Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 Fitchrona Cross Omnium: McGaw Park



Cyclocross at Fitchburg’s McGaw Park and Verona’s Badger Prairie County Park is nothing new, but this year the organizers of those events promoted the weekend as a 3-day omnium. Racing began on Friday evening and I would have appreciated the novelty of racing under the lights around and between McGaw’s baseball fields. But I work on Friday nights. I couldn’t risk being late or, if things had gone really wrong, missing work altogether. On Saturday the omnium moved to Badger Prairie. Both races were muddy. I don’t think I would have done well.

Today the omnium returned to McGaw Park for its finale, and it also was muddy but I didn’t want to go race-less this weekend. High winds out of the northwest helped to dry the course in time for my 3:30 p.m. start. Some parts of the course stayed very wet, but most of it was nice and tacky. I ended up 12th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 field.

I lost ground before we ever left the starting grid, thanks to my low ranking on USA Cycling points. And by Lap 3 I was somewhat hampered by an accumulation of mud and grass in my fork. (You know who has it good? Those professional racers who get a squeaky clean bike from their pit crews every half lap!) But I had good legs today. When I could put down the power, I was fast. I might have cracked the Top 10 if the course had been dry.

Andrew Hague (Trek Midwest Team) got the win, followed by Josh Borgmeyer (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Chris Pappathopoulos (unattached). Pappathopoulos took 1st and Hague took 2nd on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Friday’s race wasn’t part of the Wisconsin Cycling Association series, but it will help Pappathopoulos on USA Cycling points. He’s having a great season and shouldn’t be starting next to me in the last row!

The series continues next weekend with the GP Jo Vanderaffe at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park on Saturday and the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday. I expect to line up on Saturday, but there’s rain in Sunday’s forecast and that would keep me out of the Waterloo race. Today’s race was as muddy as I want to get. We’ll talk about my commitment to “real cyclocross weather” when you volunteer to clean my bike, my kit, and my shoes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The “Go” Box


Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of a “go” box: a collection of cycling essentials that always stays in your vehicle as a kind of event insurance if you should forget your primary gear. And it’s a great idea, but I have been haphazard in my adoption of it.

No more! I should have learned my lesson after the 2015 Northern Kettles Fall Classic, when I forgot my helmet, shoes, jersey, and gloves. On that occasion I made an emergency call to my son, who delivered everything in time and saved my race. That event was just 20 minutes from home. If I had made the same mistake at a more distant location like Wausau or Madison, then I would have forfeited my entry fee. Although there have been no big mistakes lately—on 1 or 2 occasions I have neglected to bring my preferred eyewear, but there’s always a pair of sunglasses in my vehicle—I finally have implemented the “go” box as a permanent Plan B.

What’s in the box?

  • 1 spare team kit: jersey, bibs, socks
  • 1 helmet
  • 1 helmet liner
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 pair of SPD pedals
  • 2 water bottles



The reason for most of that stuff is obvious, but pedals? Yes. Someday I might need to borrow a bike! If it doesn’t already have SPD-compatible pedals, then I’ll be ready with my own. Borrowing a bike is very unlikely in a race situation, but there could be a shop visit or demo event that turns into a chance to ride.

There are many other things that the box could include. Mine assumes fair weather. It also assumes the company of other riders who can assist me if tools or tubes are required. And it assumes the availability of food and water at or near the start of the ride. Food and water aren’t made better by long-term storage in the back of a minivan that roasts in the summer and freezes in the winter.

I’m not prepared for every imaginable scenario, but I am prepared for the ones that are most likely to compromise my racing plans.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017 Diablo River Cross



Today I traveled to Sunset Point Park in Kimberly for the inaugural Diablo River Cross. I don’t have much to say; it went badly for me. I didn’t sleep well last night and maybe that was to blame for the listless performance that left me 10th out of 11 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race.

Sun Prairie’s Chris Pappathopoulos (unattached) got the win. He’s returning to cyclocross this year after a 6-year absence and already has 2 podium appearances to his credit. He was 3rd in the season opener, Cross-Shooshko, back on September 9.

I missed Cross-Shooshko … and I missed yesterday’s PumpkinCross in Grafton. But I have no regrets: yesterday’s Masters 35+ Cat 3 race ran under a steady rain. I didn’t pre-register for the race because I believed in the weather forecast. However, I did have a completed USA Cycling race waiver, enough cash to cover day-of registration, and a minivan full of cyclocross stuff … even a jersey with the number already attached. Had the rain stayed away, I would have rushed to Lime Kiln Park, just 15 miles from home. But I’m not a mudder. Hell, I’m having a hard enough time when the course is dry!

I end this week with only 7:04:22 in the saddle. It was my shortest week since the end of April, and I’m sure that impacted my performance in today’s race. I ride better when I ride more. Tomorrow I will embark on what I hope is a high-volume week. But there’s a lot of rain in the forecast after Monday. Time to dust off the trainer in the home gym?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Shoes Debut

Shimano M089
Why, yes, those were new shoes on Sunday at the cyclocross race in Wausau! I saw them in a browser window and I just had to have them.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Into The Hinterlands

Atop "Heckle Hill" at Flyover Silver Creek CX. (Nick Moroder photo)
As is true in most states, there’s a big city bias in Wisconsin’s cyclocross series. Racers in heavily populated areas are spoiled by an abundance of events close to home. Getting them to travel is tough, despite the novelty of new venues and unfamiliar opponents.

This season, though, there’s extra incentive to leave the Milwaukee-Madison corridor. Five races have banded together to form the Hinterlands Cyclocross Series. It’s a part of the larger Wisconsin Cycling Association series, but it will crown its own champions and pay out its own series awards. Savvy racers who want to win WCA overall titles will also recognize that the Hinterlands Series gives them 5 opportunities to score points in comparatively small fields: whether you’re the 1st of 10 or the 1st of 100, you get 25 points. When only the best 8 results count in the overall standings, it’s easy to see how 5 scoring chances in the Hinterlands sub-series could make or break your season.

2017 Flyover Silver Creek CX

Flyover Silver Creek CX kicked off the Hinterlands Series on Saturday at Manitowoc. It was the 4th running of the race and my 3rd participation—I missed it last year. The course is one of the best in the entire WCA, featuring a pair of tough hill climbs, a run along the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, and the signature flyover with its steep staircase. I got into my pedals quickly, but otherwise my start was pretty bad. I wasn’t adequately warmed up. As Lap 2 began I settled into a sustainable pace with West Bend rival Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) and the Hinterlands Series’ most vocal advocate, Nate Phelps (Gryphon Velo Racing). Wren had some issues with his chain and dropped back on Lap 3 while Phelps and I picked off a couple of riders from the Cat 3 Open and Singlespeed fields that had started before us. But we weren’t pulling back anyone from our own wave. By Lap 4 it was clear that Phelps and I were running our own race. Late in the final lap he accelerated hard and passed me on a little climb. I tried to close the gap on the final straightaway but came up 1 second short. I was 7th out of 9 in Masters 35+ Cat 3. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) took the win in a field that included no riders from the counties of Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Dane.

2017 Cross Of The North

Clearing the last barrier at Cross Of The North. (Melissa Putzer photo)
Waukesha and Dane were represented in today’s Cross Of The North at Wausau, but only 2 Milwaukee County guys made the trip. That’s not a big surprise; Wausau is 3 hours from Milwaukee by car. But the weather and the course were beautiful. If you missed out, then you really missed out. Again, I would rather do battle in a small field of riders on a warm, dry day than to scrounge for points in a big field on a wet, cold one. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) won again, completing a perfect weekend in Masters 35+ Cat 3. I took 9th out of 13, but it felt more like 2nd out of 4: by the midpoint of Lap 1 the leaders were comfortably out of my reach and my race became all about beating my friends from Gryphon Velo Racing. Nate Phelps gave me plenty of trouble yesterday, but today I was able to shake him by the end of Lap 2. Derek Moran—new to cyclocross but a very handy Cat 2 on the road—went back-and-forth with me for most of the race before passing me for good with 2 laps to go. But when he went, he dropped me off at the back wheel of Quentin Gniot. I did the rest, passing “Q” just before a tough run-up, setting the pace for the next 1.5 laps, then withstanding his last charge before the finish line. The bumpy finishing straight had convinced me to lower my tire pressure at the end of my pre-ride, and the extra traction helped me in the final moments of the race.

