Summers in Wisconsin are filled with festivals, food, friends and fun. No matter where you go, you can’t get away from it. That is, when you’re not working, of course. But summers can only last so long. The 90 degree days are already behind us and kids are getting ready to go back to school. Even the Packers are starting to play. But before the summer is over, there is still some time left to race. This past weekend’s Subaru Cup is one of the highlights every summer for the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS). It combines the thrill of racing with the fun of spending time with your family and friends. On top of that, you get up-close access to some of the world’s top pro athletes. Sure, the Packers are playing. But can you play a game on their field before they do? Can you hang out with them for the weekend? The Subaru Cup allows this kind of access to the average weekend warrior up to riders at the pro level.
WORS has really mixed the family atmosphere of a Wisconsin summer festival with the all out action you would expect from a World Cup mountain bike race. I realized this on Friday when I arrived. On one side of the venue you have all of the hustle and bustle of a circus being set up. Pro tour teams are tuning bikes while vendors are constructing their booths. On the other side you have families setting up camp for the weekend, hanging out with friends and tailgating. Families of racers are the bread and butter of the weekend. Most of them came to race or to watch races. Many of them also came to volunteer and make this event a success. Entire families chose to spend the weekend working. I think it’s this tight knit camaraderie that makes WORS feel like one big family.
Trail workers had been grooming the course all summer and the response from the riders was great. The Legacy Cross Country course started off with some open grassy climbs giving spectators great views of the lead out action. The trail gives a temporary relief as riders descended into “Fern Gully”, a section that looks more like a rain forest than a race course. The payback was coming out of this section and climbing to the top of Nordic Mountain. This major climb would double as the final event of Subaru Cup, Sunday’s Outback Super D race. Getting to the top of the hill feels like an accomplishment, but the fun has just begun. After a quick drink, riders drop into Triple T; a fast, rocky singletrack path that delivers them to the real descent. The fans line the woods in their favorite vantage points like the Bontrager Boulder or the Trek Fire Lane Drop. Many of the competitors enjoy these features of the course not only for their challenge but also for the fan support. According to local pro, Abby Strigel “that’s what make this race worth it..having everyone cheer.” Strigel was the top WORS series rider in the women’s pro category for this weekend’s event, finishing 7th in the Pro XCT Cross Country race and taking 1st in the Outback Super D.
Saturday evening was filled with smiles and grimaces as people either reflected on their accomplishments for the day or collapsed under their exhaustion. Happy kids that just completed the Junior race giggled as they ran around the park, while others had to regroup after a long and tiring day. But after a few hours of rest and food, many of the campers participated in the Poker Run put on by the folks from Lights and Motion. Many teams of 4 rode sections of the trails in the dark to see who could gather the best poker hand and the winner won lights from L&M. Thanks Light and Motion!
The fun wasn’t over. Sunday morning brought back that “Fastest in the Midwest” title for Cat 3 racers. This was a good lead in for the Impreza Short Track races. The Short Track was run for Cat 1, Cat 2 and Pro. The cheering for Cat 1 and 2 was no less electric than that of the Pros. It was great to see how many of our series riders would give it their all for the red-lined sprint race. Of the top 20 Pro men, 5 of them were WORS regulars including Brian Matter, Tristen Schouten, Corey Stelljes, Cole House and Nathan Guerra. Guerra would also go on to take 4th in the Outback Super D just behind fellow WORS pro Darrin Braun. The Super D is a gravity driven, high speed battle of technical skill. This event is a favorite for many that keeps participants around to the end of the weekend. All in all, the Subaru Cup was a big success. Thank you to all that raced, volunteered or cheered. We’ll see you next year!