MARQUETTE - There were no times and no places, just 125 riders taking to the back roads of Marquette County in the 50- and 100-kilometer Traffic Jam Gran Fondo on the second day Saturday of the Marquette Bike Jam.
Event director Jon Becker said the event was meant to be more of a get-together than a competition as it has been in years past.
"When you build an event that caters to racers, you get racers, but there are a lot more people with bikes in their garage that don't race. So we thought, 'hey let's find a way to get these people out, get them out on a group ride,'" Becker said.
Phil Ott of Marquette rides down the rock garden during the Gravity Jam Downhill race. Ott won first place in the event, held at Marquette Mountain Saturday afternoon. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
If it had been a competition, the event would have been delayed as, in the middle of the race, a train held back a majority of the pack in the 50-K.
Jason Vayre of Marquette and two other riders were fortunate enough to cross the tracks before the train rolled through.
"We kind of slowed down and decided what we were going to do as far as waiting for the other guys," Vayre said. "We kept waiting, and waiting, and they didn't show up, so we said we'll just make it a race for the three of us."
A lot of riders rode in packs, including Gale Keebaugh, Sandy Kivela and Kris Kivela, all of Marquette. The cyclists took turns drafting off each other.
They said the race promoted teamwork and a friendly environment.
"We did it non-competitively and all stayed together in a group. These girls carried me up the hills. It's good to do it as a team," Sandy Kivela said.
"No pressure, everyone was happy to see each other out on the road and it was well put together."
Becker and his staff were surprised with the number of riders who registered. They're already working on tweaking the Bike Jam next year to spark more interest.
"The turnout has been phenomenal," Becker said. With the additional late registrations here at the downhill events today, we're well over 400 participants, so we're absolutely thrilled.
"We were just really pleased with the interest in the Klunker Krit (event). I think we're going to see that grow."
The race was meant to draw recreational riders and get people biking together. The event started and finished at Marquette Mountain.
Becker had high praise for the staff and sponsors who made the event a reality.
"It's really important for us ... that River Valley (Bank) is our title sponsor," Becker said. "This event couldn't have happened without them and all of our sponsors, without a doubt."