On Saturday I got Moran but Gniot and Phelps got me. On Sunday I got Gniot and Phelps but Moran got me. That’s good stuff! The new Masters 35+ Cat 3 race is now 3-for-3 in delivering the experience I want: real competition at my level, not just a ride through the park at a respectful distance behind the leaders.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 UCI Cyclocross World Cup: Waterloo



Today the biggest cyclocross races on the planet were right here in Wisconsin. The UCI World Cup came to Trek’s corporate headquarters in Waterloo, and by car that’s just an hour from my house so of course I went! Trek has hosted major cyclocross races before, but this is the first time Trek’s event has been included in the UCI World Cup. That’s the top level; it doesn’t get any bigger.

Reigning world champion Sanne Cant pulled away late in the women’s race. Racine native Kaitie Antonneau Keough took 2nd ahead of fellow American Ellen Noble, who out-sprinted defending World Cup champion Sophie de Boer for 3rd place. The elite men’s race was over almost before it started, as Mathieu van der Poel delivered a dominating performance. US national champion Stephen Hyde was the best of the American men today, finishing 18th. The event featured equal prize money for men and women, plus free admission for all spectators.

Many southern Wisconsin communities set all-time highs this weekend—today was the hottest September 24 ever here in West Bend—and obviously 90° is very hot for the fall/winter sport of cyclocross. In Waterloo a lot of racers suffered terribly before collapsing at the finish line. It’s weird to think that their enduring impression of Wisconsin will be its unbearable heat. When the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s cyclocross series resumes next Saturday in Manitowoc, the high temperature will be something like 63° … and possibly much cooler if the wind shifts a little and comes off Lake Michigan. The WCA series has been on hold since September 10, yielding the stage to the UCI events in Iowa City and Waterloo.

A Change In My Plans

Yesterday afternoon I went to Greenbush for a final practice session before the WEMS Championships on October 7. It did not go well. It was not fast. It was not fun. Greenbush is an endless rock garden and not a course on which I can do well. So, there will be no WEMS Championships for me. A couple of days ago I removed the Stump Farm Trail Races (October 29) from my calendar—I can’t live with that $50 entry fee—so this is the end of my 2017 mountain bike season. I’m putting PumpkinCross on my schedule for October 7. I’m really enjoying cyclocross right now, and that race at Lime Kiln Park is the closest race to my home. It would be silly to miss it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fun And Fitness Far Afield

Bill Nigh (center) sprints away at the start while I screw with my Garmin. Probably a lesson in there somewhere ...


Super busy weekend: a mountain bike race, two cyclocross races, a trip down memory lane, and something like 700 miles of driving to connect it all …

2017 WEMS Quicksilver Classic

I was so well-prepared for the inaugural Quicksilver Classic mountain bike race—it’s a shame that the results don’t reflect the effort I made. Not only did I preview the trails at Kenosha County’s Silver Lake Park back on September 3, but also I arrived early on Saturday to revisit a couple of sections that I thought might give me trouble. My morning pre-ride went well and I hit the start line with a lot of confidence. The start itself was a bit rough, but I got into the first section of singletrack in decent shape and began my pursuit of Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme), who beat me in WORS races all spring and summer on his way to the Sport 50-54 title. If I could hang with him, then I would be OK. At the end of Lap 1, I was right on his rear wheel. I spent most of Lap 2 in front of him—I even imagined I was pulling away for a while—but he overtook me late in the lap and put 12 seconds into me before I hit the line. By the end of Lap 3 he was more than a minute ahead, running in 8th position while I followed in 9th. And then my rear derailleur failed at the start of Lap 4, forcing me to retire from the race. Shelton went on to a 7th place finish. I should have had a Top 10 at least, but my 3 completed laps were good enough for 13th place in the 28-man field. Michael Humpál, a 35-year-old Cat 1, took the win ahead of my teammate and fellow West Bender, Bill Nigh.

2017 Patriot CX

Immediately after the WEMS race—sooner than expected, in fact—I drove to Rantoul IL where on Sunday I raced twice at Patriot CX, the season opener in the Heart of Illinois (HICX) series. For me, it was a better and more affordable option than Jingle Cross, the UCI event in Iowa City IA that has become so popular with Wisconsin cyclocross racers. I knew the turnout in Rantoul would be small but the competition was legit and my primary goal was to add to my fitness, not to my palmarès. After a couple of practice laps on a rough course that included lots of off-camber sections and 100 meters of deep pea gravel, I lined up for the Cat 3 race. By the midpoint of Lap 1, I was last in the 8-man field. But I kept racing and as the final lap began I was quickly reeling in my closest rival. When I accelerated hard out of the last turn, he couldn’t go with me. I’ll take 7th place over 8th place anytime, and I got a kick out of discovering that I was 8 years older than the next oldest guy in the race.

It was sunny and 84° as my Masters 40+ race began an hour later. I was not the oldest guy in that race. Nor was I the fastest: I placed 9th out of 15 overall in a field that included riders from Cat 2, Cat 3, Cat 4, and Cat 5. I had enough energy to ride at a steady pace, but I didn’t have anything special to give. My average speed dropped half a mile per hour from my Cat 3 race pace. Overall, I got what I wanted out of Patriot CX: hard training. Sunday’s effort should pay dividends in Wisconsin Cycling Association races later this fall.

Reminiscing … And Looking Ahead

Rantoul is just an hour by car from Charleston IL, where I lived from mid-1976 until early 1981. My travels rarely take me to that part of the world, so I took advantage of the chance to see some familiar places from my past. I probably won’t need to scratch that itch again for a long time.

The same goes for Patriot CX: for the last few years I was curious about it, and now I know. I am glad to have done it.

The logistics of this unusual weekend make the next WCA weekend look simple by comparison: Flyover Silver Creek CX in Manitowoc on September 30, then Cross Of The North in Wausau on October 1. Manitowoc is 68 miles from my house and Wausau is 159. I can sleep in my own bed after Manitowoc, and my race in Wausau doesn’t start until 3:30 p.m. If the weather is fair, then count me in for both.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Self-Flagellation



We’re heading into the first of two consecutive weekends without cyclocross races in the Wisconsin Cycling Association series. The WCA doesn’t schedule against the UCI races in our part of the world. Jingle Cross kicks off tomorrow and a lot of Wisconsin racers will be there. By car, Jingle Cross is only 3 hours from Madison and 4 hours from Milwaukee. An even bigger contingent of Wisconsin racers will be at the Trek Cup in Waterloo next weekend.

My cyclocross season began last Sunday in Milwaukee, but I still have ambitions in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series. This Saturday I will compete in the 3-hour category of the WEMS race at Silver Lake Park in Kenosha County. Next Saturday I will practice at Greenbush in preparation for the WEMS Championships there on October 7. I will be in Waterloo on Sunday, September 24, to watch the UCI World Cup cyclocross races. I’m still a fan, after all, even if the amateur races at Jingle Cross and the Trek Cup don’t tempt me to participate.

But I really don’t want to go 20 days between my own cyclocross races, so this Sunday I will be in Rantoul IL for Patriot CX in the Heart of Illinois series. And I’m pretty sure I will enter both the open Cat 3 race (10:05 a.m.) and the Masters 40+ race (11:55 a.m.) for a total of 90 minutes of competition. With a high temperature near 90° and almost no shade on the course, Patriot CX should be brutal. I’m counting on that. I expect to go into Sunday with a little fatigue from Saturday’s WEMS race and to come out of it totally whipped. Then, with proper recovery and 2 good weeks of training to close out September, I should be stronger when the WCA season resumes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2017 Humboldt Park Cyclocross

The old, now grass-covered track at neighboring Bay View High School proved an appropriate place to warm up!



