Believe it or not, there’s a pretty strong connection between Wisconsin and the Tour de France. Actually a few connections, the most obvious being the Trek Factory Racing Team, sponsored by Trek Bicycles, headquartered in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Not only does Trek sponsor one of the top teams racing in professional cycling today, but they are also big supporters of cycling in Wisconsin. In fact, in August, Trek will be the main sponsor of Ride Across Wisconsin, a one-day, 175 mile ride across the state to benefit the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation. Former Trek Factory Racing star, Jens Voigt and other Trek Factory riders will be in Wisconsin for this epic Gran Fondo style tour of southern Wisconsin.
Speaking of Jens Voigt…Jens retired from the Trek Factory Racing Team after last season, and is now doing what a lot of former sports stars do in retirement | working as a TV commentator. You can hear Jens’ commentary during this year’s Tour de France on the NBC Sports Channel, where you can also hear Christian Vande Velde’s race commentary.
Christian raced for the Garmin-Sharp team. He has 2 top 10 overall finishes at the Tour de France (best finish- #3) and he lives near Chicago. Christian’s brother competed in the cycling events at the National Transplant Games a couple Summers ago in Madison, where I was the race announcer…with Christian watching over my shoulder the whole time | no pressure there . Christian is a big supporter of cycling in Wisconsin and has made several appearances at the Saris Gala, supporting the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation.
Robbie Ventura is also a big supporter of cycling in Wisconsin and has also appeared at the Saris Gala several times over the years. Robbie is also a former Tour de France racer and race commentator, and he owns and operates Vision Quest Coaching | which trains a lot of midwest athletes for Ironman Wisconsin and runs some very well-respected cycling camps. Had Chicago won its bid for the Olympics a few years back, all of the cycling events would have happened in the Madison area- Robbie designed those courses.
I’ve mentioned the Saris Gala a couple of times. The Saris Cycling Group is headquarted here in Madison, and in addition to making great bicycle racks, they also make Cycle-Ops indoor trainers, and a really cool piece of equipment that you will find on the bikes of a lot of Tour de France riders…the Power-Tap power meter. The Power-Tap measures, in watts, the rider’s power output at any given time. This allows the rider to work more effeciently and stay within their limits | this is especially helpful when they get to the mountain stages, where it’s easy to over-do it. With the Power-Tap, you can monitor your power at all times and make sure you are staying within your limits and avoind bonking or worse.
So, as you watch this year’s Tour, do it knowing that Wisconsin plays a pretty big part in what’s going on over the next couple of weeks in France.