Information about the world of cycling, including bicycle touring

Roger Kramer wins the
            Tour de Donut in 1995!
Roger Kramer wins the Tour de Donut
in 1995. (Photo by Meta Minton)

SUMMARY: A 32- to 34-mile bicycle "race" that starts and ends in Staunton, Ill. The Tour de Donut, which is put on by the St. Louis-based Boeing Employees' Bicycle Club is a spoof of the Tour de France. The ride consists of three sections, each about 10 miles, and two doughnut stops. Cyclists get five minutes taken off their time for each doughnut eaten. Some racers have mastered the art of smashing and eating three doughnuts at a time to get more bonus time.

NOTE: This account of the Tour de Donut was originally written in 2001 and was revised in 2012 to note recent changes to the ride and to clarify some points about the founding of the ride. More accounts and updates about Tour de Donut can be found on my Blog Page.


Tour de Donut

The Tour de Donut was conceived during the winter of 1988-89 in Mark Pace's living room in Staunton, Ill. Officers of the Mid-America Bicycle Club — Mark, Joe Booth, Ed Taylor and myself — were thinking of rides for the coming year.

This was in the midst of excitement about Greg LeMond's three Tour de France wins, and we thought about a stage race. Someone else talked about a breakfast ride. We then somehow combined the two into the Tour de Donut.

Mark truly was the "evil" mastermind of the Tour de Donut; my role in the founding of the Tour de Donut was more that of an enabler! Not only did Mark come up with the original concept of the Tour de Donut, but to make it even more deviant, he brainstormed that we reward people for eating donuts. OK, they're not exactly the healthiest food cyclists can eat, but we started to imagine how people would feel after eating a dozen donuts. That's how we decided to give a five-minute bonus for each donut eaten.

Joe was skeptical about whether the event would take hold, but Mark and I thought the event was crazy enough that it might just find a following. Joe was the president of the club then, so he was the event's first race director.

Because we designed the ride to be a spoof of the Tour de France, it had to be run during that Tour. So in July 1989, the Tour de Donut was born in Bethalto, Ill. Karl Painter, of Staunton, was the first champion of the Tour de Donut. He had one of the slowest road times, but he ate 15 donuts to win the prize, a yellow jersey.

The following year, we moved the ride to Staunton, but we made the mistake of getting Hardee's to provide cinnamon-raisin biscuits for the event. They were good, but they sure were heavy. It was hard to eat many of them and still ride 30 miles.

We went back to donuts the following year, this time glazed donuts from Jubelt's Bakery, a prominent bakery in Central Illinois. That was the best move ever. They were great donuts — right up there with the Krispy Kreme glazed donut — and the bakery provided donuts for the race ever since.

Today, other bakeries provide more than 6,000 glazed donuts each year for the Tour de Donut.

I skipped involvement with the ride a couple of years in the early 1990s, and a guy by the name of Evan Williams of Kansas raised the bar to 25 donuts eaten. I returned to the ride in 1994 — no longer as an organizer — and finished a respectable third, but I wanted more. When I found out Evan wouldn't be riding in 1995, I decided this race was mine! There's no way I was going to eat 25 donuts, but I figured somewhere between 15 and 20 could win it. I managed to eat 15 donuts and finished the ride in two hours. The donut bonus took 75 minutes off my time. Another guy ate 25 donuts, but his road time was slow enough that he couldn't catch me.

I won the yellow jersey!

The Mid-America Bicycle Club went out of existence in 1998, but the Boeing Employees' Bicycle Club took over the event and has taken the Tour de Donut to new heights.

The event grew considerably under the leadership of Dave Sweeney, who served as the event's second ride director from 1998 to 2010, and Christian Hasselberg, the current race director.

In the early days of ride, the event drew fewer than 25 people. By the mid-1990s, the event regularly attracted 300 to 400 cyclists. More than 600 cyclists competed in the 2005 and 2006 events. In 2011, the Tour de Donut set a record with more than 1,650 cyclists.

The success of the original Tour de Donut has spawned similar events in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

The host city of the original Tour de Donut, Staunton, has embraced the event because it draws so many visitors to the city of about 5,000 people about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis along Interstate 55 and historic Route 66. To capitalize of the rush of visitors, the city now puts on a Rib Festival the same day of Tour de Donut in the downtown business district.

From the mid-1990s to 2011, the Tour de Donut used a 32-mile course that started and ended in Staunton and had donut stops in the small towns of Prairietown and Worden. In recent years, the Madison County Sheriff's Department received numerous complaints about congestion caused by the Tour de Donut from residents in around those towns, forcing a change in the route.

Starting in 2012, the Tour de Donut will use a 34-mile route that includes old alignments of Route 66 between Staunton and Litchfield. The donut stops will be in Mount Olive and Eagarville, both in Macoupin County.

The Tour de Donut also inspired filmmakers Steve Kelly and Jim Klenn to make a documentary about the event: "Tour de Donut: Gluttons for Punishment". The movie centered around the attempt by Gateway Cup race director Tim Ranek to win the 2005 Tour de Donut, and I made some appearances in the film discussing my role as co-founder of the event. Below is the trailer for the film: