By ROBIN EPLEY – Staff Writer
Posted: 02/28/2010 12:00:00 AM PST
CHICO — Wearing a fur-covered gorilla suit, Ed McLaughlin presided over the start of Saturday’s Tour de Ed from his wheelchair. Two other attendants were dressed as a spaceman and a woman in a burka in order to demonstrate the “elasticity of civilization” and mankind’s past, present and future.
McLaughlin, formerly the executive director for the Chico Velo Cycling Club, was the victim of a bicycling accident in 2007 that severely injured his spinal cord and left him paraplegic and wheelchair-bound. While riding with a pack of fellow bicyclists on a path between Vallombrosa and Madrone avenues, the bikers compressed to avoid a pedestrian and McLaughlin was consequently pushed into a road bollard that broke his bike and flipped him onto his back.
The Tour de Ed is a fundraiser that raises money for the Chico Cyclist Care Fund for injured and recovering cyclists, said Walt Schafer, a board member of Chico Velo Cycling Club. Schafer also said the third annual event attracted more than 200 riders.
According to the Chico Velo Web site, the event was formerly known as the Almond Blossom ride, and offers two routes — one a scenic 20-mile ride to Durham and back, connecting with the Midway bike path, and the second a shorter ride around lower Bidwell Park, planned specifically for those who have young children with them.
Chico Mayor Ann Schwab, also a board member of Chico Velo, was the mistress of ceremonies as the ride kicked off under overcast skies from the
City Hall parking lot in downtown Chico. McLaughlin sang a Fats Domino song, “The Rockin Bicycle,” to get the attendees in the mood for a good ride.
Riders were encouraged to arrive and register early so they would be able to wander downtown to the Saturday farmers market, a local coffee house for breakfast, or a bicycle shop to have repairs done before the race.
Shawn Tillman of Chico brought his daughter Sylvianne, 4, with him on this year’s shorter ride around lower park, though he said he and Sylvianne rode to Durham last year. The Tillmans have attended all three years of the Tour de Ed. Sylvianne said her favorite part is when they “go fast.”
The father and daughter team uses a trailer bike so she can ride with her father, but Shawn Tillman thinks she will probably ride her own bicycle in next year’s Tour de Ed when she turns 5.
“I just think it’s fun to support Ed,” Tillman said. “It’s kind of a homegrown event.”