Photos courtesy Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Le Tour de Shore: Exploring the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Backroads

Le Tour de Shore welcomes cyclists with the best scenery the Eastern Shore of Virginia has to offer and caters to pedalers of all abilities. Casual riders can take a relaxed 25-kilometer (15.5 miles) tour, with a halfway pit stop at a beautiful and historic courthouse green for snacks and a rest. Or for the competitive racers (the opposite end of the spectrum) you can don your padded shorts and jersey and draft your racing bike with your squad 100 miles over some of the most beautiful backroads in the Chesapeake region. 

One common denominator? It’s almost perfectly flat.

“We do have a lot of beginners. It’s a perfect, flat ride. It’s people from all over. We’ve had folks from as far as California, but a big following from the Eastern Shore, Maryland, a lot from Richmond and the D.C. area and also from North Carolina,” says Robert Sabbatini, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Tour.

On Saturday, June 17, over 400 bikers will descend on Onancock, Virginia, one of the most beautiful and historic villages on the Bay and the jumping-off point for the Le Tour de Shore. The different options include courses covering 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), 50 kilometers (31 miles), 100 kilometers (62 miles) and 100 miles. 

As a longtime resident of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, I decided to see what it was all about by taking the lazy man’s tour of the 100-mile course —by driving my pickup. I thought I knew the ESVA fairly well, but the course planners have worked very hard to do two things: keep participants off busier roads and highlight some of the beautiful by-ways to be found in the Chesapeake region. 

The result is tour routes that unfold like a visual poem, with gorgeous vistas, historic homes, quaint hamlets and crossroads, and glimpses of the seafood industry that fuels a large part of the local economy. 

I started at my home at the southern end of the course and passed through some of the longest-cultivated agricultural lands in the United States, past fields of wheat and historic farms and stagecoach inns dating to the colonial period. A little farther on, the course benefits from gentle breezes off the Atlantic. Riders catch periodic glimpses of the Barrier Islands and Atlantic marshes from Willis Wharf, where you will see huge piles of clam and oyster shells, to Wachapreague. 

The highest point of the tour—a whopping 44 feet above sea level—occurs just after riders leave the town of Accomac and cross Route 13. At this “summit,” I looked up and down the road and could barely discern a rise, fall, or swale. After this point, the course follows backroads traveled mostly by residents, many with trees whose canopies meet over the road. You will pass horse farms and historic neighborhood churches. And experience solitude, one of the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s quintessential offerings.

Riders returning to Onancock town square will be greeted with barbecued chicken provided by the local Rotary Club and vegetarian options provided by the Blarney Stone Pub. Many riders linger, enjoying the day, celebrating their accomplishment, and talking to new friends. Others head right to the pub for a pint or two. Sabbatini says some riders who complete the 25km ride decide at this point to keep riding and complete the 50km.

The four courses are marked with color-coded arrows. Rest stops with snacks, drinks and toilet facilities are strategically located along each route. SAG (support and gear) drivers are on hand to aid riders.

“The entire Eastern Shore of Virginia is really a hidden gem,” says Sabbitini. “Riders just need to bring themselves and be ready to enjoy a great day.”

For more information and to register: https://www.esvachamber.org/le-tour-de-shore-event-page. The first 150 riders registered will receive a souvenir jersey.