Ironman to roll through area

Popular spring bike ride will include Scandia, Marine upon move to Washington County

 

FR_IronmanLogoClint Riese
News Editor

One of the Midwest’s premier cycling events will wind through Scandia this spring.

In a huge coup for the St. Croix Valley area, the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride (MIBR) has left its longtime home of Lakeville for the hillier, scenic roads of eastern Washington County.

The 47th annual ride, set for Sunday, April 28, will roll through Scandia and Marine on St. Croix, in addition to Afton, Lake Elmo, Stillwater and Oak Park Heights.

It’s no one-year tour, either. The historic recreational event is here to stay into the foreseeable future.

“We seem to stay 10 years wherever we move, or more,” said ride director Jon Ridge. “Our intent is not to come to Washington County and leave. We’re going to do our darnedest to put on a really good event and then modify it next year.”

Though it is not affiliated with the world-famous Ironman triathlon circuit, the MIBR is a classic in its own rite. (It began in 1967 in Minneapolis, so it predates the Ironman of triathlon fame. The triathlon group trademarked the Ironman name, and the bike ride has a license agreement that allows it to use the name.) Combined, over 100,000 cyclists have participated over the years, first at Wirth Park and Lake Calhoun, then in Buffalo and most recently in Lakeville. Ridge expects 4,000-4,500 participants this year.

“I’m not sure most states in the Midwest have anything this big,” said Ridge, who acknowledged that the St. Paul Classic held each fall is this state’s biggest ride. “We’re just proud to put on such a good ride in Minnesota.”

Lakeville hosted the MIBR for the past 13 years, but the race has fallen on hard times in recent years due to poor weather, increased expenses and a decline in riders. Ridge hopes the move east will stir up fresh interest.

“They are really great communities, it’s a great biking area, and we really felt it was time for a change,” he said of the new course layout.

Though the course will likely not be as flat as in Lakeville, there is hope that it will be less windy.

“Weather can be difficult in late April, and you never know, but we have enough of a following, and Minnesotans are hardy people,” Ridge said.

Not every rider will hit every town. The MIBR features several loops of varying length, all beginning from the county fairgrounds in Lake Elmo. Routes totaling approximately 15, 25, 50 and 100 miles are set for 2013. Though the official route details are still being worked out with local authorities, Ridge expects Scandia to be the northernmost point in a 52-mile loop.

Riders do not have to specify their loop in advance. In fact, it is common for participants to choose based on last-minute factors such as the weather or their mood. Ridge said the shortest loop is ideal for beginners or for families with children.

However, “There were some years in Lakeville where the short route was almost the most popular because the weather was lousy,” he noted.

Riders are not timed, and no awards are given for placement. The MIBR is all about welcoming spring with a leisurely day on the bike.

Registration opens Feb. 1 at $30. The price will increase as the race nears. Ridge said riders can expect well-marked routes and reststops with food, beverages, bathrooms, medics and mechanics.

“We try to have all kinds of services available just to make the ride go smoothly,” he said.

The MIBR website, www.ironmanbikeride.com, is under construction as details are finalized. In the meantime, look for updates on the ride’s Facebook page.

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