The ninth annual Tour de Bluff bicycle event took place early Saturday morning in The Pines Mall parking lot.

The ninth annual Tour de Bluff bicycle event took place early Saturday morning in The Pines Mall parking lot.

Local riders and riders from neighboring cities participated in the event throughout the morning. Despite the turnout, this was the first year that nobody signed up to race competitively.

Among the riders, there were a few first-time riders who came out to support the event. Cyclist Joe Gray believes this event was good for the city of Pine Bluff.

“I think it’s a real great thing to do,” Gray said. “This is the first time I’ve ridden in an actual race.

“It’s a great thing for young and old (riders). It’s a good awareness for the community and it should bring a lot of people together.”

The Tour de Bluff hosted a total of 26 riders with 11 choosing 21.5-miles, 3 with 50-miles, 10 with 62-miles, and 2 who went the distance with 100-miles. Cyclist Frank Spain, a 62-mile rider, was excited to get a chance to ride his bike.

“It’s my first time to (participate),” Spain said. “I’m from Monticello … so I’m excited.

“I ride about six days a week.”

Local cyclist and last year’s runner up, Tad Thornton returned from the 21.5 mile trip before anybody else, which earned him a first place trophy. Little Rock native Chris Robertson finished second and another Little Rock native, Cleary “Chat” Chapman finished third. The first woman to come back from the 21.5 mile trip was Rison native Sandy Patrick. Patrick said she enjoyed the event and would like to come back next year.

“It was a good ride,” Patrick said. “It was a little windy and just a few hills.

“There was a lot of flat land but also a lot of wind.”

Event planer Sandra Fisher was very happy with the turnout despite having a smaller number of people than they were expecting.

“It was wonderful,” Fisher said. “We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

“The riders are happy. It was a nice smooth trail and a lot of them were excited to get back so quickly because they had the wind behind them.”

All of the kids had entertainment while the cyclists were out. Master Anderson’s school of taekwondo came out to put on an exhibition and a Pine Bluff fire truck also made an appearance along with a challenging obstacle course.

Fisher said she believed the smaller turnout was due to other activities going on during the weekend, but she encourages everybody to come out next year to support the event and make their 10th annual race one to remember.

“If you weren’t here for this year’s event, all I can say is you missed it,” she said. “You have to come out and support the Tour de Bluff.

“We have the routes from 1-100 miles so there is no excuse. There is a route for any experienced rider. There are games on the back lot if you don’t want to ride and best of all, we’ve got lunch and it’s free.”