Sunday, May 22, 2016

From The End Of The World To Your Town

I haven’t said a lot about my new role as the captain of Team Pedal Moraine, and for the most part I have been silent because I haven’t done any racing yet. But others have. We’re already 3 races into the WEMS season and 1 race into the WORS season, plus there was another mountain bike race unaffiliated with either series. TPM racers were present at all of those.

The WCA road season is more than halfway done—don’t ask me why it starts in April and then ignores most of July and August—but TPM hasn’t been a part of it. We’re not really a road racing team. There will be some Team Pedal Moraine participation in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, June 17-26. This year’s Tour visits West Bend on June 20, so that’s an ideal occasion to fly our colors. But I think we’ll make a bigger splash in Fond du Lac on August 14 when 6 of us line up for Race The Lake, the largest road race in Wisconsin. Race The Lake attracts more than 1,000 competitors and starts in multiple waves. I will be doing it for the first time, and unless I make an unexpected addition to my calendar it will be my first road race since the Omro Classic in the 2008 Wisport series. As TPM captain I think Race The Lake is an important opportunity to increase the team’s profile, so on Thursday I paid the not-inconsiderable registration fees with team funds. I want current members and prospective members to recognize that the team isn’t only about mountain biking. In 2015 we competed in more cyclocross races than mountain bike races, did some road races, and dabbled in multi-sport and winter fatbike events. We're more than just brown dirt cowboys.

Today, though, was a time for Team Pedal Moraine to take things a little slower and get back to its roots. I invited my teammates to join me at New Fane for mountain biking and a picnic. It was the sort of gathering that fosters a sense of community within the team, and that’s something our members have always appreciated. If that’s something you aren’t getting from your current team, then think about joining us.

For me, today also was the end of a very solid week: 201 miles covered, and more than 12 hours in the saddle. That’s my fullest week of training this year and a big rebound from last week. It was exactly what I needed in advance of the challenging Gravel Metric next Sunday. True gravel grinders don’t appeal to most Team Pedal Moraine racers, and Illinois is below an imaginary line that my teammates hesitate to cross … though they routinely travel twice as far to race in northern Wisconsin. I expect to be the only TPM guy in attendance, just as I was in 2014 when a rider who knew me only by my kit said, “Team Pedal Moraine, you are a useful and courteous cyclist.” And well he might have complimented me, as I had been towing him into a headwind for miles. But I’m hardly a hero; just someone my mother might know.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


(of a person) without purpose or guidance; lost and confused

This was not the week I wanted or needed. I rode on Thursday and I rode today, a total of 3 hours. That’s not good enough, but it was the best I could do. The weather was awful: snow, hail and sub-freezing wind chill on Saturday? Come on. Throw in some rain and high winds earlier this week and I was thoroughly demotivated. Wednesday was decent enough, but I got home from work to find a broken torsion spring on my garage door. I lost the whole morning getting it fixed. Those were hours that I usually spend asleep, and when I finally went to bed at 2 p.m. my day was over. We’re halfway through May and already I have had 7 days off the bike, as many as I had in the entire month of May 2015.

I’m just not getting it done right now. I am 3 pounds lighter than I was on this date a year ago and obviously that’s good, but my mileage and my hours in the saddle are way down and I still have just 1 mountain biking session to my credit. Mountain bike racing was never going to be a big part of my 2016 plans, and getting off to such a slow start makes me even less interested in it. The only races that I feel completely committed to are the WEMS events at Suamico (July 16) and New Fane (September 17). The Reforestation Ramble (August 21) might drop off my calendar because of the change WORS is making to the format, opting for multiple short laps instead of 2 long ones. This year’s race will have more singletrack and less ski trail, negating the advantage I have enjoyed there.

Right now I just want to find some kind of rhythm in my training. Despite having almost 1,300 miles in my legs this year I don’t feel like the base is really solid yet. I know I have the endurance to complete The Gravel Metric on May 29, but I don’t know whether I will have the fitness to complete it in style. Maybe style shouldn’t matter in what is, after all, just a training event and not a proper race, but I have ridden that event well in the past and I want to give a good account of myself.

The week ahead appears to offer warmer temperatures, less wind and dry conditions on the roads and trails. I need that forecast to prove true.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sprung From Cages South Of Highway 23

Ask Jeff Wren how tough Cedar Lane was on Friday!

This week really felt like springtime in Wisconsin: I was warm for 4 hours. That’s 4 hours more than I get in winter, and 4 hours less than I get in summer, so … springtime!

During those 4 hours—I should mention that they happened on Friday afternoon—I knocked out a challenging metric century in the northern Kettle Moraine that featured 3 gravel roads I wish I could include on the Cheesehead Roubaix route. Unfortunately, those roads are too far away. Including them would turn Cheesehead Roubaix into a 100-mile ride, and that’s too long for the last Sunday of April. There’s a fourth gravel road just south of Glenbeulah, but that’s really getting far from home and was not part of Friday’s adventure.

