Monday, May 22, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017
Wisconsin weather strikes again!
I’m taking the Iola Bump & Jump off my schedule. Iola is going to get more than an inch of rain tomorrow and that will wipe out the pre-ride window, then on Sunday the skies will be overcast and the wind chill will be 48° for the Cat 2 (Sport) race at 11:30 a.m. With no opportunity to pre-ride an unfamiliar course, and faced with a cold mudfest, I’m staying home.
Skipping Iola has big implications for my WORS season. There are 11 scoring opportunities, the best 7 of which count in the series standings. I got series points back on May 6 at the Englewood Opener. Now I have just 9 more chances to score. Distant races like the Red Flint Firecracker in Eau Claire (June 25) and the Hixon Forest Epic in La Crosse (August 6) have always been nothing more than “maybes” on my calendar. The WORS Cup offers 2 scoring opportunities—cross country on Saturday, July 8, and short track or enduro on Sunday, July 9—but the unusual race schedule meshes badly with my work schedule. Without 7 results there is no prospect of a high finish in the series standings, and the most realistic path to that goal now looks like this:
06/04 - Battle Of CamRock
06/18 - Mt. Morris Challenge
07/08 - WORS Cup: XCO
07/09 - WORS Cup: STXC
07/23 - Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic
08/20 - Reforestation Ramble
Racing at Iola would be unpleasant enough for me under the conditions the weather forecast describes, but it also might compromise my WEMS ambitions. The Stump Farm 100 is coming up next Saturday and I don’t want to miss it because of illness, injury, or mechanical failure. WEMS also uses the “best 7” format to determine series champions and I won’t get to 7 results in that series, but at least I should get to the minimum of 4 results I need to be award-eligible. Stump Farm will be my second WEMS race this year—Alpine Valley was the first—and I already have registered for the 3 races at the end of the season:
09/09 - Northern Kettles Fall Epic
09/16 - 9 Hours Of Silver Lake
10/07 - GEARS Greenbush Grinder (WEMS Championship)
So, 2017 still looks like a very full year of mountain bike racing even without Iola and, perhaps, without some of the other WORS dates.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
|Climbing well despite too much belly fat! (Brittany Nigh photo)|
Last Saturday was peculiar. After working overnight, I crawled into a quiet corner of my office building and slept for a while. It didn’t make sense to drive back to West Bend from Brookfield, then hang out at home for a few hours, and then drive south again for the 9 Hours Of Alpine Valley WEMS race. Taking an hour of driving off my schedule made for an easier approach to a day that I knew would be challenging enough.
I didn’t have high expectations for my race performance, and I didn’t get a high finish: 26th of 39 men in the 3-hour division. I clipped a tree early in Lap 1 and crashed, dropping me behind some traffic that I wouldn’t have fallen behind otherwise. On a course that is almost all singletrack, it took a while to reclaim the spots I lost. Meanwhile, a couple of guys with whom I thought I would contend were able to get away and I never saw them again. But meandering across the Alpine Valley ski hill, I was very pleased with my climbing ability. To whatever extent I had success against other racers, that was the reason. My descending skills remain shoddy but they got a good workout that afternoon, and only by challenging myself will I improve.
In a typical year I don’t show up until I have enough fitness to compete at a reasonable level. This spring I am trying to race myself into shape. I consider last Saturday a success because I pushed much harder than I would have in a non-competitive environment. I also picked up some series points that will be useful later. I’m expecting a better result on May 27 in the Stump Farm 100 at the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico, where I usually race well. But my real targets on the WEMS calendar come at the end of the season: the Northern Kettles Fall Epic on September 9, the 9 Hours Of Silver Lake on September 16, and the WEMS Championships on October. It’s a long season and clearly I’m not yet where I need to be, but the wheels are in motion.
Posted by Dave Hanrahan at 8:08 AM
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
If you live in southeastern Wisconsin, then during the next week you will have two great opportunities to test ride new bikes from Giant and Rocky Mountain. Giant’s demo day will include road and mountain bikes. It will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. this Saturday, May 20, at the John Muir trailhead in Walworth County. Hosted by Belgianwerkx, Rocky Mountain’s demo day will be a mountain bike-only affair at Pleasant Valley in Ozaukee County, 4-8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 23. Both events are free, but remember your state trail pass and state parks vehicle sticker if you go to John Muir. You can buy 1-day passes at the trailhead if you don’t have annual passes.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
|Pretty standard stuff ... with two notable exceptions.|
So, what was this much larger effort on Saturday? The WEMS race at Alpine Valley. And why did I think my left knee might hurt? Because I crashed in the WEMS race at Alpine Valley. The crash didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. It happened just a couple of minutes into the race, and I then rode for about 2.5 hours without any discomfort. But my knee got tight overnight and had me limping around the house this morning. I was relieved that it didn’t bother me at all during this afternoon’s ride. In another day or two it should be back to normal.
