It takes a lot of hard work and volunteers to make a bicycle tour happen. The group at BikeWisconsin has built a successful model of attracting volunteers to help out with many of the tasks that make the tour a success. Since the tour only has a couple full time employees; over 40 volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks such as rider services, registration, site coordination, and SAG crew. While I like to ride on the tour, I also volunteer one day of my time to help on the SAG crew.
These volunteers do it for a variety of reason, some want to give back to the cycling community, some take advantage of the reduced registration fee that a volunteer receives, and some do it to be a part of the tour while their significant other rides. Whatever reason they choose, all the volunteers do it because it is loads of fun.
My nonriding day was Sunday. While everyone else hit the road and biked from Columbus to Waupun, I sat in a stuffy communications bus and helped coordinate the operation of the SAG teams. SAG stands for Support Aid Group and they are the people responsible for keeping everyone safe and hydrated on the route. SAGS run the water stops, help people with equipment issues and transport bikers that can’t ride for mechanical or physical reasons.
The SAG teams day starts a 6:30 with a morning briefing. Once we receive our assignment, the teams hit the road so that the water stops are open by 8:00am. Communciation with the team is established via cell phones and amateur radio. Issues can be quickly called in and a mobile SAG unit can be dispatched if help is necessary along the route. My job on Sunday was to relay information from all the SAG teams to the tour director and back again.
Sunday was a hot and sunny day, but many of the riders took off early to beat the heat. Fortunately we had very few trouble calls and only needed to transport a 3 riders. For a tour with 500 bikers on it, this is a very low number. All the SAG stops closed down by 4:00 as the last riders left the course and our day ended with a SAG debriefing at 6:30pm.
Monday I will be back on the bike and enjoy the rest of the tour as a rider.