For what it’s worth, both Division Road near Dundee and Cedar Lane near Cascade would be 5-star sectors on Cheesehead Roubaix, every bit as tough as Lovers Lane but for different reasons. Division Road is hilly and features deep, loose gravel that is extremely difficult to navigate with road tires. Cedar Lane was recently resurfaced with limestone screenings so soft and loose that the effect is like riding through sand. I might return to Cedar Lane later this year to see whether the road has settled down, as limestone screenings will from the combination of traffic and rainfall. The surroundings are gorgeous, but right now the road itself is an energy-sapping buzzkill.

I spent 11.5 hours in the saddle this week, making it my busiest week of training so far this year. The week ahead doesn’t look especially good—lots of potential for rain—but I will try to keep my training volume high as I prepare for The Gravel Metric, May 29 near DeKalb IL.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 WCA Cyclocross Schedule Announced

Shortly before I went to work last night, the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced its 2016 cyclocross schedule. It probably goes without saying that I thought about almost nothing else all night! The WCA says the dates are final but the locations are not, and one of the races not currently in the SuperCup could be elevated to that status. Here’s the schedule in its current form:

09/10 Sat - Cross-Shooshko @ Milwaukee (SuperCup)
09/11 Sun - Wausau

10/01 Sat - Flyover Silver Creek @ Manitowoc
10/02 Sun - Omro

10/08 Sat - PumpkinCross @ Grafton (SuperCup)
10/09 Sun - Sheboygan

10/15 Sat - Celtic Cross @ Fitchburg (SuperCup)
10/16 Sun - Badger Prairie Cyclocross @ Verona

10/22 Sat - Velocause Cross @ Milwaukee (SuperCup)
10/23 Sun - Sun Prairie Cup @ Sun Prairie (SuperCup)

10/29 Sat - Halloween CX @ Milwaukee
10/30 Sun - The People's Cross @ Oshkosh

11/05 Sat - Estabrook Park CX @ Milwaukee
11/06 Sun - CamRock CX @ Cambridge

11/12 Sat - Waterloo (SuperCup)

11/19 Sat - Team Wisconsin CX @ TBD
11/20 Sun - Cross The Isthmus @ Madison

12/03 Sat - State Championships @ Waterloo (SuperCup)

12/18 Sun - USGP Redux @ TBD

That big gap in late September comes from the two UCI events in our part of the world: the Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo (Sep. 17-18), and Jingle Cross in Iowa City IA (Sep. 23-25). The WCA was wise not to schedule anything against those.

I have no Trek CXC Cup or Jingle Cross ambitions—not as a racer anyway, though I might show up to watch the pros—and I have no prospect of success in the SuperCup series. I may forego the opening weekend of the WCA season in favor of a weekend getaway to downstate Illinois: mountain biking in my former home of Charleston on Sep. 10, followed by Patriot CX in Rantoul on Sep. 11. Look for me in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series race at New Fane on Sep. 17, after which I will be in cyclocross-only mode.

It’s interesting to see Estabrook and CamRock on the same weekend. They are the last of the five races that made up the inaugural WCA cyclocross season in 1996. And it’s always interesting to see new locations like Wausau and Omro getting their chances.  In 2006 I made my racing debut at the now-defunct Omro Classic Road Race in the Wisport series, so it will be cool to go back 10 years later. If the weather is nice enough I will break out my souvenir T-shirt! On the downside, the Lake Geneva race lost its spot to the Trek / Jingle Cross juggernaut and could not be rescheduled, and I think the Manitowoc and Sheboygan races worked better on a single weekend than they will apart, and I’m not crazy about pushing the state championships back into December. Oh, well. For what it’s worth, the 2015 state championships were held in November in freezing temperatures on a snow-covered course … and I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t think of myself as a fair-weather racer, but I have my limits. The weather makes no guarantees, so I make none. I expect to participate in most of the races on this year’s schedule, like usual.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bike Month 2016

May is Bike Month across the United States and this year West Bend will host a wide variety of activities to support local riders. Things kick off this morning—yeah, I know it’s still April—with Healthy Kids Day at the Kettle Moraine YMCA, where from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. children will learn the basics of safe riding. Kids will be the focus again on Wednesday, May 4, for Bike to School Day.

There’s stuff for grown-ups too. Mountain Outfitters will host a roadside repairs clinic on Wednesday, May 11, 7-8 p.m. You can learn how to fix a flat tire, a broken chain, and other common problems. Pedal Moraine will host a bicycle commuting clinic on Tuesday, May 17, 7-8 p.m. Topics will include safe riding techniques and bike maintenance. Bike to Work Day will be Friday, May 20, with activities at the downtown train depot, 6-8 a.m.

On Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m., members of Bike Friendly West Bend—our local advocacy group—will lead a ride from the downtown train depot. Riders will see not only the Eisenbahn State Trail, but also portions of the on-street bike routes that BFWB has proposed to the city. On Wednesday, May 18, at 7 p.m., the Ride of Silence will start and finish in the parking lot of the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Let’s hope for good weather and a lot of public interest. I think Bike Month has the potential to make an already eminently bikeable city an even better place. And if you see Bike Friendly West Bend’s representatives at the downtown farmers’ market on Saturday, May 21, stop and say Thanks! for the coordination and promotion.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Time To Cast Away Stones

“I realize caring for Mr. Burns seems like a big job, but actually it’s just 2,800 small jobs.”

On to Phase 2 of my 2016 cycling season! Phase 1 ended almost poetically on Sunday with another successful Cheesehead Roubaix and the simultaneous completion of my first 1,000 miles. I love Cheesehead Roubaix but it is a part-time job for a couple of weeks every April. Like any project it has a number of individual tasks, some of which must be completed in a certain order or according to a fairly rigid timetable. Hosting cyclocross practices every autumn at Royal Oaks Park comes with a similar set of tasks, but I don’t need to think about that until late July. For the next 3 months I can be kind of selfish and focus on my own training and racing objectives.

I have been on a “whatever the weather allows” training plan, but with more predictable weather ahead I should get into a better rhythm. Today I set out a detailed schedule that covers every day from May 1 through August 31. (I would have gone even farther into the future, but the WCA cyclocross dates haven’t been announced yet.) It’s good to have some kind of structure even if there are bad weather days and other circumstances that force me to change my plans on any given day. For example, I really want to work out on the mountain bike twice per week. Last year I typically hit the trails only once per week. Mountain biking gives me a more intense workout in less time than an average road ride, and this year I’m not trying to run up a big mileage total.

My “new” job is now 7 months old and I still haven’t found the best sleep schedule to accommodate my overnight work shift. Some days I just don’t have a ton of enthusiasm for training. Weekends will continue to be a good time to pile up endurance miles, but I can’t commit to a regular diet of 3-hour weekday rides. Short, hard efforts have more appeal during the week: mountain biking sessions at New Fane, time trial efforts on my Trenton road course or on the Eisenbahn … that sort of thing.

For the remainder of this week I will concentrate on the non-cycling things that built up on my “To Do” list during the last few weeks. Anything that could wait until after Cheesehead Roubaix, did wait. Now it’s time to give the lawn its first mowing of 2016, time to install the vegetable garden, time to give a thorough spring cleaning to the house and the automobiles. One big push ought to do it, and then I get serious about having fun again.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Time To Gather Stones Together

Lovers Lane. That’s me, leftmost. The man on the ground is a photographer, not a corpse.

Nine o’clock in the morning on the last Sunday of April is one of my favorite moments of the year. That’s the moment when riders roll out of Fireman’s Park in Newburg to start Cheesehead Roubaix … and it’s the moment when all of my preparations are done and I’m just another rider. Today we had the chilly, wet weather that is so common to the northern European spring classics that Cheesehead Roubaix has tried to emulate for the last 7 years. (It snowed on Liège-Bastogne-Liège today; at least we avoided that!) Despite the weather in some cases, and because of the weather in others, turnout was strong: something in the neighborhood of 300 again. Contributions to the Newburg Fire Department were strong too: more than $1,500. NFD also sold about $500 of food & drink from its concessions stand, so I think we can count on that new amenity becoming a permanent fixture. This was a successful day from NFD’s point of view, and from mine.

My ride stats looked like this:

This was neither my fastest nor my slowest Cheesehead Roubaix. I consider it a good effort on wet roads, and also I spent a fair amount of time riding on my own—perhaps 20 percent of the ride, though not in one big chunk. I would have been faster if I had found a group with which I could work for the entire distance. The strong group with which I worked from Jay Road to Belgium would have been ideal. I set the pace all the way down the mile-long gravel section of Willow Valley Road, but everyone contributed something during our time together. New alliances formed after the rest stop, though, and I didn’t find another group so strong or cooperative.

Recent resurfacing of a couple of gravel roads—Sauk Trail and St. Augustine, most notably—made this year’s route one of the easiest ever. If the roads had been dry, then this would have been an exceptionally fast Cheesehead Roubaix. But Lovers Lane was nasty. Check out this video! I rode Lovers Lane well, but I had to set a foot down for just a moment when a rider stalled in front of me. The signature feature of Cheesehead Roubaix claimed some victims today!