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December 10, 2019

8/6/2010 10:18:00 AM
Fifth Dairyland Dare cycling challenge will showcase county
Jean Berns Jones

On August 14th, nearly 1,500 bicyclists will climb the hills of Iowa County in the quest to cover between 50 and 300 kilometers before the sun goes down.

The hills in the area are not huge, but by the end of the day some riders will have climbed over 20,000 feet - the equivalent of Mt. McKinley.

They will be taking part in the 5th annual Dairyland Dare, a cycling challenge set in the sharp, steep hills of unglaciated southwest Wisconsin.

The course has been redesigned this year to include rides of 50k, 100k, 150k, 200k, 250k and 300k. Each begins and ends at Harris Park in Dodgeville.

The new route takes cyclists up High Street in Mineral Point, through Dodgeville on Iowa Street, and through Governor Dodge State Park. Riders who go on training rides have commented on the beautiful, picturesque surroundings.

"We're trying to highlight local areas so people will want to come back," explained Michelle Godez Schilling, a founder of the event. "We're excited about this year's route because we think it's going to be a great showcase for the whole county."

In planning the course five years ago, she and co-founder, Stewart Schilling, made it as tough as possible. Then they dared the riders to tackle it.

"We made the hilliest route we could," Stewart explained. "We went out and hand picked as many difficult hills as possible. If you look at the route profile, there's basically nothing that is flat, it's all up and down."

"We're trying to make it better and better every year," Michelle said. "Even on the 50k, riders are sent on the hilliest roads possible. If anything, it is even more difficult than in the past."

She and Stewart, who have become husband wife since the ride began, took on the huge undertaking of starting and running the Dairyland Dare in 2006

"When we jumped into doing this we had no idea the tremendous amount of work it would take," Michelle admitted. "Coming into our fifth year, it still has potential to grow even more, but we're so happy we did it and we have no regrets."

Athletes readily responded to the Dairyland Dare by coming from far and wide. The first year there were 500 riders. The following years the participants numbered 750, 900, and 1000. More than 1,400 are expected this year.

Actress Betty White whose late husband, Alan Ludden, was a Mineral Point native, is endorsing the event.

"I dare you to find a more beautiful, more challenging ride anywhere," she said in a press release. "The Dairyland Dare is the best ride on the planet. I've been training for the 300k all winter, but darn it all, I have to work that day."

The volunteers who staff the event receive donations from the ride proceeds for their clubs, organizations and charities, in exchange for their time. Over 300 volunteers take part, and 95% are from Iowa County.

The ride has raised an average of $15,000 each year. Last year, funds were given to the Dodgeville Area Ambulance Service, Community Connections Free Clinic, Iowa County Humane Society, Iowa-Grant Basketball, Cobb Lioness, Dodgeville Parks, Highland Lions Club, and many other recipients.

Funds given to the community come from riders' entry fees. In this way, funds are coming from outside rather than having one segment of the community being asked to support another.

"The person you see on the bike is donating to Iowa County," Michelle said. About 98%, of the riders come from outside the county. Their presence boosts area hotels, which are booked up during the ride, and other businesses where the cyclists spend money.

Also at the event, Dream Bikes, an organization that provides bicycles and work experience to youth in underserved neighborhoods, will have a tent to receive donations of new and used bicycles and parts.

The Dairyland Dare course is known not only for its beautiful scenery, but also for its killer hills such as the ones on Shop Hill Road and Sand Hill Road. Another tough hill on Roberts Road has a grade of 22%, which is certain to hurt cyclists' legs.

Michelle was asked what appeals to her about riding up hills that she describes as "long, continuous and unrelenting."

"It's about overcoming your limits, both physical and mental," she said. "To overcome your limits is such a reward. And I think it actually bleeds into other areas of your life with more confidence to take on other challenges that improve the life you lead."

"Personally as an event organizer, it's exciting to see people meet their personal challenges and come back saying, `I had a great experience, the ride was well run, the volunteers were amazing, and the course was gorgeous.' It's very rewarding to see the looks on their faces when they're done."

The Dairyland Dare was not intended to be a race. The founders feel that just finishing the course is challenge enough.

"But if someone wants to make it their challenge to complete it faster," Stewart said, "that's okay, too."

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