At Least Not Like It Has the Past 4 Year
We always hoped that the Great 80 would be one of the best days you could have on your bike all year, and for most of those that joined us one of, or for all four years, it was that day. It was eighty back road miles in Northeast Indiana with your four closest riding friends. Some raced, some just rode, but one thing was for sure, everyone was challenged by the event. The event required team work, the ability to climb as many hills as we could find, a little bit of gravel, and additional surprises along the way. The event closed with a post race event hosted by the wonderful Joseph Decuis staff followed the last three years. I'm not sure there is a better event venue in the area to host an event like this one. Overall, we believe it has been a fantastic event each year. Truly.
Ask anyone connected to the event that has followed up with us the past two years wondering whether there is going to be a next year, and you'll know that great energy has been spent evaluating whether the event was successful in the right ways. We've added cyclists to our team, met really great people that donate or volunteer with us now, and have had fun each year. The event did make money for NeighborLink projects, but not enough that it would keep us from wondering if organizing the event is worth the effort versus another type of cycling event. The Great 80 took a lot of work to pull off even though we kept it as simple and grassroots as possible. And, after four years of trying the best we could, we thought we should have more than 70 riders.
We realized that the Great 80 sits between two styles of cycling events. It's not a true touring event where there are multiple distances, a mass start, well-stocked SAG stops, course marshalls, or a sweep vehicle to pick up struggling riders. It's also not a race with points, cash prizes, nor the structure to run such event the way it would need to be. It had elements to attract both the touring rider wanting a challenging ride, and the competition and course features to attract the racer. However, the things that attract one group pushes the other away and vice versa, which we believe prevents the momentum required to get the "social influence" push that we see in other more successful events.
We considered event format changes that would work to boost our numbers like creating a 40-mile route, but we realized that we just don't have the capacity at this time to increase the amount of time invested in ensuring the event can support the changes needed. Team NeighborLink is still a small part of our day-to-day work, and we have to watch how much time we spend making the event happen. We've tried to get a committee to help us run the event, but weren't successful in getting folks to help in that way either.
With a bit of deflation, the Great 80 ends, but ends on an extremely happy note because the Great 80 was successful on far more levels than it wasn't. TNL invested the time, energy, and resources into doing what at the time few were doing. Creating meaningful and innovative events for the local cycling community with the focus on creating community and supporting a great cause rather than just riding our bikes or making money. We've seen new events pop up in the past couple of years and we hope that the Great 80 was inspiration for those. The reality is, we need even MORE events being organized to help build the culture of using cycling to connect folks and raise dollars for some worthy causes.
Thank you to Joe Bartels who has been the event's number 1 fan outside of TNL since day one, and Human Motor Works who have been champions of the event the past two years by encouraging folks to come out. Thank you to the NL staff, volunteers, and interns that invested lots of hours making each event happen. Joseph Decuis provides a brilliant location and were extremely generous to NL every year. We just want to come hang out on the farm! Thank you to all the riders that have ridden, learned more about NL, and even chose to buy a cycling kit or volunteer on a project. TNL has grown significantly because of your support.
We're Not Done Doing Cycling Events
Just because the Great 80 ends, doesn't mean we don't have a new event in mind and are planning in the late summer/early fall of 2017. In the spirit of why we created the Great 80 in the first place, expect a long distance event that will have many of you say, "yeah, right." We're working on the details of the event now, but hope to launch the event specifics by April. Until then, keep your early September weekends open for a little while longer and start logging some long miles.