Saturday, January 14, 2017

Glacier Hills County Park

The pine plantation is one of the only flat spots on these trails.

Today I went for a solo hike at Glacier Hills County Park in southern Washington County. I spent most of my time on the black loop—at roughly 2.5 miles, it’s the park’s longest trail. In Tuesday’s blog post I mentioned that Glacier Hills has some potential as a mountain biking venue, and I was thinking of the black loop in particular. Due to extremely icy conditions, today I saw the trail at a very slow pace. I came away with the impression that it’s a place where, in spring and summer, I would enjoy riding my mountain bike ... if that were permitted.

But would enough people enjoy it? Existing trails at Glacier Hills are wide, straight and not in the least technical. Their outstanding feature is their elevation change: a succession of long climbs and descents with very little flat ground. Riding there would be a real aerobic challenge, but it would not be a bike handling challenge. Without singletrack, the appeal of Glacier Hills might be too limited. The park covers 140 acres, so there’s plenty of space for new trails. And it could work just like New Fane: separate trail systems for hikers and mountain bikers, minimizing potential conflicts. But to make the park a true mountain biking destination would require hundreds of volunteer hours. Washington County is looking to save money on parks, not to take on new development.

Glacier Hills really is the only county park property suitable for mountain biking, and adding to the argument is the fact that the growing Richfield/Hubertus area isn’t close to any existing mountain bike trails. If you live in that area, then where do you go to ride? Our regional IMBA chapter looked at a different property not far from there, but no development resulted. Now that the Pleasant Valley and Port Washington trails are done in Ozaukee County, would the IMBA guys take on a new project at Glacier Hills? The first step is to remove Washington County’s exclusion of bikes from its park trails, something we can request at these public input sessions:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Meet And Dull

And this, people, is why we all have to respect the conference room sign-up sheet!

These early days of 2017 have been filled with thoughts of cycling and plans for the future, as our weather has allowed for little else. I did a 25-mile road ride on New Year’s Day, but those are my only miles this year. During the last week we had weather that wasn’t good for anything: very cold and free of any new snow. The cold temperatures kept me off the road. The sparse covering of poor quality snow was unsuitable for the cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fatbike enthusiasts. As far as I can tell, nobody was happy. We got a little fresh snow last night, but today we soared above the freezing mark for the first time since January 3, eventually hitting a high of 45°, which is 19° above normal. That would have been bad news for snow conditions even without the all-day rain that rode in on the warmer air. But snow conditions don’t trouble me much; I just want access to the roads. Without it, I have too much time on my hands. Talking about cycling goes only so far.

Last Friday I had a meeting with representatives from Bike Friendly West Bend and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust on a topic in which I have a lot of personal interest: how to connect the Eisenbahn State Trail to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. There’s no clear winner; every potential corridor has major drawbacks. I think the most attractive option would be a Milwaukee River Trail linking West Bend to Newburg. That would take us to the Ozaukee County line, but from there it’s uncertain how we could get to the Interurban. For a rider like me, it’s easy enough to do on the road, but the goal is to create an off-road route as part of the Route Of The Badger initiative.

Today I attended the January meeting of Bike Friendly West Bend, the big news from which is that a master bike and pedestrian plan is now ready for the consideration of the city council. BFWB will present the plan at City Hall on Monday, January 23. On that same evening, Washington County’s Planning & Parks Department will hold a public input meeting at City Hall as it looks for ways to cut costs and generate revenue. I will be there to advocate greater access for bikes. I don’t know that there’s a lot to be gained by opening county park trails to bikes, but at least it’s an idea. The county seems determined to institute a user fee and that will be a hard sell if new amenities don’t accompany it. Glacier Hills County Park—don’t confuse it with West Bend’s Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area—has some potential as a mountain biking venue. Whether you would pay to ride there is another matter. The county will hold a second public input meeting on Tuesday, January 24, in Germantown.

But like I said before, talking about cycling goes only so far. Next week might bring a few dry days in the mid-30s. That would get me out on the bike again and I badly need it. Yes, I rode on New Year’s Day and those 25 miles weren’t a strain on my endurance, but I wasn’t sharp. The bike still had 20 speeds but my legs had only 1. Since the end of November I have lost a lot of cycling-specific fitness and gained a lot of weight. Strength workouts in the home gym are going well, but I haven’t committed to the turbo trainer yet. With my mountain bike racing season now less than 17 weeks away, I can’t wait too much longer to return to form.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Statistical Review

I put up such big numbers in 2015 that I never thought to challenge them this year. I didn’t expect to get close to 215 rides and 6,236 miles, both personal records. In fact, I didn’t even set a mileage goal for 2016. Nevertheless, 2016 proved to be another high-volume season. I rode on 185 occasions—not 186, as shown above … Garmin broke one of my rides into two pieces—and I amassed 5,620 miles. The 185 rides are 3rd most all-time and the 5,620 miles are 2nd only to last year’s total. Here’s the breakdown, month-by-month:

050 January
205 February (PR)
365 March
426 April
654 May
725 June
796 July
717 August
594 September
620 October (PR)
409 November (PR)
059 December

I competed in 10 WCA cyclocross races and 3 mountain bike races (2 WEMS, 1 WORS), exactly the same totals as last season. I also competed in Race The Lake, Wisconsin’s biggest road race. Again this year there were no centuries for me—at 89 miles, including a little warm-up and cool-down, Race The Lake was my longest day in the saddle. My last century was on August 2, 2014.

