There aren’t many courses where die-hard bicyclists and casual cruisers can both enjoy their ride, but the annual Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride on April 27 is one of them.
This year’s 48th annual ride will find two very different Eden Prairie riders—one fanatic and one dedicated joy rider—pushing themselves at the longest-running and largest organized bicycle ride in the state of Minnesota.The ride, which starts this year at the Washington County fairgrounds in Stillwater, offers riders a choice of routes of varying lengths—including 100 miles, 75 miles, 50 miles, 25 miles and 15 miles—to roughly 6,000 riders.
Eden Prairie’s Ron McGlennen and Monica Vogel have participated in more than 25 Ironman rides, but they approach their ride very differently. McGlennen, who has competed in cycling races for about four decades and has ridden coast-to-coast across the U.S., could be considered a cycling fanatic. Vogel, on the other hand, is a casual rider, who does it for fun more than competition.
McGlennen, a physician and founder/medical director of Access Genetics, an Eden Prairie-based biotech firm, has been a long-distance cyclist since the age of 12, when he bought his first road bike. At 14, he began competing in races sponsored by the Gopher Wheelmen cycling club. In junior high school, he and a friend made a trip covering the West Coast of the United States, and, at 15, McGlennen completed a solo ride from Oregon to Boston.
McGlennen has been an Ironman regular since the early '70s, and always enjoys it. “It's a citizens’ ride,” he says. “You can make it a race, or use it as an internal measure of your fitness through the winter.” He also enjoys the interesting variety of people participating—everyone from children on recreational bikes and older folks on dusty garage models. “You’re going to see little kids riding Sting Rays, old people with ‘citizens’ bikes’ with the lock flopping around... to those with elegant, new racing bikes,” he says.
For the hard core racing cyclists who compete in the Ironman at the head of the pack there have also been occasional spills. For those riders, “abrasions are considered a badge of honor,” McGlennen notes.
McGlennen’s three children—25-year-old Emma, 22-year-old Sam, a U.S. Marine, and 19-year-old Matt, a college student—have also participated in the ride, and McGlennen’s gotten a number of his colleagues at Access Genetics involved. One was a 3:25 marathon runner who finished his first Ironman in six hours, with aching joints and a new respect for cyclists. Recently, McGlennen also fulfilled an ambition that dated back to his years as a teenage mechanic at Penn Cycle: building his own, custom bike frames. “My daughter had graduated from college and I had promised her I would build her a custom bike,” he says. In late 2012, he went online to find someone in the Twin Cities who would teach him how to build frames. McGlennen found a thriving, local community of custom frame builders, and wound up spending Saturdays through 2012 and most of 2013 learning from Paul Wyganowski, a master frame-builder based in Princeton.
Monica Vogel is also a ride veteran, having only missed a couple since her first one, in “’81 or ’82,” she says. At the time, she was a member of Cargill’s employee bike club. Vogel appreciates the non-competitive aspect of the event. “It’s not a race, it’s a ride and you’re just trying to do your own best time,” she says.
She does have some friendly competition with her sister, Mounds View resident Ann Hertzel, and her nephew, Eric Kangas, of Wayzata. “Last year there were three different circle loops; we did a 50-mile loop and one of the 27-mile loops,” she says.
Vogel and her sister have a running joke that “we’re going to quit if it rains 10 years in a row. We’ve had about five rainy years in a row. We’ve had 35 degrees and rain ... some pretty miserable conditions.” Still, Vogel will be at the starting line again this year. She’s shooting to log 100 miles.