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April 3th, 2013

Officers biking cross-country to support families of fallen comradesarties

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ast year, four police officers lost their lives while serving in the State of Florida – and while that’s a significant drop over the previous year, it’s still four too many.
With that in mind, Key Biscayne Police Department Lieutenant Ben Torres and Sergeant Jorge Alvarez will endure a five-day bike ride April 7-11 across the state to raise money for the families of fallen police officers. They’ll be joined on the first day by Police Chief Charles Press and his daughter, Danielle, who was seriously injured in a boating accident last year.
Torres said the Tour De Force is always a significant challenge – but well worth the effort when he thinks about the brave families it benefits.
“All the money goes to families of fallen officers. Last year, there were four officers who lost their lives in the State of Florida,” he said. “There were 13 the previous year, so it’s less, which is a good thing – but it’s still four too many.”
Key Biscayne residents can still donate to the cause by stopping by the police station on the first floor of the Village’s police/administration building, 88 West McIntyre Street.
Torres said the department is accepting donations and also selling Tour De Force badges for $5. The badges come with a variety of coupons – including $5 off a $20 purchase – from event sponsor Denny’s, so they basically pay for themselves.
After donations are collected and badges are sold, it’s up to Florida’s finest to do the hard part.
Torres said the grueling Monday-through-Friday ride starts in North Miami Beach and travels all the way to Daytona Beach Shores. Roughly 400 people take part on any given day.
Participants cover 270 miles total by riding 30-40 miles each day, often over difficult terrain and at the hottest part of each South Florida day. Torres noted the second-to-last stage is a perfect example, as it takes riders over a series of six bridges – including three back-to-back – that are just as tall as the William Powell Bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
With that in mind, while this will be the third consecutive Tour for both Torres and Alvarez, they still expect a significant challenge. “No, it doesn’t get any easier,” Torres laughed. “It’s just as tough as it was the first year – it’s just a lot of miles every day, and it takes a toll on you.”
That said, Torres feels a little better prepared each year.
Along with training, usually riding 30-40 miles at a time but sometimes well over 50 in a day, he has discovered tricks of the trade to keep his endurance up.
After suffering severe leg cramps during his first Tour De Force, Torres learned to start drinking plenty of Gatorade the week before the event, and also to eat foods like bananas, watermelon and PowerBars while he’s riding.
He said sports drinks are especially important: part of his problem the first year is he was only drinking water, and it simply wasn’t enough fuel for an endurance activity.
While Torres, Alvarez and the Presses still have a significant athletic feat ahead of them, they say the community has already risen to the occasion: Torres noted officers sold a lot of patches at the Rotary of Key Biscayne Art Festival last month, and always get a good response from local residents when they explain they’re helping the families of fallen officers.
“We want to thank the community for their continued support,” he said, adding residents are still encouraged to donate to the worthy cause.
According to the Tour De Force website, the charity ride is “done to honor and raise money for Florida’s Law Enforcement fallen heroes. The ride is organized and manned by devoted volunteers and every single dollar raised is donated to the families of our fallen heroes.”
This is the event’s 17th year. It was founded by North Miami Beach Police Detective Mike DeMarcus and was first dedicated to Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Smith, killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver.
For more information, visit www.floridatourdeforce.org.

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