Tour de Fresh Kicks Off Day Three: Challenges Showcase Strength of the Event
- by Melissa De Leon
LIVERMORE, CA - While I’m sure many of us can appreciate that few things worth having come easy, the Tour de Fresh is coming off of one day and going into another that both take this cliché to the next level.
“We’ve had one hell of a day. This is the craziest Tour de Fresh day we’ve seen in a while,” Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms’ Vice President of Marketing, told the group at dinner as we commemorated night two of the four-day endeavor; a feat that ended up not coming easily.
A few mechanical issues and a couple of falls on the road, then ending in the lobby of a hotel that misplaced the reservation of 50-plus people, made for one of the more challenging markers that go to show the commitment of those involved with this event.
“I have to tell you, I’ve never been at the front of the group,” Gina Cole, longtime support member and previous Tour de Fresh rider, shared last night. “I got to see them in action and see everyone work together, go really hard, and ride really freaking fast on hot, hard pavement.”
Teamwork is a key part of what fuels this ride. Cyclists hand empty bottles to moving vehicles, who hand cool ones back that they then distribute to the rest of their group, all while everyone manages a pace of up to 25 miles per hour on two wheels. They put hands on each other’s backs to give a helpful push, rather than see a member fall off from the group and have to ride alone.
This is not an easy thing to do. Cycling 300 miles, even—or especially—spread over three or four days, is not an easy thing to do. Nor is driving behind them praying that no one falls. Because even at a slow pace someone could get hurt.
Yet year after year, in the heat of summer amidst filling produce orders and the flurry of a coming food show, industry members return to raise thousands of dollars to make fresh produce accessible to the next generation of consumers. And they do so with an infectious enthusiasm and a spring in their step you would never expect from those spending five or more hours a day in a saddle (or support car) to not only ensure the next generation is exposed to and choosing fruits and vegetables, but that those serving them have more and more customers each year across the nation.
Today the team climbs Mount Hamilton, which stands at 4,265 feet, hopefully cresting the top before the maximum heat of the day kicks in.
Amidst this year's Tour de France, the inspiration for the name of the fundraiser, Axel Merckx, eight-time Tour de France rider and Olympic Bronze Medalist arrived to lead the team out and ride with them through the event's most challenging leg.
My hat is off to everyone that makes this event possible—from planning and logistics, to pedaling and fundraising, and even some haggling so they all have a meal to eat and a place to rest their heads at the end of every day.
Stay tuned as we watch these produce professionals earn every dollar that means another salad bar for schools.