BELOIT — As almost 500 bicyclists rode into Beloit on Saturday, they were treated to nutritious lunch and entertainment ranging from the Beloit Memorial High School Pom Pon Squad and Even Start Dancers to gospel singers.
At around 11:30 a.m. the first bicyclists rode in over the Portland Avenue Bridge on their way to the Rotary River Center, the premier rest stop of a ride from Dubuque, Iowa to Kenosha. The 175-mile ride, consisting of avid bicyclists and members of the elite TREK Factory Racing Team, was held to raise funds for the Wisconsin Bike Federation, an advocacy group devoted to the interests of bicyclists and pedestrians. In its inaugural year, organizers are hoping to make it an annual event with thousands of riders. Beloit is hoped to be a permanent rest stop.
Local residents in the event included John Pfleiderer, Phil Shields, Jon Nelson and Todd Peopping.
One of the first riders in on Saturday was Matthew Busche, the U.S. National Champion with the TREK Factory Racing Team. The team was stopping in Beloit before catching a bus to Chicago where they would be leaving for a bicycle tour of Alberta, Canada.
Busche said the hilly terrain wasn’t easy, but the roads were nice and quiet.
Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and former mayor of Madison, said it was an off day for the TREK Factory Racing Team, “who were kind enough to ride.” He said Beloit was one of eight stops along the ride and had an impressive lineup of entertainment and volunteers at rest stops.
The rest of the riders were a bit behind schedule because of a south wind, according to organizer Rick Barder. However, it didn’t dampen attendance as 477 riders plus the TREK team were signed up for the big day.
"Beloit should be proud. The streets were well maintained and the directional people were helpful," said local rider Pfleiderer. "It was nice to see the cheerleaders and the band. I think it was a very positive statement for Beloit. There was nothing like it at the other rest stops."
Pfeiderer agreed with other riders, saying the ride from Dubuque was brutal. Although scenic, he had trouble seeing it because of the light rain.
Although he said he saw the "Van Gogh version" of the scenery, he said the ride was a great experience and he hopes it becomes an annual event.
"I see future opportunities for Beloit to be seen. It's a good opportunity for Beloit to make a statement for being a destination point."
It wasn’t only the bicyclists enjoying the festivities on Saturday. Even Start dancers Cassandra Montes-Aguilar, 17, Anna Casique, 10, and Guadalupe Casique, 12, had arrived in colorful dresses to perform traditional Mexican dance for the riders. Cassandra, who said she’d been with the group since she was 3-years-old was looking forward to performing.
“I’m completely excited. I always wanted to see an event like this. I like riding my bike and would consider riding in it,” Aguilar said.
Eric Eisenberg and Terri Burdick were volunteering along Portland Avenue Bridge, holding signs directing riders along the correct path. Eisenberg said he bikes several thousand miles a year and was eager to support the event and bicycling in Beloit.
“I’ve never had a bad day on a bike,” Burdick said.