Sunday, April 20, 2014

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunters?

"You're expecting HOW MANY people?"
Cheesehead Roubaix is now just one week away and I suppose there is still time for the weather forecast to turn really bad, but right now it looks like April 27 will be cool and mostly dry. And that, I think, is what the riders want. Too wet and the unpaved roads would be a slopfest; too warm and the ride just wouldn’t feel like the northern European spring classic it is designed to emulate. If the Facebook event page is even close to accurate, then there could be in excess of 200 riders this year. A ride that big has a couple of built-in problems.

The first problem is parking. We won’t all fit in Fireman’s Park. There’s a small lot available to us but it is imperative that we not park on the grass or on the park road. It is also imperative that we not park right next to the fire department, as those spaces will be needed by firefighters if there is an emergency. If you can, please carpool with friends to reduce the number of vehicles coming to Newburg. As a village of just 1,200 people, it won’t easily accommodate 200 visitors. We will gather at Fireman’s Park to begin the ride, but please consider parking on one of the nearby streets rather than inside the park itself.

The second problem is how to begin the ride in an orderly fashion. Traveling on open public roads, we simply cannot present motorists with an unbroken line of 200 cyclists. Riders are coming to Cheesehead Roubaix with very different objectives. Some want to go as hard as they can to test their fitness; others want to enjoy the ride at a more relaxed pace. Let’s let the hard chargers go first so that they aren’t fighting through slower traffic in the early miles. If you are a USA Cycling-licensed rider, road/cyclocross category 3 or higher, you belong in the first wave. Cat 4/5 riders go next, followed by everyone else. Obviously I have no way to enforce these recommendations, but please do an honest self-assessment of your abilities and objectives before you begin. If you expect to ride much slower than average, feel free to begin before 9 a.m. or change your start/finish to Yahr County Park. That will ensure you reach the Belgianwerkx rest stop before it closes at 12 o’clock.

We will wait a couple of minutes between waves to create separation. After a few miles of riding, things will string out in a more organic way. Trust me: you do not want to hit some of these unpaved roads in groups so large that you can’t see anything but the rider immediately in front of you. There are dangerous ruts and potholes on the route and it is critical that you be able to pick safe lines. On the first unpaved sector, Lovers Lane, it’s very unlikely that you will encounter motor vehicles. It’s very likely that you will need to swing from one side of the road to the other to avoid obstacles. Other than that, ride as if the commissaires are going to disqualify you for crossing the center line. These are open roads and you are not absolved of your responsibility to Wisconsin traffic laws. Be safe and represent the sport well.


  1. Would 23mm tires be an option to take on this event?

    1. Many people have done this route on 700x23 tires. My own preference is 700x25. One of the fastest riders last year used 700x28 tires. It's mostly a paved route, and a couple of the unpaved sectors aren't that bad. If you go too wide you're just slowing yourself down on the asphalt.