Otto Wenz

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I’ve known Otto Wenz pretty much since I started racing bicycles.  I went to Superweek and broke my collarbone after just a few races.   I drove home, then back to the National Championships a few days later, which were at the Lakefront.  Otto promoted both events.  I remember him handing me an expense check, courtesy of the USCF, as I was the Kansas Intermediate State Champion and thus earned travel expenses to the race.

That was the very first time I met him.  Over the years I got to know him.  Otto is a doer.  He did so much for sport of cycling, it amazed me.  He promoted the entire Superweek stage race for year after year.  Sometimes it seems he pretty much sponsored it completely himself.  He served as president of the USCF (USAC) for a few years during the late 70’s and really contributed to the growth of the sport.

Otto helped bring the Junior World Championships to the US in 1978 and the World Road Championships to Colorado Springs in 1986.  He had the vision.  Deservingly, Otto is in the Bicycling Hall of Fame.

I started travelling  to bike out of state bike races at Otto’s events.  He helped me so much over the years.  When I was a junior, I was pretty much living hand to mouth.  Otto would let me race his events and if I won prize money, he would deduct the entry out of my prizes and then give me the rest.  I think he did this for a lot of guys.  There is no way that I would have been able to race these events without his generosity.

His races were the best competitions of the year.  Everyone, I mean everyone, that raced bicycles, at the time, raced events that Otto Wenz promoted.  Virtually the whole National and Olympic teams attended year after year.  He did it right and gave the United States a very good foothold for growth.

Otto has been ill recently.  He was in hospice and has son Michael was posting updates on Facebook. Late last night, Otto passed away.

We could use more Ottos, but there is and will only be one.  I personally wish him peace and want to thank him for his selfless contributions to his friends and to the sport of cycling. He will be missed by many.

Otto in his racing days.

Otto in his racing days.

Otto and Eddy.

Otto and Eddy.

I was fortunate to win a few stages of Superweek over my lifetime. I'm in yellow. Gag (Roberto) is being interviewed by Eddy. Otto obscured.

I was fortunate to win a few stages of Superweek over my lifetime. I’m in yellow. Gag (Roberto) is being interviewed by Eddy. Otto obscured on the left.

Otto, Trudi and Bromont at Cyclcross Nationals in Madison.

Otto, Trudi and Bromont at Cyclcross Nationals in Madison.


16 thoughts on “Otto Wenz

  1. The Singularity Group, a family company

    I owe my current status in life to Otto, not to mention lapping a Donne Ave field with R Young when Otto let me in the race after a bad crash days before and refunding me my entry money. My life status, while doing promotion work for ICC I met my wife, with whom we now have two children together. That I owe to Otto.

    I cooked dinner for him when the ICC folks left him behind. My then girlfriend, Liana, a non cyclist, was impressed with his grace, even with being addled with the stroke he had. The nights he spent at our home was too short and spent looking through TDF hardcovers.

    Godspeed Otto Wenz. You were one of a kind and in the same cycling ilk as Lemond, Hinault and Merckx.

  2. Ethan

    That’s too bad. Superweek used to be the only races in the USA you could do 100km crits in under 2 hours. Otto indeed did a lot for the sport – thanks for the tribute Steve!

  3. Orange Blur

    Growing up in Wisconsin, I got to race Superweek for years. To be part of it for so many years, was a gift. My best friends in life were made at Superweek. It was the closet thing to racing the Tour de France that Wisconsin kids in the 80’s had. It was dream like. The international guys turning up year after year made it a spectacle. The racing was crazy fast and hard. The road championships were amazing to watch and race in as well, shit they were just on the Eastside. Otto set up guys from all over the U.S. and World with us locals. George, Roberto, Robbie, the Polish National Team and more all flowed through my apartment on the Eastside. Otto made us Wisconsin racers, legit in every way. He taught us respect and generosity through racing. If you were on Otto’s shit list, you worked extra hard to get in his good graces. He was the king bike racing here in Wisconsin and his grace and mentoring will never be forgotten.

  4. JHP

    I read Steve’s blog every day and have done so for years but this is the first time I’ve ever posted. I owe so much to Otto that I’d like to offer up a short and rather incomplete appreciation. I first met Otto back at the old Summerfest Gran Prix back in 1972 (?). Little did I know that that was the beginning of a 40+ year relationship.

    I fell in love with cycling and hung around all the races I could attend until I thought that I’d give this sport a serious try. One of the guys I rode with knew Otto and invited me to one of their club rides. It was longer and harder than I’d ever encountered and it ended up with Otto and another guy physically pushing me home. I never forgot that act of kindness and the accompanying encouragement and I saw several other similar acts of caring and generosity from this guy.

