Sunday morning, August 25th, the sun rose over Lake Michigan. A clear and calm day. In the heart of Chicago, inside Wrigley Field, all was quiet. All was peaceful.
Outside the walls of “The Friendly Confines,” however, there was a buzz – the excitement resonating off of more than 400 cyclists. The more than 400 people who collectively contributed over $300,000 dollars towards the global work of World Bicycle Relief and the local work of Chicago Cubs Charities. The more than 400 people who dedicated time and energy to train all summer long… for this very day.
Saturday, August 25th, 2013.
The 4th Annual Wrigley Field Road Tour.
Riders checked their gear bags, met their friends and did some last minute fueling. A few stopped by the Higher Gear van to make some last minute purchases of forgotten items. The top fundraisers were announced. Caroline Higney and Tom Renaud blew the doors off the competition, but everybody who contributed was a winner today! FK Day spoke about the most powerful bicycle in the world, the Buffalo Bicycle and Todd Ricketts took a moment to thank the volunteers who make the Wrigley Field Road Tour possible.
And then they were off. More than 400 cyclists set off in stages and pedaled their way through the concourse at Wrigley Field before heading north on Clark Street. It was a sight to see!
With the help of our motorcycle volunteers, the riders made their way through the northern portion of the city – on a route slightly deviating from last year’s. Outside the city, riders toured Chicago’s North Shore towns – Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe. In Highland Park, they reached the first rest stop “The Field of Dreams” (thanks to Terry Cumberland and team) at our Higher Gear store. That first 20 miles went quickly, but it still felt good to hop off the saddle and freshen up a bit. A few riders took advantage of the mechanical support provided by SRAM to make some on-the-fly adjustments to their bikes.
Wanting to take advantage of the pleasant temperatures of the morning, the brief cloud cover and the thrill of the start out of Wrigley that was still lingering, riders took to their bikes quickly. And set off through Fort Sheridan. The route took riders west and then north again, on its way to the second rest stop in Gurnee. Here, at mile 40, riders were a little more eager to stretch their legs off the bike.
With the morning clouds dissipating, the heat was starting to make itself known. A few riders took advantage of the shelter or shade provided by the trees. Everyone enjoyed the freshly cut flowers provided by the Odorizzi family of Pleasant Prairie Farms (whose wild flowers can be found at the Evanston farmers market all summer long).
After enjoying the flowers and refreshments, riders approached probably the most difficult portion of the day. While the overall route is fairly flat, the next 20 miles would take them through the few 100 foot climbs and descents that do appear. The loop also crosses itself a few times, giving riders glimpses of the faster ones, en route to lunch. But cyclists embrace challenges, so riders pedaled on.
During this portion of the route, riders could see the tops of the tallest rides at Six Flags Great America. Ah, those silly people, thinking they’re having fun rushing by on roller coasters. They’re missing out on the real fun today!
On the return side of the loop, riders encountered what at first appeared to be a mirage. As if appearing out of a desert, a golden pyramid rises up from the ground, flanked by an enormous statue of Ramses II. Palm trees complete the sight. Despite the heat and only being half way to the next rest stop, this was no mirage. The private residence in Wadsworth, IL surprises even Illinois natives, even though it has been there since 1977.
Riders made their way through this out-of-place desert and persevered. Visions of lunch catered by Harry Caray’s Restaurant – and those potato chips! – led them on. Riders would not be disappointed.
The way to Independence Grove in Libertyville involved a little detour, but – “Holy Cow!” – was it worth it! Riders were welcomed into the carnival atmosphere set up by Kim Cook and her team. Volunteers in clownish bowties valet parked bikes, so riders could rush on over to the food. Harry Caray’s, again, did not disappoint. There was food for everyone – carnivores, vegetarians, those with a sweet tooth and those in need of a salty snack. No one walked away hungry or without a smile on their face.
The carnival atmosphere was complete with a big top tent (the bike racks), games, candy prizes and balloon animals. What fun!
Refueled, refreshed and reanimated, riders saddled back up, ready to face the final 40 miles of the day. But they wouldn’t have to make it all in one stretch. In fact, they only had to head south and east for just under 15 miles before a “Pit Stop” in Lake Forest.