This was a super fun weekend of bike racing! I really enjoyed myself yesterday in the WEMS race at New Fane, and today I had an absolute blast in my cyclocross season debut at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee. I’m in a new subcategory this year and if today’s race was any indication of what is to come, then I expect this to be a great season.

I didn’t win today—I didn’t even make the podium. I finished 7th of 9 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race. But that’s OK. I wouldn’t have been competitive in my old race, Masters 50+ Cat 1/2/3. I haven’t lost anything. Today’s race played out exactly as I thought it would. In my own subcategory I always had someone to chase and someone to elude, and I caught the last few guys in the singlespeed and Elite Cat 3 waves that started before me. I got lapped by Cat 1 singlespeed strongman Carlos Casali (Intelligentsia Coffee) near the end of the race and even that was OK because I hung with him for a little while, testing myself. In the end, that’s all I want: people to race with and against … and a little success against racers close to my own ability. That’s not Casali, who won both singlespeed races this weekend and the Masters 35+ Cat 1/2/3 race earlier today. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) was today’s winner in Masters 35+ Cat 3. I was sorry to miss Saturday’s WCA series opener, Cross-Shooshko, where Dan Hendricks (unattached) was the Masters 35+ Cat 3 winner. It will be a few weeks before some kind of pecking order emerges and I know who my new rivals are.

Today’s race was dry, warm, and something of a track meet: there were few technical elements to the Humboldt Park course and I enjoyed staying on the gas. We’ll see if my enthusiasm dips when I come up against a twisty course with lots of slick, off-camber turns!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

2017 Northern Kettles Fall Epic



The WEMS race at New Fane is one of my “A” races each season. New Fane is the closest mountain bike race course to my home, I practice there frequently, and I have a history of modest success at the Northern Kettles Fall Epic. Today I added to that history, placing 9th out of 30 in the men’s 3-hour open division. I knew in advance that today’s race would feature several very strong riders who missed it last year when I placed 4th, so my goal was to secure a Top 10 finish.

I was outside of the Top 10 for the first half of the race, but I didn’t panic. I remembered that in 2016 I finished Lap 1 in 11th place but moved steadily through the field as the race progressed. Today I finished Lap 1 in 14th! I moved up 1 spot on Lap 2, 1 more on Lap 3, and 2 more on Lap 4. That got me into the Top 10. I jumped up to 9th on Lap 5 and then consolidated my position on Lap 6. The fastest guys were able to squeeze 7 laps into the 3-hour time limit. I was the quickest of the 6-lap finishers. I did slow down slightly with each successive lap, but my main rivals fatigued more dramatically.

Team Pedal Moraine had 7 racers in the men’s 3-hour open division. Matt Millin (2nd) and Matt Grady (6th) joined me in the Top 10. Team Extreme’s John Muraski, a 36-year-old Cat 1 from Campbellsport, took the win.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Next Generation



Wisconsin’s scholastic mountain bike season kicks off this Sunday at Minooka Park in Waukesha. Competition is open to middle school and high school students, and Washington County has its own team with representatives from different schools in our area. There was a big turnout this evening at New Fane for a practice session that included starts and time on the trails. It was great to see these kids out there while I was tuning up for Saturday’s WEMS race. Go, Washington County Trail Sharks!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Surveying Silver Lake Park



In 2013 I foolishly entered a mountain bike race on trails I had never seen before, and I paid for my mistake with a broken collarbone. It was Treadfest in Lake Geneva, the WORS season finale, and I didn’t attend the pre-ride because I had a cyclocross race that day. Thanks to the broken collarbone, that cyclocross race was my only cyclocross race that season. I was fit and motivated, but I had to wait another year for the results and the category upgrade I know would have come to me in 2013 if not for the injury.

Early this year I pre-registered for the Quicksilver Classic, a new race in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS). The race is scheduled for Saturday, September 16, at Silver Lake Park in Kenosha County. All spring and summer I looked for an opportunity to check out those trails, but other priorities prevailed: I pre-rode for all 6 of my Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS) races, I have been to New Fane 10 times in anticipation of next Saturday’s WEMS race, I have been to Greenbush twice in anticipation of the WEMS Championships on October 7. What can I tell you? It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for such a busy race calendar, and the busiest part of my season lies ahead. Today was a rare Sunday without obligations, a perfect time to hit Silver Lake Park … and probably my only opportunity before the race there.

Silver Lake Park has a great trail system. Most of the trails are loops unto themselves, and you might just keep going in circles on one you really like. But the loops also link to other trails and you could ride for an hour or so without covering the same ground twice. Silver Lake rates its loops by rider ability. The easy stuff is really easy—your only danger there is over-cooking corners because they are the only thing trying to slow you down—and the most advanced stuff is manageable for a rider of modest ability. But there are a couple of “gotcha” spots: obstacles that seem to be placed in your way out of malice. I’m glad I saw them today; I’m not sure everyone will see them at race speed.

I concentrated on singletrack today, but there are plenty of gravel park roads, ski trails and other open areas where the WEMS course might run. Today’s exploration wasn’t the best possible pre-ride because I don’t know which sections will be utilized. I’m hoping for the inclusion of those park roads, as they offer some tough climbing on a course that otherwise has only a gentle roll.

Tomorrow afternoon I will spend a couple of hours on the road bike. On Tuesday evening I will host another cyclocross practice at Royal Oaks Park in West Bend. On Wednesday or Friday I will see New Fane one last time before Saturday’s race. My cyclocross season will begin next Sunday, September 10, at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Works For Me


I have had a Gary Fisher, two Giants, a Raleigh, a Trek, a Diamondback, and a BMC since I declared myself a cyclist. Brand loyalty goes only so far with me and it doesn’t extend to bike manufacturers. All of those bikes were/are good bikes—maybe even great in a couple of cases—but they weren’t unique. They weren’t the only bikes of their kind or so superior to the alternatives that nothing else would suffice.

The same is true for clothing: Bontrager, Canari, Louis Garneau, Pearl Izumi, Performance Bike, Voler … all good. Helmets? I’ve had Bell, Giro, and now Bontrager. They all met the same ANSI/Snell standards for safety. I’ve had 3 pairs of cycling shoes—Pearl Izumi, Diadora, and Shimano—and they all still work fine.

In a sport that engenders passionate and often irrational loyalty to brands or to products whose differences are almost imperceptible, I’m not usually very picky. But I want to mention 3 products that work particularly well for me. They might not work as well for you, but at least consider them if you have similar needs.

There’s probably nothing I recommend more enthusiastically than Continental Gatorskin tires. Hyper-critical reviews will tell you that Gatorskins aren’t especially light (they were never meant to be) and that their rolling resistance compares unfavorably to similar products and that their anti-puncture technology has been superseded by new science. Whatever. They just work. I ride a lot of miles and Gatorskins last and last. They’re an excellent value and they give me a lot of peace of mind on the road. With other tires I expect to get flats, but not with these. Heavy and slow? They got me through 100 miles of Race The Lake at an average speed of 23.5 mph, so again: whatever.

Next on the list: Nuun. I used to be a Gatorade guy and there’s a lot to like about Gatorade. It’s readily available, cheap, and tasty. But it’s also high in sugar and therefore high in calories. I don’t need that; I need hydration. Nuun replaces electrolytes just like Gatorade, but without the belly bloat. It’s also clean and easy to transport: each serving comes in a tablet that dissolves in water. No more messy powder.

Finally, there’s A&D ointment. Yes, the diaper rash stuff. I have found no better chamois creme. Pennies on the dollar when compared to the boutique cremes, generic A&D is available at any drugstore/Target/Walmart. And because it’s just lanolin and petrolatum (Vaseline), you can also use it on cracked hands, chapped lips, rough feet, etc.

That’s what works for me. What works for you?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Future Perfect Indicative

Nino Schurter begins the celebration of a perfect season as he rounds the final turn at Val di Sole.
Call it a character flaw: I am rarely moved to sympathy and still less often to empathy. But today I am genuinely happy for the success of others.

