Story 9 – Minnesota League


Photo: Todd Bauer

Story #9 — On Finding a Ride to the Ride

What is your name?

My name is Todd Bauer.

And what league are you a part of?

The Minnesota League.

What role do you play in MN?

I’m actually their official photographer.

How long have you been doing that?

I’ve been doing it since the league’s inception. I started going to meetings six months or a year before the league even started. Back when Gary S was trying to get the league going. I started going to meetings to see if there might be a fit for me. And I’ve actually shot all their bike races, except for one in the first season when I had another obligation.

How did you know Gary at the beginning, when those meetings started?

I’m involved in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series as also, as the official photographer. He’s instrumental in that series, and he’d mentioned that they were trying to get the high school cycling thing going. And at the first meeting, I volunteered to do photography for them.

And the rest is history, as they say.

The rest is history [laughs].

Let’s go to that image for a minute. Can you bring us into that scene and give us the backstory for that image?

So this race was in Austin, MN, and I believe it was the first year we raced in Austin. It just so happens that I like to capture the beginning of races, because you get the sheer impact of how many racers there are, the crowds that are there… They make powerful images.

It also happens that the bike company that was supporting us there has an ambulance that they bring from race to race. They do their bicycle repairs out of an ambulance–kind of a clever thing. That’s Penn Cycle, one of our big sponsors. I actually got on top of that ambulance and had this view straight down into the start chute. I’m trying to remember exactly which wave it was, but it was one of the boys fields. I’m pretty sure it was either the freshman or sophomores.

This was the first race of the 2015 season, in Austin, and it was the first time we were at that venue. And the venue was brought to us by the city of Austin. They knew of the high school cycling team there, so the city and Hormel–which is one of the major businesses in that area–got behind the whole thing. The trail itself was finished up shortly before our first race, we’re talking maybe a week before.

And you raced there again this year?

Yep–that was our kickoff race again this year. It’s very conducive to how NICA and how the MN League run things. Your first venue is not as hilly, not as technical, not as hard. You ease the student-athletes into the harder aspects of the racing as the season goes on. Austin is a perfect example of a great place to get everybody’s feet wet, and get comfortable racing elbow-to-elbow with other kids.

That’s a great segue into the next question I have: how does that image relate to a broader experience in the league as you’ve witnessed it.

In your words, how does this image reflect the experience of the league?

If I were to sum this up in one word I’d say “community”, or a phrase “It takes a village”. All the ingredients are in this one picture to help make these kids succeed. Support from family and friends. Guidance from coaches. Infrastructure and a safe environment to make it happen. Above all, the grimaces and smiling faces of the student athletes.

What is your favorite part about being involved with the #morekidsonbikes movement?

My favorite part–and I have many favorite parts–is that I just love seeing all the different abilities of all the different kids from all the different backgrounds participating in a sport. One of the things we pride ourselves on in MN, and I’m sure this is the same through all the other leagues, is that nobody sits on the bench. Everyone gets to participate, regardless of your background, your sports ability, or your athleticism. We see kids here in MN that typically don’t do sports but they’re doing this. And they’re all smiles. That’s what’s gratifying for me: seeing all these kids riding their bikes on the trails with big smiles on their faces.

How did you personally get started riding bikes?

I started when I was a kid myself. Where I grew up, I’ll call it a second-ring suburb of Minneapolis. The housing was going up all around where I lived. There were woods and trails that we used to ride back in the day. Basically it was old walking paths. We’d ride through them, and then go hit some housing developments where they were digging big holes. We’d ride our bikes up the big mounds of dirt that they were moving. That’s how it started. The bike for me was freedom. I’d get on the bike with friends, and the only time I’d come home would be lunch and dinner! That’s what we did back in the day.

As I got older, I used to work at a bike shop. I got hooked on road cycling–not competitive road cycling–but we used to do long bike rides. We’d do 75 miles in a day, and that was back when we were between the ages of 14-16. That wasn’t a very common thing back then. We even planned a trip to go up to Northern MN, which never came to fruition. But I think I actually still have all the documentation that we made up for it: our checklists, where we were going to stay, what we’d do in case of trouble… blah blah blah. I have that in a 20 year momento box somewhere. It wasn’t uncommon for us to get up in the morning, ride our bikes, and wouldn’t get home till suppertime. We’d stop at the grocery stores or conveniences stores and buy a loaf of bread and some peanut butter. We weren’t fast, and we were probably on roads that weren’t safe back then, but it was fun.

That sums it up right there, and it sounds like you have your next trip planned!

Yeah! And as I’ve gotten older, mountain biking is my favorite type of riding, but I do all types of riding. I do at least one weeklong trip during the summer. The last two years we’ve ridden from Minneapolis to Madison, usually in four days. Then we hook up with another group and do a one-day ride from Madison to Steven’s Point that they call the Bucky Bash. A group of friends have been doing that for 10 years. And that’s 120 miles in a day.

And that’s day five of your trip at that point…

That’s day five, yep.

Ouch! Cooked legs, I like it.

Cooked legs, but you also have a bunch of fresh legs that can carry you on. So that’s kind of nice.

Time for feedback. What can we do to continue to improve the NICA experience?

I’d love to see some type of National championship/s. I know the logistics and costs are major hurdles. But wouldn’t be awesome to see the competition and friendships that would evolve from such an event.

Thanks for your time, Todd!

And thank you!

To see more of Todd’s images, check out his site:

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Don’t miss these great League opportunities!


New Jersey — Ends at first race!

New Jersey is excited to launch their first race season in spring 2017, and you can help them do it by becoming a Charter Member in their league. Bonus, you get this awesome NJ shirt!

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