The shade felt great as did the ice that the volunteers were readily distributing to tired and overheated riders. Riders headed back through Fort Sheridan, past the scene of the morning’s first rest stop at Higher Gear’s Highland Park location and continued south, eventually returning to Sheridan Road.
At mile 90, Salesforce manned a rest stop at Higher Gear – Wilmette. There, again, riders took advantage of the shade and the plentiful ice.
Now riders were in the home stretch. It was a battle between wanting to arrive at Wrigley as quickly as possible and to pace themselves for an enjoyable evening. Some picked up the pace a little bit, others took their time to enjoy the return into the city.
Everyone rejoiced when that last sign appeared. And even die-hard Cubs fans found themselves just as excited about seeing the red SRAM finish line banner as they were to return to iconic Wrigley Field.
Once inside, riders took to the locker rooms to freshen up. The dirt and effort of the day seemed to wash away magically. Riders were torn between reverence and jubilee as they took to the grass – with the scoreboard proudly announcing “0 Miles to Go!”
Bison burgers barbequed right on the field, a little liquid refreshment, the evening sun shaded by the brick walls and the cool outfield grass beneath them, riders took it all in. Their accomplishment was overwhelming.
Yes, each of them reached 100 miles on their bikes. But their pride went beyond that. Each had done their part to enrich the lives of someone else – from youth in the local community through Chicago Cubs Charities to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa through World Bicycle Relief.
What FK said in the morning – before the 100 miles of pedaling, before returning enjoy a party at Wrigley Field – about the power of bicycles is really true. A bike is not only a bike. It can also be a means of empowerment. Riders who trained all summer long, who asked friends and co-workers for donations and then pedaled all day over 100 miles… They began to understand the true power of a bicycle.
With that revelation, the BoDeans took the stage and all the “Good Things” from the day really came together.
None of the events of the day could have taken place without such a dedicated riders and amazing volunteers. We extend a “Thank You” to all who donated time, effort, funds and sweat to make the 2013 Wrigley Field Road Tour possible. Your efforts are truly making a difference – locally and globally. Thank you.
See more photos from the 2013 Wrigley Field Road Tour here.
Want to be part of the action next year – again or for your first time? Sign up to stay connected with Higher Gear’s weekly newsletter. We’ll keep you updated on the 2014 WFRT and how to best prepare for your next 100 miles.
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 2014 WFRT will be posted here as soon as they are available.
To keep up with photos from the 2014 WFRT or to share your photos with us, like us on Facebook. Make sure to send us a link to your blog posts about your experience with the WFRT. We love to hear from you!
Thank you to the WFRT volunteers, Leah Missbach Day, Andrew and Sheila Higney, Tom and Ruth-Anne Renaud, Larry Berlin, Catherine Watkins, WBR, Katie Snyder Bolling, and the many who remembered to use #wfrt to tag their photos for helping us document such a special day.
If you’re considering adding the Wrigley Field Road Tour to your 2014 riding schedule and want to know more about training for a century or if you have another century coming up, you might find some of the resources we provided for our 2013 riders helpful:
- Pushing yourself too hard or enjoying the company so much that you missed the scenery during the WFRT? Check out the 2013 WFRT route.
- Before you embark on your century training, see Your Century Begins Here.
- We’ve got all your century riding needs covered. See our Century Ride Essentials for our gear recommendations.
- Pack a flat kit and know how to use it! Check out our Cycling Essentials.
- New for this year, we teamed up with Coach Craig of Precision Multisport, who has created two training plans for the 2013 WFRT.
- Our group training rides will continue into the fall. New to group riding? Higher Gear welcomes new riders.
- Before your first group ride, check out our Group Ride Rules.
- As you’re training outdoors this summer, be sure to keep your skin protected.
- Don’t forget your nutrition. Get our tips in What’s In Your Water Bottle?
- Not sure if you need a tune-up? We explain why you want your bicycle in the hands of a professional before you tackle the miles.
- Stay healthy on and off the bike this summer with a foam roller (which can be ordered at Higher Gear).
If you enjoy these articles, sign up to stay connected with Higher Gear’s weekly newsletter and like us on Facebook. And, now that you know where are two locations are, you’re always welcome to stop by and chat with us!