Monday, July 8, 2013

Pleasant Valley Sunday

New mountain bike trails are going into Pleasant Valley Park in Ozaukee County. On Sunday evening I took my 29er out for a couple of laps on the just-opened beginner loop. More advanced trails are under construction or still in the planning stages. When the new trail system is complete it should be a lot like New Fane. Don’t be fooled by the absence of rocks and roots on the flat beginner loop; Pleasant Valley will be a fun place to ride.

But what about the park’s suitability for cyclocross? With the 2013 WCA season now less than nine weeks away, it’s time to think about cyclocross practice. Last year West Bend’s Royal Oaks Park turned out to be a very good practice venue. It might still be the best spot, but Pleasant Valley deserves consideration.

By following existing turf trails and the gravel park road, it’s easy to design a 1-mile loop through Pleasant Valley for ’cross practice. That would make its laps just as long as Royal Oaks’ laps, but still on the short side when compared to actual race courses in the WCA series. I experimented with a starting chute concept that would add a little distance to Lap 1. In the picture below, imagine starting at the green marker and then joining the course at the red marker where a sharp right-hand turn sends you around the pavilion, over a set of barriers, and then out on a big counter-clockwise loop.

“My thoughts all seem to stray to places far away. I need a change of scenery.”
As you can see, the course would have a short section of two-way traffic … just like Royal Oaks. But that section is essentially a gravel road with enough width to accommodate riders moving in opposite directions. The big loop itself is not very interesting. Imagine a set of barriers somewhere on the loop to break up what otherwise would be just a fast, flat section.

In the aerial photo there appears to be open land to the east of the pavilion, but much of that now is in use by the beginner loop of the new mountain bike trails. There also appears to be an open area west of the big loop, but that’s off limits too. Pleasant Valley Park is an old landfill and we’re not allowed on the hill created by all the garbage. That’s too bad because it’s the only place I might have located a climb and some off-camber turns. There might be an opportunity to do more with the southwest corner of the park near the starting chute. Zig-zagging through row after row of compost piles could be a good way to practice accelerating out of tight corners … or it could just be tedious.

Royal Oaks is still a really good option. Compared with Pleasant Valley, it offers the same lap length but much more elevation change and course surface variety. But it also attracts more people, and it’s hard to conduct race simulations when there are other park users on or near the course. And at Royal Oaks we waste a lot of time getting barriers and cones from/to our cars during set-up/tear-down; at Pleasant Valley the parking area is right next to the course.

Perhaps the biggest benefit at Pleasant Valley is the park’s proximity to other racers. Practices at Royal Oaks attracted a West Bend crowd. I think I could keep that crowd and attract riders from Ozaukee County by moving into Pleasant Valley Park. Getting more people to participate can only make the practices more fun and a more accurate simulation of actual racing conditions. Watch for more on this topic soon, as we’re probably just four weeks away from the first practice! Is there an even better venue for Washington and Ozaukee racers? Let me know.

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