Nino Schurter, for example. The Swiss mountain biker is the defending World Champion and the Olympic gold medalist from last year’s games in Rio. Today he became the first man to sweep a UCI World Cup season. He won the first 5 races in convincing style, so I was worried for him when he seemed unable to shake France’s Stephane Tempier late in today’s finale at Val di Sole, Italy. (You can watch the replay at RedBull.tv.) In a post-race interview Schurter admitted that he isn’t as fresh as he was earlier this season. He couldn’t simply ride away from Tempier, but his well-timed attack on the final climb gave him the victory by a slim 4 seconds. Schurter’s next goal is to repeat as UCI World Champion on September 9 in Australia. I will be rooting for him. No one deserves it more.

I am far below World Cup level, but today’s Under-23 race at Val di Sole included someone I raced against last weekend. Pete Karinen is a 21-year-old Elite (Pro & Cat 1) racer in the Wisconsin Off-Road Series. The WORS season wrapped up in Lake Geneva today, but it probably was the last thing on Karinen's mind as he raced against riders from 22 other nations over in Italy. Karinen, the only American, placed 80th out of 104 starters. Last weekend he and his Broken Spoke teammate Cole House lapped me on the penultimate lap of the Snow Crown STXC race at the Brown County Reforestation Camp. It was a point of pride for me that I didn’t get lapped by any other Elite guys, and that I held off Cole and Pete for so long!

In a couple of years we might see Karinen running with the big dogs at the Elite level of UCI World Cup cross country. American men are not competitive in that company today. But Americans are among the best downhill racers. On Saturday, California’s Aaron Gwin secured the 2017 UCI World Cup downhill title with a win at Val di Sole.

My weekend was very quiet; no WORS finale for me. Saturday turned into a day for chores and I never found time to get on the bike. Today I did a fast 25 miles on the road, solo, cutting the effort short under threatening rain clouds. I would have liked to get on the mountain bike trails today, but I assumed last night’s rain left them too wet to ride. The WEMS race at New Fane is now less than 2 weeks away, so I plan to ride there at least once in the week to come. I’m strong right now and I expect a good performance at New Fane. Whether I finish high in the standings is another matter, as I know this year’s race will attract several strong riders who missed it last year, when I was 4th out of 26.

Monday, August 21, 2017

2017 Reforestation Ramble


Last weekend produced mixed results and mixed emotions. I went up to Suamico on Saturday afternoon with high hopes. In an otherwise unspectacular WORS campaign, surely the Reforestation Ramble would be good to me. It’s a course with few technical challenges and the site of my only two wins as a bike racer. I took 3rd place last year, my fitness is good … what could go wrong?

Well, I could crash. And I did, but it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t the reason I finished 7th out of 13 in the Cat 2 (Sport) race for men, 50-54. At the midpoint of the 3-lap race, a younger rider who had started in a later wave caught me and misjudged the space he needed to pass safely. We banged handlebars and went down hard. I lost about 30 seconds in the exchange, but my finishing time of 1:27:54.4 was nowhere close to the 1:23:24.6 of age group winner Mike Owens (Colectivo Coffee). I was 54th of 104 overall. There was something missing today. I just wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Does the answer lie in my Saturday night shenanigans? Maybe I was too serious in my approach to the unsanctioned short track cross country race on the lighted ski trails of the Brown County Reforestation Camp. It was great fun and my ability to stay on the gas for the duration of the race is a good sign that I’m getting fit for the cyclocross season. (The similarities between STXC and cyclocross didn’t go unnoticed: roughly 1-in-5 of Saturday’s competitors were on cyclocross bikes.) But there was a moment late in the race when I wondered whether I were damaging my chances for a good performance on Sunday. At that point I had already passed the point of no return, though, and those doubts didn’t slow me down.

I will slow down this week. Tomorrow’s cyclocross practice will be my only hard effort. I’m going to hit my mileage goal for the year sometime in the next day or two. I need 27 more miles to reach 3,378 this year and 60,000 lifetime. Next weekend I’ll be back on the mountain bike—just to practice, not to race. There’s nothing for me in the WORS finale at Lake Geneva next Sunday. I might use that day to get more familiar with Greenbush, site of this year’s WEMS Championships in October.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Move-In Day



My son Ryan will move into his dorm room today. He graduated from high school in 2016 with a bunch of Advanced Placement credits, then spent the last calendar year commuting to UW-Washington County and UW-Waukesha, and now begins his junior year at Ripon College. Living on his own will be a big step for him … and a big change for the rest of the family. But Ripon is just an hour away and there will be many chances for us to visit each other.

That’s my old Gary Fisher Wahoo in the photo above. It’s the bike on which my passion for cycling began. It was my only bike from 2003 through 2005. I outgrew it as my abilities increased. Ryan grew into it, and I was happy to hand it down. Today it goes off to college too. Ripon is a small school in a small community. There’s probably no better way for Ryan to get around than by bike. But, who knows? Maybe Ryan will come to love cycling for its own sake, not just for transportation. Despite a tiny enrollment of about 800 students, Ripon does have its own cycling team!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 Race The Lake


Last year in my Race The Lake debut, a rear tire puncture cost me dozens of positions in the final 3 miles. I still had a good result, but not the result I deserved. For this year—the 10th anniversary—the race expanded from 88 miles to 100. The extra mileage was welcome news for me, as I’m a racer whose limited success comes from outlasting people rather than being faster. I went to Fond du Lac this morning with a pair of goals: finish in the Top 200 overall and in less than 5 hours.

If a Top 200 finish doesn’t seem very ambitious, then consider that Race The Lake is the biggest road race in Wisconsin, attracting a total field of 792 participants this year. And a century in less than 5 hours may be routine for some people, but I had never done one in less than 5.5 hours.

I can now say that my best century time is 4:16:28.43, and that I finished 157th overall. I’m really pleased with my performance. Unlike last year, when poor group dynamics led me to break away from my starting wave with a pair of accomplices, this year I started and finished with the lead group from Wave 4. It wasn’t the most cohesive unit on the road, but enough guys did enough work to deliver the group to the finish line. I was strong all day. My average speed of 23.5 mph was a big improvement over last year’s 21.5 mph (21.9 mph without the time lost to the flat tire).

The overall winner was Tim Savre (Project Echelon), a 27-year-old Cat 1. His time was 3:53:29.98. I couldn’t beat that. Nor could I beat former US Postal Team pro Robbie Ventura, who placed 7th with a time of 3:53:31.28. On the road I am just a 52-year-old Cat 5, after all. To be only 23 minutes behind those guys was a fair accomplishment.

My preparation for the race was really solid, and probably nothing was more important to it than the 100-mile training ride I did back on July 30. On that ride I experimented with a plastic shopping bag stuffed inside my jersey as a disposable insulator. I employed the same trick for the first 2 hours today, as the temperature was just 53° when my wave started at 6 a.m.  But that training ride left me with a broken rear derailleur. Fortunately, Mark Ramsey of Pedal Moraine contacted SRAM on my behalf and the manufacturer provided a warranted replacement. The bike worked flawlessly today.

I don’t foresee any more centuries on this year’s calendar … or any more 13-hour, 249-mile weeks! Shorter, more intense efforts will dominate my training now. I think I will make my 2017 cyclocross debut on Sunday, Sep. 10, at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee. I need more time on singletrack, too. There will be some room for long-ish road rides, though, as I still have to prepare for a trio of 3-hour Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series races. Next weekend: the Reforestation Ramble (Wisconsin Off-Road Series) at Suamico—and maybe a nighttime STXC race as a warm-up!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Versatile


I have been without my road bike for a week now and that’s not good as I try to prepare for next Sunday’s 100-mile Race The Lake. But what can I do? The rear derailleur is broken. I hope to have the bike repaired soon but in the meantime I have to keep training.

