Ironman moves to Lake Elmo

The 47th annual Minnesota Ironman bike ride is now leaving Lakeville — headed for a new start in Lake Elmo on April 28.

One of Minnesota’s longest-running recreational traditions, the ride is the annual rite of spring for bicyclists in Minnesota and nearby states. It started in Minneapolis in the 1960s, at Wirth Park and Lake Calhoun, then moved to Buffalo and then to Lakeville.

This year, it’ll be moving to the Washington County Fair Grounds, according to ride director Jon Ridge. He works for Hosteling International in St. Paul, the beneficiary of the ride.

“The towns we’re looking at with doing routes will be Scandia, Stillwater, Afton, Marine on St. Croix, Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights, places like that,” says Ridge. “We’ll put together short routes for beginners and family members and inexperienced riders, and we’ll put together our great century ride for those who really like to put in 100 miles and see how they can do.”

Ridge said the ride organizers felt it was time for a change, and boy, they got one. Washington County has some great riding — road engineers are known for their generous shoulders out there — but it’s also some of the hilliest territory in the state.

Ridge conceded it’ll probably require more climbing than any other previous locations for the Ironman ride. “I wouldn’t be surprised it will,” he said. But with occasional snow flurries and howling gales raking the riders in past years, the elevation changes never seem to pose the biggest challenge to finishing the routes.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been noted as one of the best organized rides in Minnesota, with the lousiest weather,” Ridge said. “For the last four years, mother nature has not been kind to us, and we’ve had some really foul weather. Mother nature has not been kind to us. But that’s why we call it the Ironman.”

Here’s a look at last year’s ride:

About 40 seconds in, and again around 2:45, MPR News Director Mike Edgerly extols the virtues of the ride.

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