MADISON — Hundreds of bicyclists passed through here Friday morning on their way to Clarkson from Neligh.
They were on the second-to-last leg of their weeklong journey in the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) — an annual event that provides scholarships to Nebraska high school graduates to trade schools, colleges and universities.
The 39-year-old ride is limited to 600 bicyclists and has visited all 93 counties at one point during its history.
According to bran-inc.org, BRAN typically has participants from 25 to 35 states and 50 to 70 Nebraska towns and villages. Over the years, participants from 10 countries have ridden in the event.
This year, the BRAN route began at Chadron on Sunday and will end Saturday in Fremont.
Joel Holtz, a 71-year-old avid bicyclist for the past 40 years, stopped for a quick breather in Madison on Friday.
He said this was the first time he had participated in BRAN, after hearing about it from a couple of friends who grew up in the Chadron area and were taking part themselves.
Holtz, of Denver, said he generally does a self-supported cross-country touring ride by himself this time of year.
“I find it’s safer (riding alone). A lot of people like to ride double and chat. But I haven’t had an accident in 40 years, and I think that’s why — I stay focused on the road,” Holtz said.
However, Holtz said he had enjoyed the BRAN event so far and may ride it again.
His most enjoyable experience on the trip so far had nothing to do with bikes, though.
“I stopped at a friend’s stepfather’s house in Clinton. He collects antique tractors. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, and I haven’t driven a tractor in 50 years, but I got to drive one there,” Holtz said.
The fact that there were only a few hundred bicyclists makes the ride more enjoyable as well, he said, since it is easier to ride on the roads.
Holtz said the BRAN organizers do a good job of setting up stops for the riders and providing water and bananas about every 10 miles, he said.
“Out west, the joints in the highway were challenging. Some of them were pretty bad, and that makes riding more difficult. But today, we have a lot of hills, and I like hills. So it’s a good day for me,” Holtz said.