A Boreal Exclusive: Catching up with Cook County's Will Surbaugh on his latest biking adventuresMar 25, 2022 07:29AM ● By Editor
Exclusive to Boreal Community Media • March 25, 2022
Graeme Obree once said, “My biggest fear is not crashing on a bike. It’s sitting in a chair when I am 90 and saying ‘I wish I had done more.'" There is a young man from Cook County named Will Surbaugh who is proof that living life to the fullest and of what following your dreams is all about.
After graduating from Cook County High School in Grand Marais in 2019, Will took a year off to complete a 90 day National Outdoor Leadership School course which took place all over the western United States. Upon completion, he then worked as a guide in Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, the very same place where his parents, Steve and Kate, once worked as guides. From there, he enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he majored in Physiology.
Will’s college experience changed drastically with the COVID pandemic. He was only able to attend two classes in-person over several semesters and he found he was not enjoying college life, being stuck staring at a screen all day. He knew he wanted more out of life.
Biking has always been a strong part of the Surbaugh family. Will, at a young age, took off on biking. He excelled and did well riding. He recently decided he wanted to pursue a professional path in biking. According to Will, “I felt like I would always regret it unless I gave it a good try”.
Will stated that his parents were a bit skeptical at first but came around pretty quickly. They wanted him to finish his college education but were reassured when their son told them that he will go back and eventually obtain his degree. Will’s current plan is to take off at least the spring semester and possibly go back to school in the fall. He is currently working and training in Boulder, Colorado. He said that his long term goal is to make it as a professional racer and work in the off-season.
According to Surbaugh family friend and fellow Cook County biker, Mike Larson, biking has bitten hard in Cook County. With new local racing events like the Lutsen 99er, LeGrand du Nord and She Rides being held in Cook County combined with new trail development like High Climber and Jackpot in Lutsen and Tofte and trail improvements at Pincushion and Britton Peak, the biking culture has really taken shape over the last decade. Biking is like any sport; if you are going to go to the next level, it’s all encompassing.
Training is very disciplined and a whole different level of science that involves the complexities of bike mechanics and bike set-up, how you train, how you fuel yourself for long demanding events and measurable metrics in your performance are all part of professional racing.
Will's dad Steve said “the biking world is a very niche market - small, concentrated, and focused”. Will is now selecting racing events from March to October, both mountain bike and gravel races, throughout the United States. He has hired a professional coach to assist him with his training. Steve added, “We are happy he is following his dream at this time in his life.”
Will’s race outline started last week in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the Mid-South 100. He was the youngest rider in the top 35 at Midsouth. Top bikers showed up for it. Will’s race schedule is divided up to make sure that someone is at each of his events to support him. Will said that he will be participating in approximately 15-18 races until the end of October. Most are pretty long - he is focusing on 100 mile races, although a few of them are 60 to 150 miles. Will’s parents said, “We are excited to travel around the country this year to support him and see him race”.
According to Peter Spencer, Regional Event Manager for Lifetime Fitness and Lutsen 99er Race Director, to get Will noticed on the national racing circuit, it’s important to get his name out there for sponsors to notice him and to develop a brand for recognition on social media. To accomplish this, Molly Larson of Sweetwater Design (Grand Marais) has been hired to work on Will’s branding. Jaye White, Digital and Media Specialist for Cascade Vacation Rentals will be imprinting the brand on social media and pushing that out through several different social media platforms and content will be provided by Will when training and racing.
There are a lot of strategies and tactics in bike racing. It’s not always about being the fastest. As we can all learn from Will Surbaugh, it's about following your passion and dreams in this one life that we are given.