After 30 years, ownership of the the Wisconsin Off Road Series makes a transition in 2022. The legacy of the popular mountain bike race series continues May – August.
The last few years have been difficult for many industries and bike races were no exception. Historically, Wisconsin has been blessed with many bike events, but last summer was a bit of a test to see how the return to normal racing would go. Would events fold or participation decrease? Or would the bike boom help grow new racers? It seems like most events were able to bounce back. It was particularly concerning that prior to the pandemic, Don Edberg, the owner of the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), indicated that he was interested in retiring. Given the pandemic, many wondered if he could find a new home for this 30-year-old mountain bike race series that has become a Wisconsin institution.
Recently, long-time WORS sponsor Trek stepped up to take over ownership of the series that Don started in 1992. Don initially had a 12 race schedule with over 800 participants at each event. Things leveled out and more recently the series ran with 10 events and about 500 participants. Don said that despite the numbers looking like a decline, it was actually much better for participant experience. Some back-of-napkin math says that people have done over 100,000 races during Don’s tenure! That’s amazing.
Over the years, Wisconsin mountain bike trails evolved and WORS has been able to benefit from those improvements. Don said races have been able to have much more singletrack over time. He specifically mentioned the trails at Mt. Morris as an example – he personally worked on the trails, spending over 500 hours developing and building them. It was a proud moment for Don when he saw an early blog from professional racer Todd Wells telling readers how much he enjoyed riding the trails.
Don added that the make-up of the participants has evolved over the years, as well. He said that the races have become very family-friendly as a result of the growing popularity of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Middle and high school mountain bike teams have dramatically increased their participant numbers and this bodes well for the future of the sport.
The WORS series works, thanks to the network of local organizations across Wisconsin that host the individual races on their home trails. Don then coordinates with each host organization to ensure the courses have some basic consistencies and he has also managed the omnium points over the entire series. If anyone is worried that they might not get to hear the famous Don countdown before a race, rest easy; he will still be the event director of the Red Barn Classic at Trek this summer. Don said it’s been a great life for him, and he is very happy that things will be able to continue with Trek. The series gets to continue and it might even be able to expand in the future.
So, what does the future hold for the series now that Trek is at the reins? Well, having the backing of a Wisconsin-based international company that produces Olympic gold medal-winning mountain bikes can’t hurt! Trek is also a partner with the Wisconsin Cyclocross series, the Ride Across Wisconsin, and more. At Trek, they use the term “new, better, and different” when exploring how to take awesome programs to the next level. That’s exactly what they hope to do with WORS – by maintaining the solid WORS structure we all know and love, while pursuing opportunities for “new, better, and different”. “We believe that WORS and Don’s endless work on the series has substantially helped grow the mountain bike community in the Midwest. We are deeply invested in seeing that growth continue,” said Eric Bjorling, Trek’s Director of Brand. Sounds like a great time to be a mountain biker in Wisconsin!
This article is featured in the Bike Fed’s 2022 Ride Guide magazine. To have the annual magazine mailed to your home each spring, and receive other valuable benefits, we invite you to become a member or renew your membership.