With 49 years under its saddle and less then 12-days away from its 50th, April 24th, the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride will celebrate a half century of kicking-off the spring bike season. So we thought it would be fun to look back through the archives to see the progress this popular spring event has made as a Minnesota tradition.
A wave of Minnesota Ironman bike riders in the 60’s heading north on the original century route.
The Ironman Bike Ride in Minnesota began in 1967, the last Sunday in April, primarily as a fund raiser for the Minnesota Council of AYH (American Youth Hostels). At that time the AYH was very small. Thanks to the AYH president, at that time and rides founder, Stan Bezanson the ‘Ironman’ name came from: the time of year the event was to be held; the obvious lack of training after a long cold winter; and the possibility of inclement weather – which is sometimes true!
The Early Years
A group of Minnesota Ironman riders from the 60’s gathering at a designated rest stop.
In the early years the ride started in a parking lot near Lake Calhoun, in Minneapolis. The route was a century loop that: first headed northwest to Maple Plain; then north to Hanover; then to St. Michael; northeast to Elk River; then to Nowthen and up to St. Francis for a brief rest stop. Now the routes turned south heading back: through Anoka; then Crystal; then Robbinsdale; and back to Calhoun Beach. The cost was $2 per rider and the first year 27 cyclists registered and only seven finished the ride. It should be noted here that the temp that day was only 30 degrees with a strong northwest winds and high humidity. Also reported in the April 1981 Hosteler (AYH newsletter), those who finished were indeed “Ironman.”
Riders checking the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride map out.
In 1968, 142 riders started with 71 finishing. In 1971, 260 cyclist started with 160 finishing in less 10 hours. In 1972 registration numbers grew to 810 riders and over half finishing within 10 hours. In 1975, 120 rode on the original date due to being rained-out. Then the following week it was rerun with a 1,000 people riding that day because of the nice weather.
The move to Buffalo
Here at a Minnesota Ironman registration table, Penn Cycles truck is in the background offering assistance.
By 1977, there had already been several changes with the growth of the event. Along with the century ride, a lower loop was established, SAG wagons were being provided and the cost of the ride went up to $4, and $5 for day of registration. Also, the route no longer included St. Michael or St. Francis, finishing under 10 hours was no longer required and cyclists left in groups at timed intervals.
A Minnesota Ironman rest stop location in the early years.
As the popularity of the ride grew the new route started and ended in Buffalo, with a major rest stops in including Delano through the late 90’s.
The move to Lakeville
A peloton of Minnesota Ironman bike riders from the early 70″s
In 1999 the Minnesota Ironman makes a major move to Lakeville. The Lakeville event offered cyclists several route options through the nearby cities of Jordan, LeSueur, Montgomery, Lonsdale, Northfield, Prior Lake and Burnsville.
A Minnesota Ironman volunteer tradition, always serving food and drinks at rest stops with a smile.
Showing the 2003 Minnesota Ironman Jersey with route displayed.
The move to Stillwater
Riders on the 49th Annual Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride leaving from the Washington County Fairgrounds.
In 2013 Ironman Bike Ride moved from the south Twin City suburb of Lakeville, east to Stillwater its current location at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Now in 2016, as the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride celebrates its 50th anniversary, register today and be a part of Minnesota’s biking history.
Continuing the Minnesota Biking Tradition
A happy Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride participant from the early years. Where is she now, still riding we hope?
We hope you enjoyed the recap of the first 49-years of the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride. If you have any details and picture we might have missed we would like to hear from you?
‘Just announced’ -Thanks to Surly Beer, stop in after this years ride and tip a glass in celebration of your memories and what you would like to see happen in 2017.
About AYH, Hostelling International and the Minnesota Ironman
The Minnesota AYH trailer out supporting events around the state.
The Ironman has been managed by Hostelling International USA, a 501 (C)(3) non-profit charitable organization devoted to promoting healthy recreation, international travel and cultural exchange. The AYH Minnesota Council was established in 1955 by a core of cyclists and travelers. In 2012, all councils incorporated into the national organization, Hostelling International USA to become one single organization. You can find out more at their web site: www.hiusa.org.