 3.
    Pete Spitler photo

 
By Pete Spitler
pspitler@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 1/4/2018 2:03 PM

A new race with old inspirations will take start in Chester on Feb. 3.

The 57-mile, two-state, "Cannonball Ride" bicycle race gets its name from the 1981 Burt Reynolds classic "Cannonball Run" and will take racers past historic sites such as Kaskaskia Island, Pierre Menard Home and Fort Kaskaskia.

The final segment will have cyclists riding past the Menard Correctional Center before making the tough uphill climb to the finish line in front of the Randolph County Courthouse.

"We've been looking to do something involving the Mississippi River levees for the past year," said race organizer Jon Greenstreet of Metro East-based Bike Surgeon. "The gravel-style riding is becoming much more popular.

"Chester's going to be the first of the series and we've got another one (on Feb. 17) that leaves from Sauget and goes down to Valmeyer. We wanted to give our local folks something to ride locally here."

River Ratz Cycling, which focuses on helping "get kids on bikes," is a co-sponsor of the event.

"The Bike Surgeon has had a long relationship with us and is instrumental in getting a lot of bikes donated and has been very supportive," said River Ratz Cycling President Tom Welge.

While February in Randolph County might not be your first thought of a time for a bike race, organizers intended the unpredictability of weather to be an added challenge for the racers.

"The cycling calendar gets crazy busy," Greenstreet said. "We figured we would incorporate all of it in the potential for some funky weather with a challenging course.

"We figured February would be as good of a time as any and not compete with some of these more road-focused events."

While weather that far out cannot ever be accurately predicted, Accuweather is predicting a high of 52 and a low of 17 on Feb. 3 with north-northeast winds gusting to 22 mph.

"That's part of the challenge for these guys is the conditions," Greenstreet said. "Barring ice, but if it's cold and windy they'll still go and the whole reference is homage to the (Cannonball Run) movies."

The race begins at 10 a.m. at Cole Memorial Park in Chester. racers will exit the south end of the park and make their way, by police escort, to and across the Chester Bridge.

From there, it's a quick right turn onto Perry County Road 238, following the levee north and then west until racers reach St. Mary, Missouri.

Racers will then follow the levee bordering Kaskaskia Island before turning west to Ste. Genevieve. racers may pit stop there before boarding the Modoc ferry across the Mississippi River for the final Illinois leg of the race, heading south and east toward the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam.

Following the Kaskaskia River north along the levee road, racers will cross the Roots Road Bridge and head east toward Ellis Grove, turning right onto Harmony Road before a quick left onto Branch Street.

Racers will turn right onto Main Street, following it south to West 1st Street, continuing on to Riley Lake Road for the downhill run.

Racing past the Pierre Menard Home, racers will make the climb up to Fort Kaskaskia before turning around and descending back through the park for the homestretch past the prison.

"Our biggest goal was to provide as much gravel as possible," Greenstreet said. "We still have some big roads we have to cross. We went out and scouted it three different times to come up with this final route map."

Pre-registrations for the race are being accepted until Jan. 19. Cost is $75 and those who pre-register for the two-race series can race both for $75 total and receive a custom-forged Cannonball Ride inaugural edition belt buckle upon completion.

For more information or to register, visit https://cannonball.bike/.

"The scuttle on the internet is pretty good," Greenstreet said. "We've got 90 or so (people) saying they're interested."

According to the website for the event, a minimum of 40 pre-registered participants are needed so that organizers can break even on costs associated with the race. While support trucks will be available throughout the course, if needed, the intent is for racers to bring everything they need with them on the race.

"It's very much self-supported," Greenstreete said. "There's no rest stations, you're on your own."

Greenstreet said the technology of the sport has progressed to the point that most racers have GPS available. An application called Strava will be used for tracking, navigation and timing/scoring.

"No traditional timing clock, no corner marshals, no closed courses; just you, your bike, and your honor," the website said.

Another sponsor of the race is Benson's Wine Bar, which will be the place racers gather to warm up and share stories before heading home.

Trophies will be awarded to the top three overall time finishers, scored on the cumulative total time for events in the series. Racers can also earn prizes during certain segments of the course.

"As they're coming out of Ellis Grove, the Strava application will have segments pre-programmed into the course," Welge said. "One of which will be who can climb from the river road to Fort Kaskaskia the fastest."