My cyclocross bike is a reasonably capable road bike—not the equal of my BMC, certainly, but good enough for training. On Tuesday I had a good performance in the first of this year’s cyclocross practices at Royal Oaks Park, then I switched back to slick tires for road rides on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Saturday’s ride was supposed to be a full-distance Wild Goose State Trail ride with Jeff Wren, but rain chased us out of Fond du Lac before we could get started. Fortunately, the rain didn’t come south to West Bend!

Today was another impossible-to-forecast day. Rain seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Late in the afternoon, Jeff and I headed to New Fane for some mountain biking. The trails were wet in a couple of spots, but certainly rideable. I learned later that it rained there at about 1 p.m., but I didn’t feel a single drop during my visit. And it rained briefly in West Bend while I was at New Fane, which shows just how widely scattered and localized the precipitation was this weekend.

I had not been on the mountain bike since the WORS race back on July 23, and I had not visited New Fane since July 16. But I felt only a little rusty and I got my groove back in a hurry. I’m satisfied with my lap times of 26:48, 26:42, and 26:35. Those are solid training laps and really not bad when you consider the condition of the trails. In a few spots I couldn’t follow my normal lines because they were wet, and much of the course was compromised by encroaching vegetation. There’s nothing like getting whipped by thorny branches. My left forearm looks like it lost a fight with a cat.

It’s back on the road tomorrow, presumably aboard the cyclocross bike again. Then I will switch to my backup wheelset/tires for cyclocross practice on Tuesday. By Wednesday I hope to have my BMC back in action, and it will get a couple of proper shake-down rides before next weekend.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 Wisconsin Bike Festival

Work before play.
This weekend was all about the Wisconsin Bike Festival. Things started on Saturday with the Wisconsin Women Century. Teammate Justin Schroeter and I ran the Cedar Lake Wayside rest stop just outside West Bend. Our volunteer time was repaid today with free entries in the Holy Hill Classic, a century ride that each of us wanted to use as a tune-up for Race The Lake on August 13.

I had not ridden farther than 63 miles this season. But endurance wasn’t my biggest concern; the weather was. How could that be? Today was sunny, dry, and our first 80° day since last Sunday. The answer is that it was eventually an 80° day. At 6 a.m. when the ride began in Cedarburg, the temperature was only 54° and I was dressed for October: thermal long-sleeve jersey, knee warmers … even a plastic shopping bag stuffed inside my jersey as a disposable wind block. I knew the day would warm up, but I didn’t know whether it would warm up fast enough.

The field for today’s ride was small. I recognized a few strong local roadies, but it seemed to be mostly a triathlon crowd. Justin and I committed to ride together, and eventually we settled in with a couple of guys who seemed to be compatible with our objectives. We weren’t out to kill this one.

Justin’s a big, strong boy. Get behind him into a headwind and out of his way on a descent. But he knew he would be tested by more than 4,400 feet of climbing on today’s route. This year’s Race The Lake will be longer and hillier than previous editions, so Justin’s takeaway from today is to keep riding hills over the next two weeks.

My takeaway has nothing to do with conditioning. I was very comfortable in the hills today and I handled the distance easily. My takeaway is to get my road bike fixed! About 60 miles into the ride, a spring broke in my rear derailleur. Fortunately that left me with my easiest gearing combination for tough climbs: 34x27. Unfortunately I was spinning out at about 16 mph in my 50x27 when the route went flat, and I wasn’t about to ride 40 miles like that. When the route passed close to West Bend I said goodbye to my companions and detoured home to get my cyclocross bike ... and to change out of the thermal clothes! At the moment my cyclocross bike is outfitted with 700x32 slicks—good enough to get me back to Cedarburg. I have never started a century I couldn’t finish, and I wasn’t about to end the streak today. I improvised a route that allowed me to complete the 100 miles, and I still got my 4,400+ feet of climbing.



It was my first century since August 2, 2014. It was also the exclamation point on a 13-hour, 217-mile week. The week to come looks wet and much cooler than I would like. It also brings the first of this year’s Tuesday evening cyclocross practices, an altogether different kind of effort that I expect will be a real shock to my system. And it’s back on the mountain bike next weekend, not to race—I couldn’t be less interested in the WORS event at La Crosse on August 6—but to look for more improvement in my skills. Juggling the not-so-complementary needs of race preparation for road, mountain, and cyclocross is no easy task.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2017 Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic


This has been an uncommonly wet summer in southeastern Wisconsin and for a while it looked like another round of heavy rains might force a postponement or even a cancellation of the Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic, today’s WORS race at Minooka Park in Waukesha. An already wet course got hit with more rain on Friday night, but not as much as predicted. The start of Saturday’s pre-ride was pushed back from 12 noon to 4 p.m. to give the trail crew more time to clean up, and those folks did an amazing job. I had such a good pre-ride that I went to bed last night with thoughts of a podium position.

Today’s race went well for me, but not that well! I took 8th out of 15 in the Sport 50-54 group, 86th out of 148 overall.

Why did I think I would do better? First, the uphill start and long ski trail lead-out played to my strengths. Second, the singletrack at Minooka—tight and twisty though it can be—isn’t especially technical. For example, there are no technical descents, and those are a big problem for me at other courses. Today I did get a good start and I was running with some of the top guys until we hit the singletrack. Then their superior skills allowed them to pull away. I reclaimed time on some of them when the trail would open up, but I lost too much time in the woods to be truly competitive. Series leader Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme) won the age group, his third victory this season. He also has four second-place finishes and has locked up the series points title.

My Team Pedal Moraine teammate Scott Palmersheim won the Sport 55-59 class. I like to think I helped: I quickly got out of his way when he caught me midway through Lap 2.

Up next on my race schedule is the 100-mile Race The Lake on August 13, so after today’s mountain bike race I went out for a quick 20 miles on the road. I finished the week with 201 total miles (mountain and road combined) and 13 hours in the saddle. It was my highest volume week so far this year. But I might surpass those totals in the week to come: I will test my endurance next Sunday in the non-competitive 105-mile Holy Hill Classic.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TDF Stage 13 Vs. My Monday Training Ride

Impressive.
Yesterday I completed my longest ride so far this season: 63 miles. That’s 101 kilometers, the same distance covered by the riders in the Tour de France last Friday on Stage 13. But total distance is where the similarities end!

My solo ride was just training, not racing. In a competitive situation—or at least in a group of riders sharing the work—I would have improved on my average speed of 17.5 mph. I took 3:36 to complete my route.

Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) won Stage 13 of the Tour de France in 2:36, completing his 101 kilometers an hour faster than I completed mine. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) finished last in 3:03. So, my training ride time was just 33 minutes off the time of a Tour de France contestant over the same distance. I should feel pretty good about myself, right?

Not so fast! My ride included 1,716 feet of climbing, which is an OK total over that distance in this part of the world but nothing special. Located in the heart of the Pyrenees, Stage 13 of the Tour de France included three Category 1 mountains and something like 7,600 feet of climbing! Faced with that much climbing, I surely would have been nowhere near Felline’s time, not that 33 minutes was very close in the first place. And I went into my ride well-rested after an easy weekend. The Tour de France guys had just completed a brutal 133-mile mountain stage on Thursday, 126 miles on Wednesday, 111 miles on Tuesday … you get the drift.

At 101 kilometers, Stage 13 was the shortest road stage of the Tour de France in 30 years. At 101 kilometers, my Monday ride was my first metric century of 2017. Usually that distinction goes to Cheesehead Roubaix, but not this year. I had not gone past 50 miles prior to yesterday—more mountain biking means fewer opportunities for long road rides. But I’m now less than 4 weeks away from Race The Lake, a 100-mile road race around Lake Winnebago, and I need to train for greater endurance. Yesterday I felt good. I would have needed some food and more hydration to make it to 100 miles, though. On July 30, the Holy Hill Classic will tell me whether I’m on track: 105 training miles with an estimated 4,474 feet of climbing. I won’t get through that without eating. It should be great practice for Race The Lake in every respect.

