Rub elbows . . . and cereal boxes, with professional racers: Bike Festival seeks host families

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Organizers of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival are seeking host families who will share their homes with professional cyclists competing in the prestigious Nature Valley Grand Prix, which runs from June 13 to 17. The Uptown Criterium is Friday, June 15, 4:30 pm to 9 pm.

Several families are needed to accommodate this year’s crop of 300 racers who will compete in the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Now in its 14th year, the race has grown to be one of the country’s top rated pro cycling stage races and will take place in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Stillwater, plus Menomonie, Wisconson and for five days this summer.

Many families find hosting an extremely rewarding experience and look forward to welcoming a team of cyclists each year. Susan and Jay Kakuk of Plymouth are such a couple. They have gone above and beyond normal hosting duties, actually housing an entire team of 12 two years ago. Susan also cooked for the team during their stay, but this is not expected, and by no means required.

“Cooking is my passion, and I enjoy the challenge of preparing nutritious meals on a budget,” Susan Kakuk said. Last year, the Kakuks opened up their cabin in Wisconsin to the Nature Valley Pro Chase and Collegiate All Stars teams who came in early to attend training camp in Menomonie. She plans to do the same this year, and has also recruited some neighbors on her block to share team hosting duties. “The best part of hosting these young athletes is hearing their stories,” she said. “Some are still in college, some have full time jobs, but they all juggle their schedules to make room for training and competing.” The Kakuks also enjoy cheering for the athletes they’ve hosted, as well as their friends on other teams. Some years, they’ve cheered for up to 30 racers during the course of the five-day race.

“The Kakuks do an amazing job, but we don’t expect most families to take on an entire team,” said David LaPorte, festival executive director. “If you have an extra bedroom or two, that’s great, but floor space and a couple of air mattresses will do just fine.”

Families are asked to host two or more team members from Tuesday June 12 through Sunday morning, June 17. Host families need only provide a place to sleep, a bathroom with shower, laundry facilities and space in the refrigerator for cyclists’ meals and snacks. Cyclists are responsible for their own food, cooking, laundry and transportation during the festival.

For more information on hosting a family visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com and follow the host housing link or contact housing coordinator Mike O’Day at 612.309.7192 or host@naturevalleybicyclefestival.com.