I have set a mileage goal for 2017, one that is much lower than you might expect: 3,398. That will take me to 60,000 career miles. Of course, I probably will exceed that goal. This was my 8th consecutive season above the 4,000-mile threshold, after all. But in 2017 my primary focus will be mountain bike racing, training for which will mean long hours at much lower speeds than I would experience on the road. The 2017 WEMS and WORS calendars line up nicely for me, and the racing season begins just 18 weeks from today!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cursed Periode

Everything was fine until the ice pellets started to cut into my eyeballs.

In Belgium, this is a busy time of year for pro cyclocross. There was a big race today. There’s another one on Monday, and another one next Thursday, and next Friday, and one on New Year’s Day …

It’s kerstperiode, which translates pretty well as “Christmastime.” Family and community activities abound; cyclocross is only a fraction of the fun. And the weather isn’t bad: it’s going to be in the mid-50s there on Christmas Day.

In West Bend the situation is rather different. Our last 50° day was November 29. That also was our last 40° day, which just goes to show how quickly things can deteriorate here. Winter officially arrived on Wednesday and must have liked what it saw, as Autumn had left behind a foot of snow and a streak of sub-32° days that stretched back more than 2 weeks.

I had not ridden my bike since November 29, but I rode today. We hit 36° this afternoon and the wind wasn’t bad. I took my 29er out for a 90-minute reconnaissance loop of the city. I found exactly what I expected: the Eisenbahn State Trail is open from Rusco Drive to Barton Avenue, and Regner is open for Enchantment In The Park, but most other park paths are snow-covered. Oh, well. It was nice just to get outside. Time will tell whether today’s ride was my last ride of 2016. Fresh snow is falling now, and despite the promise of 40° next Monday, the 10-day temperature trend is down.

I still hate winter, but I’m trying to make the best of it.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Shoveler’s Blues

It’s a losing proposition. But one you can’t refuse?

Today, finally, is the end of the 2016 cyclocross season in Wisconsin. The USA Cycling Midwest Cyclocross Championships took place in Sun Prairie on a course that literally had to be forced open with snowblowers. Racers competed—or, in some cases, just rode around the course uncontested—in single-digit wind chill. There was supposed to be another race on the same course tomorrow, but the organizers have canceled it in anticipation of wind chill that could reach 30° below zero. The Wisconsin Cycling Association has canceled tonight’s season-end party due to the snow that is expected to continue into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Only 28 racers were preregistered for tomorrow, spread across 8 different groups classified by gender, ability and age. The competition would have been a farce, just as it was in many categories today. How legitimate is a race when you’re the only one in it, or when merely crossing the finish line guarantees a spot on the podium? Those situations occurred in 11 of today’s 20 races. Preregistration for today was fairly robust, but many racers ultimately decided to forfeit their entry fees rather than to brave the elements.

Meanwhile in Antwerp, Belgium, the world’s top professional cyclocross racers enjoyed a dry, 46° Saturday. At this time of year, that’s a normal day there. But in Sun Prairie, the high temperature of an average December 17 is just 30° before you calculate the wind chill. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? I’m torn between respect for the organizers who work very hard to make these races viable, and a desire to see such events fail so that we can return to a schedule whose end date recognizes the harsh reality of Wisconsin weather.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Presenting The 2017 Cheesehead Roubaix

You don’t have to be as badass as Nicki Lock and Jessica Helmlinger to enjoy the ride, but …
The 8th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix will begin at Newburg Fireman’s Park on Sunday, April 30, at 9 a.m.  Inspired by Spring Classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Cheesehead Roubaix is a 63-mile ride that features almost 10 miles of dirt and gravel. The ride will test your fitness with rough road conditions and about 2,000 feet of climbing.

Cheesehead Roubaix is free of charge, but please consider making a voluntary contribution to the Newburg Fire Department to show your appreciation for the use of its facility. There will be a donations jar at the concessions stand before and after the ride. Last year we collected $1,542 and the department made an additional $472.75 in food & drink sales after the ride. Thanks for your generosity!

There will be a free, mid-ride rest stop courtesy of our friends from BELGIANWERKX. Please let us know you plan to attend so that we can ensure there’s enough food & drink at the rest stop. Join the fun at the Facebook event page, send me email or leave a comment below.

Moroder Photography will be on hand again to preserve your Cheesehead Roubaix memories. Check out these awesome images from last year!

Cheesehead Roubaix is designed for self-sufficient cyclists. The rest stop will be your only support. The ride uses only open public roads and park paths. You are responsible for your own safety and conduct, and you are expressly not exempt from Wisconsin traffic laws. Represent the sport well. Please visit the Cheesehead Roubaix website and print out your own copy of the cuesheet and map. The website also offers a data file for Garmin GPS devices.

See you on April 30!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ToAD To Return To West Bend In 2017

There’s nothing yet at the website of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, or at its Facebook page, or at its Twitter page, but apparently ToAD will return to West Bend in 2017 after a successful inaugural race this year. The good news comes from the Downtown West Bend Association, which says the West Bend race will be on Monday, June 19. That little bit of information gives us the rest of the dates: June 15-25.

I’m not a criterium racer, but I know some guys who are already training for ToAD 2017!