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Changes To The WCA CX Series



The Wisconsin Cycling Association has announced significant changes to its rules and daily schedule for the 2017 season, changes that create interesting opportunities for me even though I planned to focus less on cyclocross this season than I have in the past.

One of my greatest sources of dissatisfaction with the series was the seemingly impossible task of competing as a Cat 3 in a Masters race that scores 1s, 2s, and 3s together. When I upgraded from a 4 to a 3 before the 2015 season, I essentially upgraded to a 1. I have been pack fodder ever since. But this fall I will have a chance to compete on more equal footing in the new Masters Cat 3 race at the end of the day. Now, there will be guys as young as 34 in that race (racing age = 35), but I would rather go up against them than continue to pound my head against a wall of “old” Cat 1 & 2 racers. And the 3:33 p.m. start not only will satisfy my desire to race at the warmest time of day, but also will allow me to rest on Saturdays after my work shift ends at 7 a.m., then travel to the race.

The Masters 1/2/3 race isn’t going away, but it is changing. Instead of age groups of 35+, 45+ and 55+, there will be just two groups: 35+ and 50+. That makes me one of the younger 50+ guys instead of one of the older 45+ guys, but I don’t know how much that matters. Still, there might be one or two occasions on which I will be tempted to double up: Masters 1/2/3 at 1:16 p.m. and then the Masters Cat 3 race to end the day.

Also noteworthy is the Best 8 format that will decide the series champions. There are 18 dates on this year’s calendar. The WCA recognizes that almost no one can attend them all—in fact, the average number of races for a series participant is just 6. Thanks to racer indifference, we have slain the beast that was the SuperCup system that valued some races above others. SuperCup or no SuperCup, I certainly wasn’t planning to do all 18 dates, but I might do 8-10 of them. These dates look promising:

09/10 Sun - Humboldt Park Cyclocross @ Milwaukee
09/30 Sat - Flyover Silver Creek @ Manitowoc
10/08 Sun - Diablo River Cross @ Kimberly
10/21 Sat - GP Jo Vanderaffe @ Milwaukee
10/22 Sun - Battle Of Waterloo @ Waterloo
11/04 Sat - Estabrook Park @ Milwaukee
11/05 Sun - CamRock Cross @ Cambridge
11/11 Sat - Sijan Cross @ Milwaukee
11/12 Sun - FatKats CX @ Sheboygan Falls
11/18 Sat - Sunnyview Cross @ Oshkosh

I will miss the season opener (Cross-Shooshko in Milwaukee on Sep. 9) and the closest race to West Bend (PumpkinCross in Grafton on Oct. 7) because they conflict with mountain bike races for which I already have registered.

There’s good news and bad news about race registration. For me, the good news is that the Masters Cat 3 race will be just $25 pre-registered, $5 less than the Masters 1/2/3 fee. The bad news is that the day-of surcharge has increased to $10, turning that $25 race into a $35 race if I don’t pre-register. And pre-registration itself will be more of a gamble: the window closes on Wednesdays this year, not on Thursdays. Let’s hope for accurate weather forecasts. I’m not into the mud & snow thing, and I’m pretty likely to forfeit the $25 if bad weather arrives unexpectedly.

So, I’m now more interested in the upcoming season than I was before. That has to be a good thing, right?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2017 WORS Cup

STXC: More to my liking than the technical stuff. (Lynne Senkerik photo)


The WORS Cup is an unusual event. It’s the only weekend of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series season that includes cross-country, short track, and enduro races. It’s the only WORS weekend on which Cat 2 is not divided into Comp and Sport, distinctions not recognized by USA Cycling. Aside from its importance within the series, the WORS Cup is also the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Mountain Bike Championships, so there’s a big contingent of racers from other states. The visitors have no interest in WORS points. The series guys, for the most part, are more interested in WORS points than in regional championship medals. In a big field of riders with very different ambitions, it can be hard to know exactly against whom you are competing.

I didn’t imagine we would be competing against the race organization itself.

On Saturday I lined up for what was supposed to be 3 laps of the Alpine Valley cross-country course. The WORS Cup runs on a tight schedule, so we knew there was a time cut for the start of Lap 3. We didn’t know that the clock was already ticking as we sat on the starting grid. The race began in waves by age group, youngest to oldest. That’s normal for WORS, but in this instance it meant that only the first and youngest wave had the full allotment of time to begin Lap 3. Each successive wave had to be a minute faster than the one before it. That’s unfair already; making matters worse was the total length of the race. Even without the time lost on the starting grid, the vast majority of racers would have been unable to complete Lap 2 before the cutoff. Combining those factors led to an unceremonious conclusion for more than 80 percent of the field. Only the fastest racers from the earliest waves got to see Lap 3. For myself and my rivals in the 50-54 age group, nobody did the whole race.

Confusion and anger reigned in the 2.5-hour wait between the end of Lap 2 and the posting of results. Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme) wasn’t even on the initial draft, though we knew that he had finished first in our group. Racers clamored for the attention of the USA Cycling officials and eventually settled on an order that bore some resemblance to the actual results.

I placed 13th out of 19 in my age group. Forget about the overall; it’s meaningless under the circumstances. Every finisher got a “time” but those times are accurate only for the 3-lap guys. Of more importance to me was my placing among series finishers: 8th out of 10. That’s still not impressive, but I’d rather get 8th-place points than 13th-place points. Saturday’s trip to Alpine Valley was my third this year. I first saw it in May for the WEMS race, then returned on July 2 for a pre-WORS Cup training session. And in training I crashed pretty hard in a rock garden. That section was in my head as the race began. I had a good start, climbed strongly, handled the technical descents reasonably well, and lost no time running through the rock garden. I had found a bit of rhythm in the final moments of Lap 2, felt like I was closing on some riders in front of me, and was looking forward to the tough climb that would begin Lap 3. Oh, well.

STXC

Sunday was a better day. The short track course was fast, relatively flat, and not very technical. It was a little too rough to allow me to use my cyclocross bike, but the effort would be much like a short cyclocross race: 18-20 minutes in the red zone. I got a really strong start from Row 2, blowing past front-row starters who had no business there. Lap 1 was a blur. Early in Lap 2, eventual race winner Tom Wendland (Team Extreme) roared into the lead with Stuart Shelton in tow. I matched them for a little while, using that momentum to overtake my main rival, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). Wendland is in a different age group, so I didn’t trouble myself much about him, but I would have liked to hang with Shelton. For a couple of laps I was running 2nd among the Sport 50-54 guys, then Chip Way (Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) slipped by. In the last couple of laps I held off a hard-chasing Wren and finished 9th out of 22 in the race but 3rd out of 5 rivals in the series. With that 186-point bump I have overtaken a couple of guys in the standings, and that gets me a better spot in the starting grid on July 23 at Minooka Park in Waukesha.

And …

Sunday was a good day to sell an old road bike. I found a new owner for my 2007 Raleigh Competition, a bike that I guess I just never fell in love with and that had fallen into disuse as soon as I bought my BMC. I want to replace my existing mountain bike, a hardtail, with a full-suspension model. That won’t be cheap and I don’t have a firm timeline, but selling the Raleigh brings me a bit closer to making the purchase.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Sagan-Cavendish Controversy

1. Contact, 2. Elbow.
Peter Sagan has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

Peter Sagan, the reigning World Champion, has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

Peter Sagan, the reigning World Champion and only reason half of the TV audience even bothers to watch, has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

His crime? He raised his elbow after he and Mark Cavendish made contact with each other in the sprint finish of today’s stage. His elbow did not hit Cavendish, but to the race referees it appeared to have bad intent. Never mind that Cavendish was trying to squeeze through a too-small gap between Sagan and the barriers at the side of the road. Never mind that Cavendish was leaning on Sagan in an effort to create space. Never mind that Cavendish has a long history of dangerous sprinting, including this gem from the 2013 Tour. Sometimes you wonder whether the fix is in. I have often wondered that in regard to Cavendish, a rider who seems to enjoy special favor.