    Eventually I graduated to racing (pack fodder only) and then to running and managing a team, promoting some races, doing race coverage for some periodicals and serving the state federation. After getting an official’s license I worked as an official at several Superweeks in the 80’s. I gained a deep appreciation for what was involved in organizing and running a series of this scope and remain amazed at what Otto accomplished over the years. After promoting several races myself I truly gained an appreciation for what Otto went through and did with Superweek. Despite all of the snarky comments about Superweek start times being on “Otto Standard Time”, single toe strap prize payouts for lower categories , etc. nobody ever missed participating in Superweek/ICC/whatever because everyone knew in their heart of hearts that this series was a proving ground for aspiring racers and if you made it at SW, you could be competitive anywhere in the US. The attraction of racing against Euro-pros back in the day was pretty darned amazing and as close as nearly all of us would get to seeing what it would be like to head over the pond (to get our butts handed to us). Otto made this all happen and everyone who raced in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and later owe him a huge debt of gratitude. The list of riders who passed through Superweek over the years is amazing, ranging from pack fodder like me to World Champions, Tour de France riders (and winners!), Eurodogs, multiple Olympians, and all the best the US and Canada could offer. Pretty much anyone who was anyone in North America did Superweek at some point. Thank you so darn much Otto!

    Through all of this and over the many years Otto always had a friendly greeting and some conversation for me, even after his stroke a couple of years back. I can still remember seeing him at the ToAD East Tosa race not that long ago and frequently seeing him at the local WCA races in the last couple of years and it was great to see him enjoying himself in spite of his physical limitations.

    If this post is a bit disjointed it is because I guess I am pretty emotional about the impact he had on me and the sport I love over these many years. Cycling has been a huge part of my life these past 40+ years and Otto was a huge part of that whole experience.

    Vaya con Dios, Otto.

  5. The Singularity Group, a family company

    They were scum. We let them stay at my wife’s condo. Somebody stole some expensive perfume from the bath. Idiots. Upside to that is that Otto stayed with us for a few nights. Oh, they also took a 1882 SW and Nationals program and never brought it back.

    Otto had a treasure trove of memorabilia from the years. I just hope his son Mike kept them out of it. It needs to be in the Bicycling Hall of Fame.


  6. Russell

    I’m not a cyclist, though I ride a bike nearly every day. I am moved by the beautiful tributes friends of Otto are writing. It reflects very well on the wonderful parts of the cycling culture that I am drawn to. Thank you for taking the time to share how one man can impact others so positively. May we all take time to tell the most important life stories, in cycling or not.

  7. Micky Road Racer

    My family has known Otto longer than I’ve been on this Earth. My Parents used to shop at the Sentry grocery store he managed/owned on Downer Ave. on the Upper Eastside of Micky. He made Milwaukee an interesting and unique city because of his contributions to cycling via Superweek… His presence in the local cycling scene and Greater Milwaukee Community has been sorely missed every summer for the last 15 years. He watched me climb the ranks of amateur racing and I’m glad he was able to watch me race one last time on Downer Ave in the Pro race last June.

  8. Bernie Flanders

    No doubt SuperW was a great contribution. But i also remember getting stiffed on prize money and entries when a local/regional series got cancelled…
    Ahh the memories…

  9. Chuck Westerholm

    I was struggling on a hilly super week stage, off the back on each lap. With one lap to go, they pulled along side me as I struggled to keep contact with the field. Otto asked me how I was doing, I said I was feeling strong, I’m from eastern North Dakota and we don’t have hills. He let me stay in the race. Later, on the down hill section coming to the finish, I managed to slide past the pack and took the lead up the very last climb to the fish line. Unfortunately, another rider had jumped on my wheel and beat me across the line. That second place was my best result at super week. I had many top 5 and top 10 finishes, but I nearly won that one after nearly being pulled. After that ride, Otto and several of the officials thanks me personally for my efforts that day. Otto, you are one of a kind and I’ll never forget the gift I was given that day.

  10. Wayne Hartlich

    Otto !!!!
    Always a smile, always a hello, always “how have you been”? I’d only see Otto once or twice a year at various events but he always thanked me for (the very little) I did for cycling. He was truly one of the people that I admired and will sorely miss.
    Good bye dear friend, and thanks for the memories of Super Week in Manitowoc.

  11. DynamicDinSD

    He was a huge and positive influence in my life and the lives of riders and racers in Milwaukee/Midwest. James Kleba (my partner since 1985) raced the “Super Week” series in Milwaukee and parts of Illinois. Otto helped influence the final race on a busy, hip street where he owned a grocery store. I loved that evening Criterium on Downer Avenue where I watched Eric Heiden race. That is where I learned to love Lycra and sculpted, shaved bike legs. Otto lived near me and I shopped in his store, Sentry. I believe he even worked the register and bagged my groceries on occasion. I am profoundly sad. “Another rider disappears over the horizon.” Don’t rest, keep riding in peace.


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