A journey through the Village

Clint White pedals past the starting line Saturday during the Tour de Tellico race.

As the sun peaked Saturday morning over the Smoky Mountains, cyclists from East Tennessee got to experience the beauty of Tellico Village up close.

First Baptist Church in Tellico Village and Tellico Lake Rotary Club hosted the 14th annual Tour de Tellico to raise money to support the club’s efforts.

“The big thing is Tour de Tellico has become a mainstay in the bicycle community, kind of like Tour de France is,” John Everson, club membership chairman, said. “We just do this every year, and it’s also a partial outreach from First Baptist Church.”

An avid bike rider, the Rev. Charlie Barnard, FBC pastor, originally started Tour de Tellico. He was unable to participate in the race Saturday but looks forward to competing next year.

“I started it in 2006, and it was just a way to be a fundraiser,” Barnard said. “It’s actually not a race, it’s a ride. It’s a good way to stay healthy and still raise funds for some good charities. A couple of years later, it got so big that I couldn’t handle it all myself. The Rotary Club was looking for an event that they could sponsor, so I just handed it to them. They’ve done a bang-up job of taking it to the next level. This one’s still rolling, and I’m proud that it is.”

Clint White heard about the race several weeks ago and made the trek from Sevierville to participate.

“I’ve been biking for five years,” he said. “Some of the things I enjoy are the camaraderie and being with other cyclists ... the scenery as well. This is my first time out here. I moved here a year ago and retired from the Army. I moved here to settle down. It’s good exercise, as well as being able to enjoy some of the scenery. The mountains around here, too, there’s a lot more riding, so you get the best of both worlds.”

The race featured four distances from 100K to 25K rides, which accompanied riders of all skill levels. Several athletes used the race to help train for upcoming events.

“One of the things we find is that it doesn’t just bring cyclists in, it also brings in triathletes who need to train,” Everson said. “One lady, I don’t know what distance she did — I think she did the 100K, but she went and ran two miles. She’s training for, I guess, her next triathlon.”

Everson expects the event to raise more than $3,000, which will help support various charities and organizations for families and children in need.

“We do scholarships to high school students and technical school students,” he said. “We have gifts to Salvation Army, Good Samaritan (Center of Loudon County), Good Shepard (Center of Monroe County), Imagination Library — these are all our regular charities that we support.”

Barnard believes the event is a great way to build community and hopes it will continue for years to come.

“It’s been a good way for the community to come together and raise some money for some good charities and have a good time,” he said. “The traffic is not so bad in Loudon and Monroe count(ies). Just the wildlife, the beauty of the morning and fog coming off the lake. I love being outside and being on the move. I’m certainly hoping so ... as long as I’m pastor here, I hope it continues.”