Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

Ride Across Wisconsin Was Huge Success

Inaugural event took riders from many states across southern Wisconsin via scenic roads -- in 1 day.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Sep 4th, 2015 02:38 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
The start line at 6:25 am in Dubuque. Next year we will start half an hour earlier. Photo by Peter DiAntoni.

The start line at 6:25 am in Dubuque. Next year we will start half an hour earlier. Photo by Peter DiAntoni.

To many the challenge sounds daunting: You get just one day to ride 175 miles across the state with 6,886 feet of climbing between the start on the bank of the Mississippi River and the finish on the shore of Lake Michigan. A reasonable person might do the math and worry about stringing together 42,000 or more pedal strokes with only about 13 hours of daylight in a late summer day.

Trek Factory Racing leading everyone over the Mississippi at 6:35 a.m.

Trek Factory Racing leading everyone over the Mississippi at 6:35 a.m.

Of the 460 people who took a leap of faith and pinned on bib numbers for the inaugural Ride Across Wisconsin, all but five rode from the banks of the Mississippi River in Dubuque to the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha under their own power and crossed he finish line with smiles on their faces. Everyone I talked to said they had a fantastic day in the saddle and many said they plan to make it an annual tradition. Even Jens Voigt told the announcer at the finish that he plans to come back for RAW 2016, although the retired pro did joke he would train a bit more next time.

Jens and some Trek employees ride past a pastoral Wisconsin scene east of Walworth.

Jens and some Trek employees ride past a pastoral Wisconsin scene east of Walworth.

We cannot thank the Jensie enough for coming to ride with us this year. I tend to avoid meeting my heroes in case they are jerks in person, but I can assure you that Voigt is one of nicest, most down-to-earth people I have ever met. Not only was he personable and funny at his presentation at the historic Five Flags Theater in Dubuque, but he rode shoulder to shoulder with everyone and chatted the entire 175 miles. As popular as he is after having set the hour record just before retiring as a professional on the Trek Factory Racing Team, I never once saw him turn down a fan who wanted an autograph or a photo.

Not only did riders get to draft off Jens, but Trek Factory Racing redirected six of their other pro riders on their way to the Tour of Alberta for a quick stop to Ride Across Wisconsin. We even were lucky enough that local hero and two-time national champion Matthew Busche made it back for the inaugural RAW! There are no slouches on the Trek Factory Racing team, but everyone I talked to said they all were kind and personable to everyone they met and rode with. The same can be said for the ISCorp Women’s Pro Squad who joined us this year. I hope all of the pros can come again in 2016.

Wisconsin is famous for our low traffic paved country roads. Photo by Jeffrey Phelps.

Wisconsin is famous for our low traffic paved country roads. Photo by Jeffrey Phelps.

Without exception though, the biggest accolades were for the route, which was designed by Tom Schuler, Bicycle Hall of Famer and former 7 Eleven Team pro. While Tom gets credit for stringing together 175 miles of scenic town roads, we have to thank Wisconsin’s family dairy farmers for the fact that all those low-traffic rural roads are paved. The amazing rolling hills through the state’s unglaciated Driftless Region put even the climbers on notice right out of the start and all the way to the rest stop in Monroe. Although we had lots of fast curvy downhills on narrow country roads, only a few riders hit the pavement.

According to the local IMBA National Mountain Bike Patrol, who provided eight volunteers for medical support on the ride, nobody suffered more than minor road rash. To show how selfless those IMBA volunteers are, consider the case of one rider who crashed late in the ride and whose wife reported that he realized he lost his wedding ring when he fell. Going well above and beyond duty, the NMB Patrollers headed back out into the dusk to find the ring and return it to the exhausted, but grateful rider. What an amazing story of dedication.

We also want to personally thank the Holland family dairy farm for offering their front yard as a rest stop. Jenny and Kerry Holland not only let us use their front yard, they also donated chocolate milk for everyone who stopped by! Chocolate milk has become an almost expected offering at Wisconsin bike rides and races thanks to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and of course because it is delicious and healthy!  One of the first things people asked for after crossing the finish was “Where is the chocolate milk?”

The family farm was a great rest stop, but with stops every 25 miles, the other standout was Beloit. It was great having the volunteers from the Janesville Velo Club out there cheering riders as they rolled into and out of town. The rest stop itself was at the City of Beloit’s gorgeous Riverside Park, complete with indoor dining, and they had entertainment for the riders while they stopped to eat lunch. The cute award goes to a bunch of adorable kids from the group called The Even Start Hispanic Dancers, who entertained the riders at the rest stop with Mexican folk dancing. Also performing were The Strike Force Gospel Singers and the Beloit Memorial High School Pom Pom Squad! Beloit definitely rolled out the red carpet.

Tanya Burke, wife of John, CEO of Trek, rides with some friends with Julian Kegel in one of the Wheel & Sprocket support vehicles not far behind. Julian and his crew fixed lots of flats because of the wet roads in the early morning hours.

Tanya Burke, wife of John, CEO of Trek, rides with some friends with Julian Kegel in one of the Wheel & Sprocket support vehicles not far behind. Julian and his crew fixed lots of flats because of the wet roads in the early morning hours.

Kenosha also pulled out all the stops this year at the finish party on Simmons Island Park, even allowing people to camp overnight so they could fill their handmade Redwing RAW Founders beer steins without worrying about driving home. On hand to fill those steins was local micro brewery Public Craft Brewing This being a new event, the guys at Public Craft didn’t quite know what to expect. After several trips back to their nearby brewery to get more barrels, head brewer Matt announced he had learned an important lesson: “Cyclists drink a lot more beer than the average person.”

Hey, that might be true in general, but when you add that their beer is super delicious, throw in 175 miles of bicycling and all the free DeRango’s pizza and Italian sausage bombers to eat and no need to drive home, well, yes, we are going to drink a lot of beer.

The ride organizers still need to have our final review, and we plan to send out a brief survey to everyone who participated, but I feel comfortable saying we will do this again next year. So if you missed out, pencil in the weekend of August 26th -28th for RAW 2016. Even if you don’t count the pros who came from all over the world, this year we had riders from Maryland, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. With all the positive word of mouth, we expect to triple our attendance next year and see it continue to grow in the future.

Done!

Done!

We at the Bike Fed want to thank everyone who believed in us and rode this first year. You have etched a place in history and helped create a new cycling tradition in Wisconsin.  We also owe a huge debt to our sponsors for believing in us when the Ride Across Wisconsin wasn’t much more than an idea. Finally, we have added a bunch of photographs to our Ride Across Wisconsin gallery on the Bike Fed’s Photoshelter page, thanks to Peter DiAntoni and Jeffrey Phelps, two of the best shooters I know anywhere, for documenting our ride. If we can find a little time, we may create a 2015 RAW Photo Annual people can purchase.

While the only way to get a RAW beer stein is to ride from coast to coast, you can still get a cool RAW Founder’s kit from the Borah Teamwear online store, and a portion of the sales will go back into the kitty to help produce the 2016 Ride Across Wisconsin. The kit comes in both men’s and women’s cuts and you can order just the jersey if you want.

See more about the ride here.

This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

One thought on “Bike Czar: Ride Across Wisconsin Was Huge Success”

  1. Francis Chapman says:

    It was one great ride. Looking forward to next year’s event. Is this event strictly for Trek bikes alone? Mine’s from Morpheus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *