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Cyclists ride in first Tour de Queens

France has one, the Bronx and Brooklyn each have one and last weekend the inaugural Tour de Queens pedaled out of Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a 20-mile loop of the borough.

The Tour de Queens had its share of big-name sponsors — cycling and public transportation advocates Transportation Alternatives, the Queens Museum of Art, Borough President Helen Marshall and Long Island City-based Tom Cat Bakery — and hundreds of riders turned out in good spirits in the sweltering heat Sunday.

And they did it even without the competition and fame of its European counterpart, the Tour de France.

Cyclists convened in the park around 8 a.m. Sunday and began the 20-mile route at about 9:30 a.m. heading north more or less alongside the Grand Central Parkway, west into Astoria, south to Long Island City, then east through Maspeth, Middle Village and Forest Hills back to the park.

"We looked at a couple different routes until we nailed one down that was central and captured Queens," said Mike Heffron, chairman of Transportation Alternatives' Queens Committee. "We decided on a loop of western Queens to accentuate the greenways along the water, and then looped through some of the more industrial parts like Maspeth and Middle Village."

Heffron did not ride in the tour, opting instead to stay in the park and wait for the cyclists to return at about 1 p.m. Some onlookers along the route took pity on the cyclists and got out their garden hoses to mist them as they rode by, while others offered watermelon, Heffron said.

"You wouldn't think early June would be so brutal," he said, but even with temperatures above 90 degrees and high humidity, about 500 cyclists showed up.

"We capped pre-registration at 500 riders, and that filled up in three or four days" after the free-of-charge fun ride was announced, Heffron said. And even more cyclists came out that day to join the ride, he said.

Wiley Norvell, another Transportation Alternatives staffer, took part in the Tour de Queens, which he said was his first organized bike ride in his three years working with the advocacy group.

Riders kept a leisurely pace, accommodating not only the heat but the range of abilities in the group, he said.

"The most challenging aspect was the heat, and there were some tricky hills in Maspeth," Norvell said.

"I was so proud of the work we'd done" that instead of manning checkpoints he wanted to see it firsthand, he said. "It was a nice treat for people who live in Queens to be able to show their borough."

He added, "This will definitely become an annual tradition."

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