Ethan Froese crossed the finish line in Sunday’s Froze Toes cycling race with a simple fist pump, nearly a minute ahead of his closest competitor.
Froese’s victory is representative of a Columbia family synonymous with cycling in mid-Missouri.
Nolan Froese,, Ethan’s son, who also raced Sunday, is a member of the USA Cycling Junior National Team, and at 18, said though the family is full of cyclists, none of their attitudes stray far from what got them into the sport to begin with.
“We just ride, it’s fun,” Nolan Froese said. “It’s not something that if we lose, we’re going to get all sad about. It’s not about being the best out there, it’s really about having a good time. It’s a family tradition that’s really just about fun.”
For Nolan and Ethan Froese there’s been plenty of fun.
Nolan Froese, who began racing just two years ago, won nine races in 2007, as well as logging 15 top-five finishes.
Ethan Froese, a 46-year-old systems administrator at MU, finished in the top five in 15 races in 2007, including a win in the Boulevard Cup last October in Kansas City.
“I’ve been doing this race ever since it began,” Ethan Froese said. “I’ve really always wanted to win it, and never have been able to. I’ve finished second once, and a lot of fourths and fifths. So to win out here was just great.”
About 300 riders completed a 31-mile loop that began at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School off Route Z just east of Columbia. About 40 pro racers tackled the loop twice in a 62-mile race.
Nolan Froese was quick to compliment his dad’s performance, noting that it wasn’t his legs that won him the race.
“He’s a tactical genius,” Nolan Froese said. “He knows exactly what to do out there. He’s been doing this for 24 years, so I think he really deserved this one today. He might not have been the strongest guy out there, but he was definitely the smartest, and that’s what decides the race most often.”
Ethan and Nolan Froese are the only competitive racers in the family, but after every race, win or lose, the rest of the family isn’t far off. Aaro Froese, Ethan Froese’s brother, emceed the event, announcing racers’ names and numbers as they finished. He also provided interviews and commentary over the public address system throughout the day.
Despite temperatures hovering in the mid-30s, Aaro Froese, owner of Gotcha Costume Shop in Columbia, did it all in a leopard-skin bath robe.
Even Sarah Froese, Ethan and Aaro Froese’s sister, has raced. Laura Froese, Ethan Froese’s wife, also frequents the racing circuit, but spends most of her time off the road.
“For all the bike races in mid-Missouri since ’80s and ’90s, I don’t think I’ve ever been to one where she wasn’t volunteering with food or helping with registration or doing something along those lines,” Aaro Froese said.
Aaro Froese used to race competitively, but now splits his time between his family and the costume shop. He says his daughters might be racing before too long.
“My oldest is already the tallest in her class, so you better watch out for them, they might be winning some races before you know it,” Aaro Froese said.
Jim and Sally Froese, Ethan and Aaro Froese’s parents, are a big reason why cycling is so ingrained in the Froese blood. Jim was what Aaro called a “biking tourist” in the ’50s and ’60s, touring Kansas City on two wheels, something that was uncommon at the time.
“My dad used to hammer into us kids that bikes, although they can be used to race, should be enjoyed too,” Aaro Froese said. “It’s important to enjoy the scenery where you’re at, and not always just be race, race, race all the time.”
Ethan Froese is just the second Columbia resident to win the event, and Nolan Froese said the win speaks volumes for the Columbia cycling community.
“That’s not important for just our family, but the community in general,” Nolan Froese said. “It just shows how much Columbia cycling is improving.”
Froze Toes was the first USA Cycling-sanctioned race of 2008 in Missouri, and if Sunday’s finish was any indicator, it won’t be the last time a Froese will be the first name on a leaderboard.