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News & Stories: 2008-09

Tour de Work Updated October 15, 2008

Carol Rienstra plans to ride every stage. She’s also hoping to learn a few French words.

Rienstra, the Calvin College director of community relations, is participating in the college’s Tour de France, a Bike to Work initiative running September 8 through October 24 sponsored by Calvin's Healthy Habits program. “When I saw this program, I thought, ‘Perfect,’” Rienstra said. “It’s really quite an incentive to me because I would bike anyway, but I might get lazy if my husband were willing to drop me off at work.”

The Bike to Work version of the Tour de France has 21 stages, like the famous almost-100-year-old French road race on which it is patterned; the Calvin stages even bear the names of actual Tour de France stages, such as “Brest to Plumelec” and “Figeac to Toulouse.”

Stage by stage

Calvin faculty and staff in the Bike to Work programRather than a grueling climb through the Alps and Pyrenees, however, a Calvin stage is a commute via bicycle either to or from the college. Only one stage may be completed per day. “Simplicity is key,” said Calvin Healthy Habits coordinator Roy Zuidema, who will be biking the nine miles from his home to Calvin throughout the program. “We’re not saying nine miles is better than three miles.”

Calvin faculty and staff who participate in the Tour de France program are encouraged to track their progress using a Tour Tracker. Those who have completed all stages on the tour at the conclusion of Bike to Work will be entered in a drawing for one of three bona fide Tour de France jerseys. All riders who registered by September 5 will receive bona fide yellow t-shirts.

Tuning and screening

The Healthy Habits program is also offering a $20 bike tune-up (valued at $35) through the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and periodic “drug testing”—cholesterol screening and blood pressure checks—as part of the tour. “We did health screening last year, and we found some people who were high risk and needed to go to their doctors,” said Zuidema. "That’s what screening is all about, to find people who have high abnormal values and don’t know it. Glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and HDL are all non-symptomatic. You don’t feel it, so you could be walking around at-risk and don’t know it.”

photo of Carol RienstraBike to Work has already registered more than 110 riders in the Tour de France. “We’re getting some really good e-mails from people who are excited about it,” said Zuidema, who was hired a year-and-a-half ago as the Calvin director of wellness. The cycling effort is part of an ongoing Healthy Habits effort to mix it up, exercise-wise. “Wellness is not one-size-fits-all,” said Zuidema. “So we offer a variety of things to appeal to a range of people.”

Tour theme

The Tour de France theme was the inspiration of Calvin senior Joey Hill, a Healthy Habits student intern whom Zuidema tapped to create a Bike to Work program. “He gave me a lot of freedom,” said Hill. “I liked the Tour de France, and I felt like I could get some people excited about it. If there’s a theme to it, more people will participate.”

Rienstra, who rode from Grand Rapids to Jersey City, N. J. this summer as part of the Sea to Sea bicycle tour sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church, plans to complete every stage. Of her three-mile commute, she said: “It’s nothing compared to biking 80 miles a day.”

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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