COLUMBIA — The Columbia Bicycle Club’s annual Froze Toes Bicycle Race may be a fun event to some, but to Jan Bradford-Watts and Nolan Froese it is the start to a year of bicycle races.
The announcement that the race is occurring again this year in Columbia is good news to 18-year-old Bradford-Watts.
“This race is good because we get to see everyone for the first time of the year,” Bradford-Watts said.
Bradford-Watts has raced for five years and has participated the Froze Toes four times.
“The Froze Toes was the first race I ever did,” Bradford-Watts said. “Its nice because it’s a local race, you don’t have to travel to St. Louis or Kansas City.”
Nolan Froese, 19, is also relatively new to bicycle racing. He has competed in the sport for four years, and this is Froese’s third time in the Froze Toes.
Bradford-Watts and Froese have known each other since they were 3, grew to be best friends by third grade and attended Rock Bridge High School together.
“I played soccer my freshman year in high school,” Bradford-Watts said. “I didn’t have a car and I didn’t want to walk five miles to practice, so I got into cycling instead."
When Bradford-Watts became interested in bicycle racing, he contacted Nolan’s dad, Ethan Froese. He had raced for 26 years and was preparing to quit the sport because it took a lot of time away from his family, but he gladly decided to help them.
“Jan was the one who talked Nolan into it,” Ethan Froese said. “They asked me to teach them how to race bikes.”
Ethan Froese said he would buy each of them a bike, but they had to stay with cycling for at least a year. With their new bikes, Bradford-Watts and Froese were ready to train. Now four years later, the friends have formed an inseparable bond.
“Oh man it was fun,” Froese said. “I remember riding on the Katy trail
at night. Everything we did, we never thought we would get to where we
Ethan Froese said, “I’m really proud of what they have accomplished.”
The 2009 Froze Toes takes place Feb. 22 with a possible snow date of March 1. As always, the weather is a big part of the race.
“Sometimes its windy, but the snow is the worst,” Bradford-Watts said.
Froese claims the wind is worse. Crosswinds and tailwinds affect the way the racer performs.
The course is a flat 31-mile loop, however, Froese won't stop at 31 miles. He will race in the Pro 1-2’s category, which is a 62-mile race.
“Its harder than people might think,” Froese said.
Bradford-Watts said Froese has talent and ability. Nolan Froese has participated in more than 100 races since his debut in 2005. Of those races he has won 18, placed second in 11, and third in six races.
He is really strong, he wins a lot," Bradford-Watts said. "He is definitely good motivation for me.”
Bradford-Watts frequently travels to bicycle races and has gone as far as Los Angeles. Most weekends he races in the Midwest. As a Columbia native, Bradford-Watts’s favorite race is the state road race in Rolla.
Both Froese and Bradford Watts are members of the Mercy Cycling Team.
The best part of the race for these young men?
“I think the best part of racing is getting to the end after 30 miles and sprinting towards the finish line,” said Bradford-Watts, who didn't get that thrill in last year's event. “Last year, I got two miles from the finish line and got a flat tire.”
Froese claims that training is the best part. “It pays off, that feeling of making your sponsors happy.”