It has been 9 years since the first Bicycle Blues and BBQ Festival was held and the race weekend has grown into a major Midwest event. With cyclists from around the region traveling to Clear Lake, Iowa to compete, this year’s race had well over 200 riders participate over the course of the weekend. The competitive event consists of a time trial, criterium, road race. The weekend also offers a three-day festival with plenty of activities, BBQ, and blues to keep everyone entertained and well-fed.
Clear Lake, Iowa is a great summer destination for families which makes it a prime location to hold weekend-long cycling event. Participants can race and then spend the day with the family, taking in everything Clear Lake has to offer. At almost 70 square miles, the lake itself offers a wide range of activities such as sailing, skiing, boating, fishing, and swimming. In addition, public gardens, museums, parks, and even a giant maze await visitors.
Clear Lake took its place in music history on the tragic night of February 3, 1959. Popularly known as, “the day the music died”, a plane crash took the lives of music legends Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens shortly after their final performance at the Surf Ballroom. You can still visit the fully restored Surf Ballroom.
Despite some unexpected rain on Saturday, event organizer Tim Putnam was able to keep things on track. Eventually, the weather cleared and allowed for another great event, “Rain! Where did the rain come from? The forecast called for 10% the night before and the radar Sat morning was not showing much of a threat. First time in 9 years we had rain event like this. But, we had such a great officiating crew that we were able to recalculate one race and every race went off on time.”
Putnam appreciates that Tom Zirbel has made this event a regular addition to his racing season, “Having the Time Trial National Champion line up in the stars and bars jersey was very exciting. Tom Zirbel turn in a 13:45 for a 7 mile TT course beating his time from last year. Tom has always been so gratuitous in coming back to his hometown of Clear Lake and competing in a regional amateur race.”
This year, Bicycle, Blues, and BBQ was part of the inaugural Fly Over Midwest Omnium Race Series. Tim is one of the co-founders of the series which was developed in an effort to promote various races throughout the Midwest, “The flyover was actually created by myself and Jason Engle from Canton, S.D. Jason approached me after last year’s BBBQ weekend to get a little help with his race and he was telling me about how motocross races in California had race series that tied events together. So, Jason and I contacted a few other race directors and the Flyover was born.” The Flyover Series has helped bring in riders from a wider geographic area, “Being the inaugural year of the Flyover we have seen a number of teams traveling to keep the position or trying to move up. There we a number of teams that may not have made the trip had it not been for the The Flyover.”
Tim believes the city of Clear Lake and the local community members have embraced the event and they have seen how cycling events can benefit their community, “The City of Clear Lake truly understands that to be a Summer destination location, it has to support events like this. Clear Lake is a true partner in every way. When you have the police chief helping to get vehicles moved and pulling out barricades and Saturday and Sunday morning, you know you have their buy in!”
Plans are already in the works for next year’s event and they are always looking for ways to improve the experience for racers and spectators, “We want this to be the best experience for the racers, volunteers and community and there are those little details that we will working on starting this week. We will continue to tweak the BBBQ Festival to have an event experience second to none. For racers who have never attended we’d like for them to come and give us a try and we hope we do not disappoint!”
Putnam is very happy with how the event has grown over the years and is proud of the success this year’s event enjoyed, “Overall we had another great event. We want to put on a big party for the racers and give them a reason to talk about [the event]. We want to have a venue that the Racer, volunteers and the community of Clear Lake are proud to a part of and I believe we did that.”
Photo Credit: Kirschen Seah