Last Saturday, 450 fearless riders set out with a singular goal: to ride across the state of Wisconsin. Starting with the first glimpse of sunlight at 6:30AM, we gladly said goodbye to Iowa, crossed the mighty Mississippi River, and set our sights on Lake Michigan. Our objective was clear: a one-day, 175-mile ride to raise money for the Wisconsin Bike Federation. Our sanity, on the other hand, was questionable.
The forecast called for rain and headwinds, but we still showed up. Wisconsinites are a rare breed. The weather doesn’t scare us because we spend most of our year either surviving harsh winters or talking about them. We are proud, and we’ll go to great lengths to express our love for this mid-western home. And most of all, we are strong. Give us a challenge and we’ll raise our glass to wish you good luck.
So with a lot of excitement and a little hesitation we set out on our epic, hard-as-hell ride across the greatest state ever. These are my top five moments from the day:
The Awesome Bus
On Friday afternoon we boarded the Awesome Bus at Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin. There was a sign in the bus windshield that said, “Have a great day,” but surely it was more than great. The cafeteria supplied us with water, beer and plenty of snacks. Our first destination was Madison to pick up the Trek Factory Racing riders and staff. Among others were Linsey Corbin, Bauke Mollema, and Wisconsin-native Matthew Busche.
As it turns out, when you put a bunch of bike-geeks and athletes on a bus for two hours, there is no lack of topics to discuss. I was lucky enough to sit next to Linsey Corbin and easy conversation passed the time. The highlight of the ride came when Linsey said she had never cycled this far before. My first thought was, “Great, we’re all in this together.” But enthusiasm quickly turned to apprehension. “If the five-time Ironman world champion and American record holder hasn’t ridden this far, who am I to do it?”
Robbie Ventura and Jens Voigt
Friday night before the ride, Jens Voigt and Robbie Ventura took the stage to get us excited about the adventure ahead. Jens, who later said he used gears on this ride so small that he didn’t know they existed just one year ago, entertained us with stories of burger stops on training rides that landed well among this Wisconsin crowd. Robbie, on the other hand, offered slightly more practical advice with five tips to make this inaugural event a success.
1. Ride Safe: Keep your head up, ride predictably, and follow the rules of the road
2. Be Self-Sufficient: Supporting 450 riders over 175 miles is difficult. Carry gear to fix flat, have a route guide, and bring layers for the weather.
3. Nutrition and Hydration: It is important to stay hydrated (1 bottle an hour) and keep eating (200-300 calories per hour) on such a long ride.
4. Pace Yourself: If you go out too hard, you’re going to make the day longer than it already is.
5. Help Someone: Fix a flat, offer food, slow down to stay with someone, encourage each other, and smile. It will help you as much or more than it helps them.
The Beloit Rest Stop
With eight rest stops along the course, situated roughly 25 miles apart, the event had incredible support. Holland Dairy Farms offered their front yard, and chocolate milk, to all riders. Monroe let us take over a large city park. But the true stand out was Beloit. The gorgeous riverside park provided nice views while we rested our legs. The Janesville Velo Club was there to cheer on riders as we rode into and out of Beloit. There were folk dancers and gospel singers and even a cheerleading squad!
The Trek Travel Ladies
We have a great team here at Trek Travel. Evening rides and five o’clock happy hours provide ample time to enjoy one another’s company outside the office walls. But the bonding that occurs during 12-hours on the bike is unique. On Saturday, all four of us woke up with one common goal for the day. Literally and figuratively we pulled each other through. We didn’t converse the whole way. But we always enjoyed the company. We experienced the same views, suffered up the same hills, and reveled in the same glory.
The Finish Party
It’s no secret that getting off the bike after 12 hours in the saddle feels good. And the collective sense of accomplishment as we entered Kenosha was overwhelming. But as Robbie Ventura so accurately stated, “The highlight for me were the people. The relaxed and supportive atmosphere was special and it kept me smiling through a long, wet, hard day in beautiful Wisconsin!” In true Wisconsin fashion, we celebrated the finish by filling up our frosty “Founder’s” mugs and raising a glass to the adventure we shared. A simple engraving on the bottom of our mugs seems to encapsulate it perfectly…Earned It.
According to Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Bike Federation, “We started the Ride Across Wisconsin to showcase the amazing riding we have here. We hope RAW will become an annual tradition for hundreds of home state cyclists and a bucket list ride for people from across the country who want to see why we think Wisconsin is America’s Best Ride.”
Speaking for all of us, thank you to the Wisconsin Bike Federation for putting on a great event. It was truly the ride of a lifetime.