Race the Lake

RacetheLake2BY Michael Casper

Back in the 90’s there was a 100 mile bike race named The Bago 100 that was a ride around Lake Winnebago.

Some cyclists treated it like a race; others as a ride. Either way, there has always been excitement about riding the crest of the mighty Lake Winnebago.

Gloria West is the executive director of what the Bago 100 has transformed into today.

“When we decided to resurrect the Bago 100,” Gloria said “we wanted to make sure it could be done as a race or a ride. So, the new name is ever so appropriate: Race the Lake. You can ‘Race’ the lake competing side by side with others, or you can ‘Ride’ the lake like a companion by your side who does not care how fast you go. This makes for part of its uniqueness.”

Gloria is an old hand at these sort of events, having founded the Green Bay Marathon, the Fox Cities Marathon, and the Oshkosh Half Marathon.

“I wanted Fond du Lac to have a true icon for their city,” she said.

Race the Lake is the only U.S. long distance, timed bike race with “closed” intersections open to cyclists of all levels.
“Being a timed event, yes you could go 24 mph or 12 mph,” Gloria said. “You could whiz by the bottle exchange stations or stop at each of the food stations to enjoy the delights from fresh squeezed orange juice and bagels, ham and turkey sandwiches or brownies. You really only need sustain around 12 miles an hour to finish in a reasonable amount of time.”

It took two and a half years to make Race the Lake viable, wading through the permitting process, as the event crosses through several counties.

“Race the Lake strived for a new definition for a bike event,” Gloria said “to combine professional, triathlon, recreational and newbie cyclists into a unity of bike lovers…with an early start time. The beauty at sunrise is really something. Cyclists are used to starting races later in the morning, but having organized triathlons and such over the last thirty years, I knew we would want to beat the heat.”

There are several categories of competition from individuals to teams with all ranges of age.

“We’ve had competitors from 9 years old to 82,” Gloria said, “and we stagger the start times because you can’t have 2000 racers, who are all at different levels of ability, all leave at the same time.”

There are about three hundred support people along the 90 mile route.

“For even those who wanted to trail at a very slow pace,” Gloria said “the County Sheriff and Police Departments, and the ARES Club stay at their posts until everyone finishes.”

Some iron souls can do the 90 mile event in less than 4 hours.

“Most cyclists finish in about 5 1⁄2 hours,” Gloria said “but there are some who take up to eight hours to complete the tour, and that’s fine. Most of the time there’s a southwest wind that blows across the lake, and it pushes people along the course. One year that I competed I thought I’d broken my odometer and speedometer because I was making such good time, but in reality it was the wind carrying my through (laugh).”

Prize money is involved, and equipment varies.

“It’s a great event that celebrates cyclists at all levels,” Gloria said “we allow the triathlete handle bars, mountain bikes…in fact last year there was a group of something like ten guys who wanted to try the race on their ‘fat bikes,’ the bikes with the real fat tires that you normally ride in the winter. I gave them a half hour head start, and amazingly, they finished the 90 miles!”

There are six aid-stations along the route, the first part of which is fairly flat.

“When you get to around High Cliff Park you run into some rolling hills,” Gloria said “and then it’s even more grueling pedaling towards the Malone area. But the saving grace is once you start back towards Peebles and Lake Winnebago, it’s nearly all down hill!”

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