MIDDLETON, WI (BRAIN)—Kevin Hillier’s first trip to Trek World is one he won’t soon forget. The owner of 2Wheels Cycles in Dublin, Ireland, was one of several Trek dealers who braved torrential rain and thunderstorms yesterday morning to complete the 50-mile route of the inaugural Centurion Wisconsin Gran Fondo.
Despite the rainy conditions, “it was competitive,” Hillier said.
About 170 Trek dealers arrived the day before the official kickoff of Trek’s 2011 dealer product launch to participate in the fully supported mass ride. Trek purposefully scheduled its dealer event to coincide with the ride, which it sponsors, said Eric Bjorling, Trek’s lifestyle brand manager.
Some 1,114 riders pre-registered for three riding distances—25, 50 and 100 miles. Just over 700 riders completed the race, which eventually got underway after a two-and-a-half hour delay. Event organizer Centurion Cycling eventually canceled the 100-mile race and the 50-mile race began at 9:30 a.m. followed by the 25-mile race. The ride began and ended in Middleton, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin.
“It was a memorable experience,” said Jay Graves, owner of the six-store Bike Gallery based in Portland, Oregon. Graves, who rode the 2011 Madone 6.9 SSL, and wife Alison stuck out the wait and rode 50 miles, finishing drenched.
Graves joined hundreds of riders who huddled in a hangar in the Middleton Municipal Airport, where organizers moved participants to shelter them from lightning. Ripping winds blew portable toilets over, he said.
Trek shuttled dealers from hotels in Madison to the ride start and back. By 1 p.m., the sun peeked out as retailers refueled at the Capital Brewery where Trek hosted a post-ride party that included a lunch buffet and pints of beer. A three-piece blues band played through the afternoon.
Roughly 1,200 retailers will preview Trek’s 2011 product line over the next three days. Most began streaming into Madison last night and this morning. International distributors and sales reps began arriving late last week.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) will update them on cycling initiatives in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night in a special keynote. But tonight they will hear from Trek president John Burke who will deliver his annual update on the company.
“That’s the most exciting part for me,” said Woody Smith, manager of one of three Richardson Bike Mart stores in Dallas. “It gets us all pumped up.”
PHOTO: The skies finally cleared as Trek retailers picnicked in the Capital Brewery beer garden following the rain-drenched Centurion Wisconsin Gran Fondo.