Sagan is the biggest star in the sport today. That doesn’t make him immune to the rules. But disqualification from the Tour de France, in which he was the 5-time defending green jersey winner … if he deserved a penalty at all, then why not relegation to last place on today’s stage? Disqualification is far too harsh, and it’s a decision that will turn many fans away from this year’s Tour.

Monday, July 3, 2017

TV, AV, And My Knee


I was no couch potato over the weekend—the new cuts and bruises I acquired on Sunday while mountain biking at Alpine Valley are evidence of that—but I did watch a lot of cycling. On both Saturday and Sunday I watched the Tour de France on NBC Sports Gold. The coverage was a little disappointing because the audio frequently cut out. Numerous comments on NBC’s various Facebook pages prove I was not the only one with that technical glitch. And a lot of people are disappointed that the streaming coverage includes commentary by Matthew Keenan and Robbie McEwen instead of the more familiar team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, but I don’t mind. The Phil & Paul act has grown a bit tedious in recent years. Keenan and McEwen are Australians whose commentary NBC is borrowing from an Australian TV network, so there’s a strong Australian bias in their presentation. Complaining about that, though, would be silly when the only alternative is the shamelessly pro-British commentary of Phil & Paul.

Infinitely better in its presentation was the RedBull.tv coverage of the UCI World Cup mountain bike weekend from Andorra. That began on Saturday with the downhill and concluded on Sunday with the cross-country races. RedBull.tv features multiple cameras, knowledgeable commentators, and entertaining pre- and post-race segments with course previews and racer interviews. You can check out the next round of the World Cup from Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on July 8 & 9. RedBull.tv is completely free, but it’s so good you might feel a little guilty watching it without having to pay.

Coverage of American bike races doesn’t measure up. Nevertheless, I tuned into YouTube late Sunday afternoon to watch the US criterium national championships from Louisville KY. The old Chicken-or-Egg argument came to my mind again: Do we have minimally-acceptable coverage because there are no fans, or are there no fans because we have minimally-acceptable coverage? There was almost nobody watching our national championships in person, despite warm and sunny weather. And the hit counters at the websites with streaming video suggested that not many people were watching online. Pretty sad.

About those new cuts and bruises … I crashed on some rocks at Alpine Valley and that’s not good. My right knee got the worst of it and we’ll see how it feels in the days leading up to the WORS Cup. I’m registered for both the cross-country race and the short track race next Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Yesterday’s visit to Alpine Valley was supposed to be a confidence-building pre-ride, but I left there injured and with no better understanding of the cross-country course. So, fail.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Halftime 2017

At the end of the first half of 2017, my cycling season is right where you would expect it to be.  I have done 84 rides for a total of 2,133 miles. Here’s how my January 1—June 30 mileage total stacks up historically:

2017: 2133
2016: 2425
2015: 2855
2014: 2159
2013: 2059
2012: 2474
2011: 1961
2010: 2290
2009: 2205
2008: 1950
2007: 1772
2006: 1243
2005: 1160
2004:  441

This year I’m placing much more emphasis on mountain biking, and miles on the mountain bike are harder to accumulate than miles on the road bike. And I’m placing more emphasis on mountain bike racing: 4 races already this year, versus 0 in the first half of 2016.

My weight? Well, it’s a little higher than it was at this point a year ago: 194 pounds versus 190. But that’s still within a normal range for me.

2017 has been a good year so far and I think the best is still to come.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Happy 50th Birthday, Jeff Wren!

Jeff and me at the 2014 Gravel Metric in DeKalb IL.  (Amy Dykema photo)


I won’t get all mushy but this does seem like a good occasion to point out how lucky I am to have Jeff as a friend. If you read this blog frequently, then you probably guessed that already. His name comes up again and again because we race together, train together, volunteer together, and have remarkably similar tastes and goals when it comes to cycling. Paved roads, unpaved roads, mountain bike trails, rail trails, cyclocross courses … you’ll find us there. As competitors we’re very evenly matched, and my friendship with Jeff has helped me to understand that a rival isn’t the same thing as an enemy. We make each other better, and what more could you ask of a friend than that?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fun At Greenbush


You read that headline correctly: fun at Greenbush. I haven’t had many nice things to say about Greenbush over the years, but today I actually enjoyed riding there. Following the wheel of Jeff Wren (Team Extreme), who has a lot more experience than I do on those mountain bike trails, I completed a sub-56:00 lap. That’s not too bad by itself, and it looks even better when you consider that I was making my first visit since May 2015. My previous best at Greenbush was 59:51.

I can’t give you the exact time of today’s lap because my progress was halted by a downed tree. I lost several seconds as I dismounted, carried the bike over the obstacle, and got back up to speed. That shouldn’t be a problem on October 7 when I compete on a freshly-groomed course in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series championship race, the GEARS Greenbush Grinder. But I will need to improve on today’s effort. It was a decent training ride, not race pace. Being faster was a product of my improving skills on singletrack. To be truly competitive, though, I would need to go sub-50:00 per lap for 3 consecutive laps. I don’t think I will get there, but who knows? In 2011 when I did my first-ever lap at Greenbush, I finished in about 80:00 and couldn’t have imagined a day when I would go sub-56:00.

More practice sessions at Greenbush to follow ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

No Cable? No Problem.



I’m an enthusiastic cord cutter … maybe even a fanatic. I grew to hate the cable bundle to the point where it simply had to go. My family and I have a much better experience with TV now that we get it over-the-air, on the Internet, and through streaming services. We’re saving money and we’re making smarter entertainment choices. Gone are the days of mindlessly flipping through 300 channels in search of a single decent program. Our viewing experience is now very focused.

For me, much of the focus is on bike racing. In the past I praised those pirated feeds of the major European TV networks, but during the last year it seems like they have gotten less reliable. Sites like CyclingFans.com continue to publish links, but more often than not the feeds are geo-restricted. Video quality—a hit-or-miss consideration before—is now almost uniformly terrible. And while I have been able to enjoy many races without English commentary, it’s better to have English if you can get it.

So, today I subscribed to the NBC Sports Gold cycling package. I will get a year of live and on demand video that includes all the major road races, some BMX, track and mountain bike events, and (especially) cyclocross. Only a small portion of the coverage will be broadcast on NBC’s family of over-the-air and cable channels, so don’t look at this $39.99 investment as a replacement for something I was getting in the old bundle. No, this is the epitome of à la carte TV: just cycling. I’m getting only what I want, whenever I want it, at a very high level of quality, from a single trusted source.

When I was a cable subscriber I checked out NBC’s streaming coverage a few times, so I know what I’m getting: extra content, no commercials. We’re between major races right now. The real test begins on July 1 with the Tour de France. I expect to be very satisfied. In the meantime, I will continue to check out the on demand offerings.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Go, Vols!



When you go to a big sporting event in America—something like pro or college football, Major League Baseball, etc.—you go with the expectation that everything will be taken care of for you. Someone shows you where to park. Someone shows you where to sit. Someone brings you drinks and snacks. And they all have one thing in common: they’re getting paid.

Cycling isn’t there yet, and it might never get there. Even when an event is overseen by a professional management company, volunteers do much of the work. The Tour of America’s Dairyland is Wisconsin’s biggest cycling event: 11 straight days of pro and amateur racing, starting tomorrow in Kenosha. When ToAD comes to Grafton on Saturday, I’ll be there for a 2.5-hour course control shift. On Monday I will work a 4-hour course control shift at the ToAD race in downtown West Bend. It’s fun, but it’s also serious business. ToAD brings out a lot of curiosity seekers who badly underestimate the speed of the racers. They can cross the course when I say so, and not before. And they can sit a little farther back from that hot corner, where experience tells me we’ll eventually see a crash.

On Saturday, July 29, one of my Team Pedal Moraine friends and I will run the last rest stop at the Wisconsin Women Century. The ride will begin and end in Cedarburg, but the rest stop is squarely on TPM’s home turf: the Cedar Lake Wayside just outside West Bend. Volunteering there isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also an opportunity to raise TPM’s public profile—particularly with women—as we continue to recruit new team members.

