'Blazing' a trail at Tour de Highland

2014-06-09T17:00:00Z 2014-06-17T13:32:08Z 'Blazing' a trail at Tour de HighlandJohn Burbridge, (219) 933-3371

HIGHLAND | Blase Spoljoric knows the Tour de Highland course by the soles of his feet.

"I usually run this," the Highland man said about the paved trail looping around Wicker Park complemented by an off-shoot path tunneling under Kennedy Avenue and through downtown Highland.

"I had to get my blood pressure down and lose some weight, so I started running three years ago," Spoljoric said. "It's helped, but even though you get a lot from running, it's hard on your legs."

Spoljoric found that cycling the course, as he did Saturday morning while participating in the annual community bike ride sponsored by the Highland Chamber of Commerce, is a more pleasurable experience.

"Biking is so much easier, and you get to enjoy the scenery," said Spoljoric, who participated in his first Tour de Highland.

Though the event was non-competitive, Spoljoric was the first of the more than 170 cyclists to complete the 10-mile course, even coming ahead of all those traversing the 8-mile course.

Finishing close behind him was wife Jill and sons Griffin, 11, and Marshall, 9.

Though Marshall represented the "rear guard" of the Spoljoric family when it came to finishing the "tour", he may be the clan's most serious cyclists when it comes to equipment and innovation.

"It's awesome," Marshall said of his P.K. Ripper aluminum-frame bike he received as a gift from his grand-father a month ago.

"It's so much lighter ... it's like a feather," Marshall said, "but it's strong."

The Tour de Highland originated as part of Highland's centennial celebration five years ago. Several years after, the chamber took it over.

This is the second year it was held in and around Wicker Park.

"We had a good turn-out today," chamber director Mary Luptak said of the tour, which also included a fire-grilled lunch from Texas Corral.

"I don't know if we'll ever make this competitive, but we do hold a competitive run (the Jack O'Lantern Jog 5K in October) and a golf outing with the Griffith Chamber with cash prizes," Luptak said. "But this is just for fun."

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Al Hamnik

Al Hamnik

Al Hamnik has been a reporter and columnist in Northwest Indiana for 42 years and is a member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, as well as a winner of the Indiana sportswriter of the year award, an IHSAA media award winner, a Corky Lamm Award winner and a three-time HSPA winner.

Steve Hanlon

Steve Hanlon

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Jim Hunsley

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Paul Oren

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Jim Peters

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Jim Peters graduated from Andrean (Class of 1981) and Purdue (1985), where he met and worked with current Porter County Assistant Sports Editor Greg Smith. He spent the first 10 or so years of his professional career at a chain of Northwest Indiana weeklies that covered Merrillville, Andrean, Hobart, Portage, Lake Station and River Forest before catching on at the Times in the summer of 1998. Jim covers high school sports in Porter County.

Hillary Smith

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