|Partners on the road: Brandon Moscho, Mary Reichardt, and me.|
Well, that was good fun and great training. Race The Lake is an 88-mile road race around Lake Winnebago, and it’s the largest cycling race in Wisconsin. This year there were 904 finishers. I was 283rd, but I should have been so much higher.
We started before sunrise, leaving Fond du Lac in waves separated by several minutes. The pros went first … and finished first: the overall winner was 24-year-old Stephen Wagstaff (Lakes Area Physical Therapy), who completed the course in 3:21:25, averaging 26.2 mph.
I started in Wave 4, which quickly proved itself to be a disorganized mess of riders who were reluctant to get into a paceline. Early miles were slower than they should have been. Approaching Oshkosh, I found myself in a “breakaway” with 28-year-old Brandon Moscho of Manassas VA and 34-year-old Mary Reichardt of Alpena MI, who would go on to win her age group. We worked well together, first dropping the rest of Wave 4 simply by increasing our pace and then picking up riders who fell out of the waves that started earlier. At the midpoint of the race I led us up the big hill at High Cliff State Park, the only real climb on the whole course. I had never seen that climb before, so I was relieved to find it a relatively easy obstacle.
Emerging from High Cliff, our little band turned into a proper peloton as we scooped up more riders from earlier waves. This should have been a good thing, but it proved a burden because none of them would work. I urged riders to take their turns on the front, but only Mary, Brandon and I were in the rotation. We sensed each other’s frustration, and when I uttered a simple “let’s go” we attacked and quickly dropped the wheel suckers.
Our trio continued to work well together a while longer, but at Mile 64 things went badly for me. A little bonk, I guess … all I know is that the power went out and I said goodbye to my new friends. I soldiered on as a solo rider for a few miles before a group caught me from behind and dragged me to the little hamlet of Marytown, where a fresh sports drink handup was gladly accepted. It was clear that I still wasn’t out of trouble when I got dropped on the hill out of Marytown, but I had caught teammate Justin Schroeter. Due to a registration mistake, he had been forced to start with the pro wave and now was drifting back in the field after hanging with the fast guys for a while. Justin and I worked briefly as a duo before I continued alone.
Just north of Mt. Calvary—now heading west into a strengthening breeze—I caught on with a small group that stayed together until Taycheeda, the last little town we would see before re-entering Fond du Lac. I had recovered some snap in my almost-cramping legs on a long descent and was looking forward to the finish line, just 3 miles away.
Then I got a rear tire puncture. My first attempt to fix it failed: something’s wrong with my inflator. Training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) saw me at the side of the road and offered another CO2 cartridge. My attempt to use it failed: apparently I forgot to re-open the valve on the tube after my first attempt. Then teammate Justin arrived with a third CO2 cartridge and this time I was able to get enough tire pressure. I did what I could with the last 3 miles but I lost dozens of positions while I was stopped. There was no way to retake them all.
So, yeah … 283rd place, finishing in 4:04:33 with a 21.5 mph average. For what it’s worth, my Garmin device measured my average moving speed at 21.9 mph. I might have been 240-something if not for the flat tire. And there’s no trophy for that, of course, but I’m still a little disappointed. I was 38th of 113 men in the 50-54 age group. I guess that’s OK for someone doing his first real road race since 2008.