Wheeling Wheelmen

Story by Joe Beemster, introduction by Brett Ratner

When you think of hotbeds of bicycle racing, cities in Belgium, France, Spain and even California usually come to mind.

That said, Chicago has a rich, world-class cycling heritage of its own...particularly in terms of track racing. Chicago is also home to its share of world class racers, and even the occasional world champion. Marianne Kron is one of those people.

In 2000, Marianne won first place in the 60+ age category in the Masters World Championship Road Race, held in St. Johann Austria. This was only one of her many wins.

In addition to collecting her share of trophies, Kron has done much to inspire some seriously talented Chicago-area women to throw a leg over the saddle and bump elbows with the best in the country.

One such person is local legend Francine Haas, who races road and track for the Alberto’s Cycling Team, and has taught countless young riders at her racing clinics.

“I once gave Marianne a ‘Paving the Way’ award at a women's dinner,” Haas said. “As a cyclist, she has paved the way for other women to compete. She's earned many accolades in cycling, but she also encourages younger women to get out there and compete and to follow in her footsteps, and beyond! There are no excuses with Marianne and that's the way it should be.”

Kron stopped competing in USAC racing events in 2007. She went out with a bang, however, winning her age class in the criterium at the Proctor Cycling Classic. But she still stays active in cycling, logging more than 1,500 bike miles per year. Her children and grandchildren have also found success in bicycle racing.

As a member of the Wheeling Wheelmen, she’s also an inspiration to club president Joe Beemster. Joe was thrilled to share his thoughts on this great member of the local cycling community. Beemster said Kron was hesitant at first about being featured (she’s an extremely modest person), but he was persistent, and now we can share her story with you.

Writer’s Note: I had the privilege of interviewing Marianne for this article. She is an amazing and dedicated cyclist who has continued to pursue excellence in bike racing - Joe Beemster, President of the Wheeling Wheelmen

Marianne was born in Nuremberg, Germany and got her first bike when she was ten years old. Without an automobile in her family, she rode her bike to and from her job including an extra trip each day to go home for lunch. She didn’t pursue bike racing as a teen but was very active in her Gymnastic Club.

She emigrated to the U.S.A. when she was 18 and married Willi Kron, a German Bike racing Champion, who moved to the U.S. earlier. They resided in the Roseland Neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago.

As active members of the South Chicago Wheelmen, Marianne and Willi trained and raced together. As many of you may recall, Chicago sponsored the Pan American Games in 1959. The City constructed a 1500 Meter Velodrome at Gately Stadium on the south side and held the road races on Lake Shore Drive. The South Chicago Wheelmen trained to represent the USA in the events. Marianne and Willi trained hard but unfortunately missed the qualification and didn’t make the U.S. team. They continued to race, however, in Kenosha, Milwaukee and in the Chicagoland area. They placed well in these events, winning several State championships.

Marianne retired to raise their two sons, Peter and Robert, who began racing at 8 and 10 years old. Both boys participated in the U.S. Junior Cycling teams (16-18 years old) and attended the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs. Peter would go on to win both Illinois State and National titles in his age bracket both in Road and Track events. Robert made the Junior World Team and raced in Italy at the Junior World championships representing the United States and also won other State Junior Championships.

Returning to racing, Marianne entered various rides in the 40+ Masters series in the mid 1990’s. She really took off in winning:

  • Illinois State Championships
  • First place World Senior Games at the Huntsman races in St. George Utah
  • First place in the Austrian World Masters Championships in 2000
  • Second place World Masters Track Championship in Manchester England
  • First place in the Louisville KY and Ft. Smith AR national races

She still competes in the two person time trial with the Midwest Masters Bicycle Club. Marianne and her partner, Nancy Beck, participate in this event each July. Nancy’s husband Bob also races and has won in his category. She also trained with Wolfgang Freitag, another former Masters Champion and Coach. Marianne continues to be an active member of the Wheeling Wheelmen.

This is only part of the reason why Marianne is so revered in the bike racing circuit. She is a great inspiration and continues to help others in improving their cycling performance.