Enjoying the festive atmosphere on Friday night at the starting line for the Riverwest 24 in Milwaukee, I was eager to cheer on co-workers, friends, and my whole neighborhood. Much more than a bicycle race, the Riverwest 24 is first and foremost a community building event in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood that encourages biking in the city.
Certainly people try to put in the most laps and win, but racers score extra laps at bonus checkpoints scattered around the neighborhood for doing an activities like writing a haiku, break dancing, and answering Riverwest trivia. Hundreds of spectators and more than 150 volunteers come out to support more than 700 riders that ride the 4.2 mile course on mostly open neighborhood streets. While some race as a solo riders, the majority ride as part of a team with up to six members.
Amid all the hoopla, I was admittedly disappointed that I wouldn’t be riding as my team did not make the sign up cut off (the event reached capacity 5 hours after sign up opened). Moments after the Bike Fed’s own Jake Newborn led the start, a neighbor offered me an open spot on her team! I quickly accepted, visited registration to replace a teammate that had to go to Brazil on business, and promptly got race butterflies in my stomach.
As I wrote above, the Riverwest 24 is a mostly an opportunity to ride bikes and show off our neighborhood, but it is still a race, and I tend to get a bit of pre-race anxiety at any athletic competition. Somehow, after years of swim meets, ultimate tournaments, and some triathlons, I can not avoid getting knots in my stomach. Once I hit the pavement for my 3am-5am shift and saw that people were still out cheering, there were people biking on every street, and the vibe was celebratory, my stomach calmed and I had a great time. I managed 24 miles, hit two bonus check points, and got to watch the sunrise from the Holton viaduct.
While my team got 81 total laps and finished in the middle of the pack, the Bike Fed was well represented on the podium! SRTS Manager Jake Newborn’s team, MKE Bike Polo, got second in the A Team (6 riders all riding the same bike) with 70 laps, 47 bonus checkpoints for a total of 117 laps. Our Bike Walk Instructor extradoinaire, Angie Livermore (team name Kool AID MAN) tied with Jake’s girlfriend Nicole LaBrie for second solo women. They both had 83 laps and rode for a full 24 hours!
Congrats to the leaders and thank you to my neighborhood, the riders, and all the volunteers for making the Riverwest 24 so much more than a bike race. It has truly become an official Riverwest Holiday, so mark your calendars as you only have to wait another 362 days for the next one! Thanks also to Peter D’Antoni of COG Magazine and Flavorcycle for the great photos. There are more of his RW24 images on the Bike Fed Flickr page here.