Glazing saddles

Tour de Donut pedals through Troy September 16

Donuts on the run; photo: Tour De Donut

By Erin Callahan

The Tour De Donut is a competition of both physical fitness and hunger. And not just the hunger to win—it takes literal hunger, and a special affinity for glazed or jelly-filled.

In this race, participants are not only judged on how fast they can ride, but also how many donuts they can eat along the route. For every donut a rider eats, they have five minutes deducted from their ride time, and the one with the best adjusted “donut time” wins the golden Tour de Donut championship belt. However, if you’re just in it for the donuts or the bike ride, awards are also available based on the number of donuts eaten or the quickest ride time alone.

And while donuts and cycling may seem like an unexpected combination, the Tour De Donut has been successfully packing the roads with thousands of cyclists—and stomachs with donuts—for a decade. This year, the Tour de Donut will welcome about 3,000 participants to Troy’s downtown square, with donuts provided by Schuler’s Bakery in Springfield.

Participants can ride single, tandem, or recumbent bikes in the mini 16-mile ride, full 32-mile ride, or the 64-mile Double D challenge. Kids ages 2 to 12 are also welcome to participate.

“This event attracts not just hardcore experienced cyclists, but also a lot of runners and people who are not necessarily active on any level,” Roger Bowerstock, event director and “Head Donut,” says. “Sometimes they just get a bike and do it, sometimes it’s a bar bet, sometimes it’s people finding it on the Internet saying, ‘Is this thing for real?’”

It is for real, and it has one goal: “To bring people to the sport of cycling,” Bowerstock says. “Bike races are extremely intimidating, and bike tours are greatly diminishing in number of events and size. Donuts are kind of universally loved, so the quirky idea of melding donuts and bicycles allows us to bring people to the sport, even for a day.”

The original Tour de Donut began in Illinois over 20 years ago. An avid rider himself, Bowerstock attended a similar event called the Donut Derby in Pennsylvania, and he had the idea to start a local event in Ohio. He manages the event through his company, Rocketship Sports Management, and it hay continued to grow since the first ride in 2007. It began with only 106 riders at the Darke County Fairgrounds with donuts from the local Elkenberry’s Super Value grocery store. They used a stopwatch and paper to determine the winners, and like every year since, it had its own unique story to tell. When it came down to naming the winner of the first Tour de Donut, they discovered a tie and the two contestants were challenged to eat a finah 18th donut. Both were successful and awarded the title.

Their website states, “As the ride continues to grow, we continue to learn and improve the event for you.” By exploring their extensive “History” page that recounts each year’s event since 2007—including everything from details on the weather to thanking every organization that contributes—it’s clear the organizers are wholeheartedly dedicated to the event, and take it seriously.

“Even though it’s not real serious competition, we put on a very high-quality event and provide really nice finisher medals, a real awards ceremony, and just try to make the event as professional as possible,” Bowerstock explains. “And whether it’s somebody who’s never done an event before in their life, or someone who’s used to going to events all the time, we want everyone to think, ‘Wow, this is serious!’”

And they’re not just serious about biking. Overall, Bowerstock and his team are dedicated to creating a great experience for every participant. “We have been very strong advocates about the way this event is run and we’re not going to compromise,” he says. “I think that’s something we did from the very beginning that has been a hindrance, but it has also been excellent for the participants, which is why they come back and bring a friend.”

This year, the event will offer tent camping, and will feature the Rock the Bike music festival, animals from the Columbus Zoo, a beer garden, and more al, with the goal of attracting more families and not just bike enthusiasts. Plus, their new location in Troy has provided them with much more space to expand and offer more of these attractions.

“Families are going to look at the event a lot more,” Bowerstock says. “If participants think, ‘You know that’s a long way to go for a ride,’ they’ve got the ability to do other stuff with their family that maybe doesn’t ride. It’s more of a full family experience than just a bike ride.”

In order to make a plan like this a reality, Bowerstock said community involvement has always been a necessity, and planning for the next year’s event usually begins before the current year’s event is even over.

“Basically, we start planning at dinner on the day of the ride,” he says. “We have a meeting immediately afterwards with all our people. We talk through what worked, what didn’t work, what was a problem, and what can we do better when it’s all fresh in everybody’s mind.”

At the end of the day, the Tour de Donut is about providing a fun experience for all participants.

“It really is about the participants,” Bowerstock says. “I think that’s something any event promoter should really be steadfast with. Put on your event. Don’t let people hinder your vision. There’s a lot of outside pressure to do all kinds of different things, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“That’s something we’ve learned and we’ve kind of rode that pony to success as the event has grown, as we’ve been stewards of anything we can do to make the participants happy or to add to the experience,” he continues. “That could be shooting off champagne for the winners, or having these really ridiculously awesome finisher medals—all of these things all just add to the experience, and people have now come to expect those things. Plus, it’s a melding of eating donuts and riding your bike. I don’t know how anything could be more fun than that.”

The Tour de Donut bike ride will take off on Saturday, Septr 16 at 8:30 a.m. in the square of downtown Troy. Registration is required. For more information, please visit TheTourDeDonut.com.

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Erin Callahan
Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at ErinCallahan@DaytonCityPaper.com

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