I’ll post a race report as soon as WEMS posts yesterday’s results. I know I didn’t have a high finish, but I left Alpine Valley yesterday with literally no idea how many people finished ahead of me or behind me. I don’t think I have ever done that before, and I hated to do it but I couldn’t wait around any longer than I did. WEMS switched to a new scoring system this season and so far things have been a little clunky.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
|Team Extreme’s Stuart Shelton and Jeff Wren took the top spots.|
Lap 1 was considered a prologue: a shorter lap that omitted most of the technical sections of the course. The idea was to create separation between riders and thereby prevent bottlenecks at the rock gardens and other tricky spots. The strategy worked for the most part, but with a big field of riders there was always someone for me to chase and always someone just behind. I was 91st out of 166 overall.
On Lap 2, feeling a little ragged from the aerobic challenge of the prologue, I ran through a couple of technical sections rather than risk a crash. If I still had been in the Top 5, then I would have accepted the risk, but I didn’t lose much time in the bargain. By the midpoint of Lap 2 I had settled down and my handling skills were feeling sharper. That helped me to recapture a couple of positions. I had ridden singletrack just 5 times this year prior to Saturday. Some of Englewood’s technical sections were at the limit of my ability, but I rode them all on Lap 3 with growing confidence. I spent the entirety of Lap 3 with teammate Larry Hipps, and together we picked off a few stragglers while defending ourselves from pursuers. The podium spots were out of reach but we did well to consolidate our positions. In the end, it was a Washington County 1-2: Stuart Shelton of Hubertus took the win, followed by West Bend’s Jeff Wren.
I’m OK with my result. During Friday’s pre-ride, I knew the technical sections would be a problem for me. But I also knew that I would do well on the open areas of the course, including the many climbing sections. Englewood was a must-do because it was new and because it was just 56 miles from home. That makes it the second-closest venue in a series that includes dates in Eau Claire and La Crosse. I haven’t committed to all 10 races, but I am glad to have opened my series points account. In the week to come I will spend more time on singletrack and more time on hills in preparation for the next WORS race, the Iola Bump & Jump on May 21. Whether that means I will line up for next Saturday’s WEMS race remains to be seen, though there may be no better preparation for Iola than the course at Alpine Valley.
Posted by Dave Hanrahan at 3:00 PM
Thursday, May 4, 2017
|Presenting the new Pedal Moraine jersey!|
Today I returned to New Fane for some badly needed time on singletrack. I had not been on the mountain bike since I visited New Fane on April 15 & 16. I can attribute the layoff to an overabundance of rain and wet trails, but it’s also true that I was wavering in my commitment to the WORS season opener this Saturday. When I finally made the decision to race, the decision to practice followed swiftly.
If only I were riding swiftly! I can’t claim that yet. I did 2 short laps today and then 2 full laps. My full-lap times were 27:23 and 27:33, respectively. Those were my fastest laps this year, but I’m still about 30 seconds per lap behind the pace I set in last year’s Northern Kettles Fall Epic.
Tomorrow is another day … one that I will spend pre-riding the Englewood Opener course. I’m curious and optimistic about a purpose-built XC race course: trails not designed to be ridden, but to be raced. That’s unique in Wisconsin and it’s rare in most other parts of the country. We’re behind the rest of the world when it comes to course design, and it shows. Pre-riding is always a good idea and even if my fitness isn’t great at least my mental preparation for Saturday can be strong. It’s a huge advantage to be familiar with the course when others are not. For some of my WORS rivals who are used to Sunday races, the unusual schedule of the opening weekend will be a hardship. The Friday pre-ride window won’t fit everyone’s schedule. For me, it will be an opportunity to gain an edge. I have no real expectations for my performance on Sunday. I will be happy just to get the first race of the year under my belt, gain a little fitness by pushing myself harder than I could in training, and grab some points in the series standings. A good result would inspire me to be more active in the series than I might be otherwise, but I haven’t done enough this year to deserve a good result.