By Nat Wexler | Photo courtesy of Ezra Ward-Packard
Lake Geneva native Ezra Ward-Packard is an accomplished, competitive, ultra-endurance cyclist who has traveled the world both competing in races and raising funds for a cause that is close to his heart: diabetes care. A Type 1 diabetic himself, Ward-Packard has spent the past 12 years leading cross-country bicycle tours and youth community service rides, and cycling in races like the 530- mile North to South Colorado Bikepacking Race, in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota’s Carleton College. Last summer, Ward-Packard and Dr. Christopher Schmidt, a doctor at Elkhorn’s Open Arms Free Clinic, attempted the 2022 Tour Divide race, a 2,745-mile route from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, using the opportunity to raise funds for diabetic care at the clinic. We caught up with Ward- Packard as he set out for that race.
What inspired you to start cycling?
Throughout the three years I ran [track at Woods School], I was always getting injured and could never do as much training as I wanted. Cycling came into the picture because it was a way for me to cross-train. I wasn’t even immediately hooked on it. But before I knew it, I was not running as much because I was riding.
What are some of the most significant challenges you have faced in your cycling career?
In a way, I rarely think of them as being challenges. I am a Type 1 diabetic, which has always been a challenge in terms of being an athlete because it adds another layer of attention and care that I have to give to everything I do. As a type 1 diabetic, I have to monitor everything I eat and the insulin I am taking. During races, I have to maintain my blood sugars while also constantly fueling, which can be difficult.
What’s been your proudest accomplishment so far in your racing career?
My proudest accomplishment has been my longevity in cycling. Twelve years later, I’m still absolutely in love with the sport and looking for new ways to push myself. Doing the Tour Divide this year is definitely going to be the hardest and most challenging thing I have done since the race has taken the most direct preparation. I love preparing for races and racing, so I am not planning on stopping anytime soon.
Do you have any advice for others facing challenges?
My advice for most things is to break it down to the simplest form you can and just get started. I feel that often people have challenges that seem so overwhelming that they end up not acting on facing those challenges. It doesn’t have to be this overly complicated and convoluted plan. It just has to be little actions, and over time those little actions will build themselves into something really cool.
What is your favorite place to bike in Walworth County?
My favorite place has to be riding around Lake Geneva and doing the lake lap. From my house, it’s a 22-mile loop around Lake Geneva. I have done that loop hundreds of times. There’s something special about it since it was one of the first rides I ever did.