This weekend marked the third annual Wrigley Field Road Tour and it’s easy to declare that this was our best year yet! From start to finish, the riders had a great time. The day was filled with periods of goose bumps, many laughs, some pain and the formation of great friendships, making this ride the best of the three years.
On the charity front, it was the strongest year to date, raising close to $500,000 for charity – and counting. Two great charities benefit greatly from this event, World Bicycle Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities.
The day got off to a great start. Riders weren’t welcomed to the park with rain or a 20 mile-an-hour headwind, as they were in the first two years. Instead riders woke and arrived to Wrigley Field with perfect riding weather – sunshine, 70 degrees and low humidity to start the day.
The riders assembled at the start. There is always a sense of eagerness and excitement and even some nerves as the 100-mile journey begins at mile zero. Once the horn sounds and the riders roll through the concourse at Wrigley Field, all the butterflies float away and the riders can relax into a great day of riding.
The group made it out of the city with ease, sailing down Clark Street with little traffic, making nearly every traffic light. This kept the group together as they crossed out of the city at Howard and entered into Evanston and on to the north shore suburbs. The front group picked up the pace to over 20mph and made it up to the first rest stop in just over an hour. It was amazing to see how all the riders were grouped closely together for that first 22-miles. A group of this size tends to divide sooner than that. The shared effort made for lots of happy faces and sharing at the first rest stop in Higher Gear Highland Park. After a bit of fuel and drink, the riders all hopped back on their bikes for the second leg.
The riders made their way through the second leg that would wind its way through the northern Lake County loop. The cyclists stopped for a second time at the Viking Park rest stop. Riders in the middle of the pack could see the lead group heading out into their stretch that would lead them towards the lunch stop. That first group was setting a great pace, aiming to finish the 100-mile ride in sub 5-hours!
The third leg of the ride began to put some pressure on riders. People were smart to group together and not to try to tackle it alone. Friendships were made as people would draft off others they’d never met before. The shared effort allowed riders to coast into an exceptional lunch at Independence Grove, catered by Harry Carry’s. Welcoming the riders into lunch was World Bicycle Relief’s own F.K. Day, cheering each rider with a call of, “Great work!” The western theme was a real hit and the food was phenomenal. People were sharing quick tales of their first 60-miles and knew that the finish was well in sight.
After lunch, the riders were refueled and refreshed. On a century ride, though, the post-lunch stretch can be a tough one. Back down St. Mary’s Road, winding through Lake Forest residential streets, the riders headed to the fourth rest stop. Here they were rewarded for their efforts with cold towels. The volunteer staff at the fourth stop was a sight for sore eyes and the cold towels were a genius addition to a late stop in the ride.
The riders hunkered down and headed for the Higher Gear Wilmette shop for the fifth and final stop. Riders began ticking off the final miles in their heads and on their computers, watching their average speeds and enjoying conversation with new friends along the way. Once out of the Wilmette rest stop, the riders headed for the final 12 miles back to Wrigley. The most treacherous leg of the journey was certainly the last. If the first 88 miles didn’t kill anyone, the traffic and road conditions on Clark Street certainly held potential. Fortunately, the riders all successfully navigated the last leg and were welcomed by the motorcycle riders with flags, waving riders on to the finish and one final left turn.
As riders approached the finish, they had different thoughts in their heads. Some were remembering F.K. Day’s words at the start of the ride, reminding us that a ride of this length is incredible for a student or health care worker in Africa. Some riders were recalling their summer training and the friends they made preparing for this long trek. Others were thinking about their family and friends who were there to welcome them as they crossed the SRAM finish line. Some were focused on the food and music ahead.
After many high-fives, hugs and pictures, the riders headed into Wrigley Field for a party that will live in most peoples memories for years. Riders relaxed on the grass of the outfield. Many took off their shoes to feel the blades between their sore toes. There were lots of photos snapped against the field’s famous ivy. There was lots of playing catch in the outfield. All these celebrations surrounded a great feast. Poi Dog Pondering didn’t disappoint as they played a mix of their classics and even included some cover songs, getting the entire crowd dancing and singing.
It was an exceptional day. Two great charities benefit from the nearly half a million dollars raised through this ride. Many riders will relish in an accomplishment they may have never thought was possible for them. Lifetime friendships were forged. A great time was had by all. At the end of the day, riders were left with a final thought in their heads: I can’t wait until next year!
We also can’t wait ’til next year. Want to be part of the action – again or for your first time? To be kept up to speed on upcoming details on future Wrigley Field Road Tours, please provide us your contact information here. Also keep your eyes on our website. Details of the 2013 WFRT will be posted here as soon as they are available.
To keep up with photos from the 2012 WFRT or to share your photos with us, like us on Facebook. Make sure to send us a link to your blog posts about the event too.
Higher Gear would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to all who made the 2013 a great event – including the riders, their families and friends who made up their support teams, those who donated to the two causes, volunteers, employees, and corporate sponsors. This day would not have been possible without all of you, your generosity and your tremendous efforts.