RAGBRAI news team
Tue, Jul 24, 2012 | by Regina ZilbermintsShare
LEHIGH – It was the hill that separated Iowans from non-Iowans – in talk at least.
“It just might qualify as a hill,” said a woman from Kentucky walking past.
“Nice starter. A good warmer-upper,” said a man from Colorado.
But neither of them tried the School Hill Challenge to see if they could make it up the .2 mile, 20-26 percent grade hill faster than the three-minute record a Des Moines Register staffer had set this summer.
It was an Iowan’s effort that seemed to impress people Tuesday morning.
“I did it in ’95, but I don’t know if I could do it now,” said Jeff Shaver, 40, Prairie City.
Shaver tried it though, the only self-supporting rider to have done it by noon. He slowly zig-zagged his way up, making it to the top in 4:03 without stopping.
Joe Tuel, helping run the challenge at the bottom of the hill, gave him a prize anyway.
Nathan Bigelow was the first rider to officially pay the $5 fee to time himself. He had to pause half-way up, but still made it in 2:45.
“Think you can do it?” Tuel asked as Bigelow, 19, Rochester, Minn., biked up.
“I sure hope so,” he replied.
Bigelow is on his seventh RAGBRAI, but the hill still posed a challenge.
“It went well,” he said. “It’s steeper than it looks when you get up there.”
Travis Roxalu held the record by noon. He had made it in 1:50.
Roxalu, 42, acknowledged the hill was steep, but “I’m from Virginia. We have lots of hills.”
The event was set up by the town’s Betterment Committee with proceeds helping put basketball hoops in a park.
By noon, the pace of people trying to conquer the hill had picked up from the morning’s trickle.
RAGBRAI has had its share of challenging climbs. Twister Hill was mentioned often by riders looking up the slope.
But the grade of this one stood out.
“You know, I remember this town,” said Shaver, of his 1995 ride. “I think it’s because of this hill.”
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