For our volunteer time, my teammate and I will earn free entries to the Holy Hill Classic on Sunday, July 30. It’s a hilly century ride that we’ll use as a tune-up for Race The Lake. So, our commitment to the rest stop isn’t completely selfless. Even ToAD has little rewards: free T-shirts, free food and drink, and so on. But such incentives aren’t the reason I volunteer. I’m motivated first by a desire to sustain the special cycling events we have in this area, and then to expand on them.

At this time, the Downtown West Bend Association is still short of volunteers for next Monday. There are several roles to play. If you can help, then please follow this link to sign up.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

West Bend’s Bike-Friendly Report Card

On May 25 I got email from the League of American Bicyclists with a link to West Bend’s bike-friendly community report card. Our city didn’t meet the League’s criteria for Bronze-level recognition, despite recent efforts by Bike Friendly West Bend. And this came as no surprise; BFWB applied for recognition with no expectation of success. The application was intended to elicit exactly the response that came: a point-by-point checklist for BFWB to use as a blueprint for future initiatives.

The League recommended that West Bend adopt a Complete Streets policy. That won’t happen anytime soon. There’s more hostility than support for Complete Streets from the governor and the state legislature, and without their attention the city’s Common Council doesn’t even have to consider, much less to accommodate, the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. West Bend only grudgingly repairs its streets for motor vehicles; expecting anything more would be silly.

The League also noted that “the current on-street bicycle network does not appear to include striped bicycle lanes.” True, nor will it in the future. Bike Friendly West Bend isn’t even asking for that. The goal of BFWB is bicycle boulevards: a network of low-traffic routes defined by signs and sharrows.

There is reason to hope that the League’s recommendation of an official Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee will become a reality. Bike Friendly West Bend already functions as one, and it wouldn’t take much for City Hall to create an official committee, perhaps one that could share resources with such existing groups as the Board of Public Works, the Park and Recreation Commission, the Plan Commission, the Police and Fire Commission, the Safety Commission, and the Tourism Commission. The League recommends that West Bend “increase the amount of staff time spent on improving conditions for people who bike and walk,” but that can’t be done until we have committee status. The efforts of Bike Friendly West Bend, however effective, won’t meet that recommendation.

The last of the League’s recommendations was to review and (ideally) to repeal sections of the municipal code that mandate bicycle registration. The League says, “Mandatory registration can be a barrier to some people choosing to use a bicycle.” I say that a $10 lifetime registration fee is hardly a barrier to prospective riders in a state that requires $75 annual motor vehicle registration. But it is possible to argue that bike registration in West Bend should be discontinued for other reasons:

  • Low rates of compliance by citizens
    • Citizens likely are unaware of the requirements
    • Citizens are unlikely to comply when enforcement is unlikely
  • Low rates of violation enforcement by West Bend Police
    • Registration applies only to City residents, not to visitors, and
    • Registration stickers are hard to see when a bike is in motion, so …
    • Enforcement is likely only when a rider is detained for another infraction
  • Low rates of lost or stolen bicycle recovery in which registration was a factor

Kenneth Meuler, West Bend’s Chief of Police, addressed these points in an email to Bike Friendly West Bend on May 29. He confirmed that his department is not citing residents for non-compliance, but argued that the requirement functions as a valuable service to reunite owners with lost or stolen bicycles. It remains to be seen whether the League will be mollified by the distinction between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

Getting recognition from the League of American Bicyclists will be an uphill battle. At their May meeting last Wednesday, members of Bike Friendly West Bend reviewed the League’s report card and seemed resolved to continue to work toward that goal. But there was some discussion about the value of League recognition—i.e., just what would being a Bronze-level bike friendly community do for West Bend? Would it be a boon for tourism? Would it encourage new families to relocate here? Those are unanswered questions. A different advocacy group would have been discouraged by the League’s critique but for Bike Friendly West Bend it was just another agenda item. The group remains confident in its plans to make the city better for cyclists and pedestrians, whatever outsiders may think.

Monday, June 5, 2017

2017 Battle Of CamRock

West Bend’s Jeff Wren was 4th in the Sport 50-54 race.

Located between Cambridge and Rockdale in eastern Dane County, CamRock County Park features some of the most popular mountain bike trails in Wisconsin. For me, though, CamRock has been primarily a cyclocross destination: different part of the park, different trail system. For whatever reason, my only mountain bike race at CamRock was back in 2012 when I competed as a Cat 3.

That beginner-friendly course was much easier than the one I faced on Sunday in the Battle Of CamRock, my second WORS race of 2017. I knew that I would be severely tested by many technical descents. Those continue to be my Achilles’ heel, and my inability to handle them well resulted in a 12th-place finish in my 15-man age group in the Cat 2 “Sport” race. I was 112th of 189 overall.

Not my best result … but the effort was there. I had a productive pre-ride on Saturday afternoon, got good rest on Saturday night, managed my nutrition and hydration needs effectively, and so on. Even the weather was in my favor: sunny and 82° on Sunday morning. My start was OK and the early flat or uphill sections of singletrack were no problem. My fitness was good: at just 1:11:48.1 of race time, my endurance wasn’t tested. But my performance went downhill whenever the trail went downhill—it’s that simple. To finish 12th out of 15 in my age group is disappointing, but it was a fairly tight pack. I was less than 4 minutes behind Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) for the final podium spot, and I lost all of that time on descents.

I thought about going to Wausau next Saturday for a WEMS race, but I’m abandoning that idea. And I’m taking Eau Claire and La Crosse off my WORS calendar, as I always suspected I would. I think it makes sense to put more energy into practice sessions close to home. I haven’t been to Greenbush yet this year, and I haven’t been to New Fane enough. Those trails are not just nearby; they’re also the sites of major racing objectives at the end of the season. Even Glacial Blue Hills looks like a good option for me right now. I need better skills, and maybe it’s best that I don’t try to find them during a race.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Venue Change For The WORS Cup


Yesterday the Wisconsin Off-Road Series announced a venue change for its signature event, the WORS Cup. Originally scheduled for Cascade Mountain in Portage, the 3-day event now will be held at Alpine Valley near Elkhorn. This is a big deal. A decade ago, Alpine Valley was part of the WORS family. Then it dropped off the radar for a while. But within the last few years, new trails at the resort have attracted a lot of riders and a lot of praise. Racing returned in 2015 with an 18-hour Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series event. UW-Whitewater hosted a collegiate race weekend at Alpine Valley last September. Now WORS is back, and I expect great things.

Cascade Mountain wasn’t a bad location. It was close to Madison and its proximity to I-94 made it an easy destination for racers from Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. But I think Alpine Valley has bigger potential. It’s much more fun to ride there. And even though the WORS Cup doubles as the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Championships, its competitors are mostly a Milwaukee-Madison-Chicago crowd. Compared to Cascade Mountain, Alpine Valley is closer to more population.

And closer to me! Traveling from home to attend the pre-ride on Friday, July 7, I will save about 30 minutes. Those are precious minutes for a guy who has to work overnight. On Saturday the 8th, the time savings will really add up. When my work day ends in Brookfield at 7 a.m., I will be just 31 miles from Alpine Valley. With 4 hours at my disposal before the race begins, I can stop somewhere for breakfast, reach the race venue without stress, and warm up as much as I want. If I had to be at Cascade Mountain by 11 a.m., then I would be facing a 97-mile drive. That would be achievable, of course, but a bigger expenditure of effort on something that doesn’t contribute to my race performance. Even on Sunday, the least time-crunched day, the venue change helps me. The STXC race begins early: 9 a.m. Because it’s at Alpine Valley and not at Cascade Mountain, I can sleep for an extra half hour.

The venue change also helps me because I already have raced at Alpine Valley this season. I didn’t get an especially good result in the WEMS race on May 13, but I built some confidence on the trails. At Cascade Mountain I would have been starting from scratch on unfamiliar ground. Yesterday’s announcement was nothing but good news for me!