Tom “Plow” Schuler was as our 2018 Sports Inductee to the Wisconsin Bicycling Hall of Fame. We were extra excited to have Tom’s friend and former 7-Eleven teammate Bob “Bobke” Roll as our special guest for the festivities. Bobke shared stories from his days racing in Europe with Plow on the 7-Eleven Team, the first U.S. team to race in the Tour de France, in 1986. If you have read the book, Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World and Won, you will remember Bob Roll was a standout character in a team of unlikely cycling stars. He was in great form to honor his friend that night.
Schuler was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2007 and would have earned a spot in the Wisconsin Bicycling Hall of Fame if he did nothing more than co-found the 7-Eleven Cycling team with Jim Ochowicz in 1981. But after he retired from racing, he has continued to have a positive impact on cycling, at the local, state, national and world level.
While Schuler is a Michigan native, he has spent the last 30 plus years in Wisconsin managing teams and athletes with his firm Team Sports Inc. He has mentored more than 40 athletes who have gone on to compete in the Olympics and won national and world championships. A father of three, Schuler now lives in Milwaukee and has also helped promote the sport in the region as a partner in the Tour of America’s Dairyland and Intelligentsia Cup.
Although he has raced against legends like Bernard Hinault and won the 1987 US Pro Road Championship, Schuler remains one of the most humble and likable icons in the sport of cycling. A self-described “lifer,” Schuler still rides his bike from his Milwaukee home to his office, organizes the infamous “Bone Ride” from Milwaukee to Madison for lunch and back, and organizes a host of top-class races and charity rides.
In 1973, Chris Kegel, a third-year UW Milwaukee business student, got a job at the newly-opened Wheel & Sprocket bike shop in Hales Corners to help pay his way through school. In the spring of 1974, at the end of what was to have been his final semester prior to graduating as a Bachelor of Science in Business, things at the bike shop got busy, very busy. Faced with a choice of preparing for his final exams or his responsibilities at the bike shop, Kegel chose work.
Many might have thought it a foolish decision, but under his guidance Wheel & Sprocket has been voted America’s Best Bike Shop many times, been on the National Bicycle Dealer Association’s Top 100 Bicycle Retailers list for over 20 years, been a Top 10 Trek Dealer for 25 Years, and been named a Top Workplace by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. So after forty three years in the bicycle business, it is fitting that in 2017 the UWM Lubar School of Business gave him an honorary doctorate degree. Beyond his success in business, Chris has served as a board member for many of the most influential cycling advocacy groups in Wisconsin and nationally including: the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Bikes Belong, League of American Bicyclists, National Bicycle Dealers Association), Recreation for Individuals Dedicated to the Environment, the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Wisconsin Off Road Bicycling Association, the State Trails Council, Mequon Trails committee and Ozaukee Interurban Trail Advisory Council, as well as serving on ride committees for countless charity rides.
Phil Van Valkenburg
Phil Van Valkenberg has undoubtedly contributed more to the growth of bicycle tourism in the Wisconsin than anyone else. In 1974, his “Wisconsin Bike Trips, Twenty Tours for Young and Old”, was the state’s first modern tourism guide for bicyclists. Since then he has produced eight privately published books on bicycling in Wisconsin and the Midwest and seven editions of the Wisconsin Biking Guide for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. In 1981 he developed a computer program to evaluate the suitability of Wisconsin roadways for shared bicycle and motor vehicle use, laying the foundation the system used to create our popular state bike maps today.
Beyond his guidebooks and maps, Van Valkenberg organized a number of iconic races and rides that still attract thousands of tourists to Wisconsin each year. He helped organize the first Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in 1983, which is the now the second longest running mountain bike race in the country. In 1985 he started the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee and later the Steel is Real Ride. Still run by Trail Genius, the rides attract a diverse group of people and are considered annual bucket-list urban rides attracting hundreds of cyclists from a wide range of abilities.
For decades, you couldn’t talk about bike racing in Milwaukee without mentioning Otto Wenz. While Otto raced himself when he was younger, his real talent was promoting the sport. He became a national figure bike racing for organizing the International Cycling Classic. Better know as “Superweek,” this visionary week-long series of road and criterium races began attracting riders from across the country and the world the 1970s, a time when domestic racers elsewhere in the country only had a limited menu of one-day races.
Wenz also played an instrumental role in planning the 1978 World Cycling Championships for juniors–marking the first time in 66 years since the world championships last came to the United States. The 1978 junior worlds generated international attention in Allentown, Penn., where the track championships were held on the Trexlertown Velodrome, and in Washington, D.C., where the road races were held in Rock Creek Park.
From 1975 to 1979 Wenz served as president of the U.S. Cycling Federation, and afterward directed and chaired various USCF committees. Wenz served as chairman of the 1986 world cycling championships in Colorado Springs, the first full worlds program in the United States since 1912 and perhaps his most important contribution.