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!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don't Miss The Demo Day!



Bad weather wiped out both of the demo days that were scheduled earlier this month, but tomorrow’s weather looks good. Belgianwerkx and Rocky Mountain have rescheduled their mountain bike demo at Pleasant Valley Park in Ozaukee County. Come out between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to see and ride the newest, coolest bikes in Rocky Mountain’s line.  Admission is free.

Monday, May 29, 2017

2017 WEMS Stump Farm 100


My race on Saturday at the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico could have been a disaster. Bad weather limited me to just 2 training rides between May 18 and May 26. I hadn’t been on the mountain bike since May 13. I worked 12-hour nighttime shifts on Thursday and Friday, and when my race began at 12 o’clock I had been awake for almost 24 hours. I should have been an embarrassing combination of under-trained and exhausted.

I wasn’t. I had abundant energy and a really fun race. I took 15th place in the 33-man short distance category. My time of 2:24:02 was way off the winning pace of 1:59:23 set by Dan Teaters (Team Wheel & Sprocket), but I never expected to match him. Teaters is a 33-year old Cat 1 who was racing on his home course, motivated to win Stump Farm for the second year in a row. His closest competition finished more than 4 minutes behind.

My closest competition was Shaun Putz (unattached), with whom I began working early in Lap 1. Putz was smooth through the singletrack and I was happy to follow his lines. And he was a good communicator, calling out hazards like slower riders from the mid- and long-distance categories … and like the big garter snake I would have crushed if not for his warning. We completed Lap 1 just 3 seconds apart and comfortably ahead of any chasers. By the end of Lap 2, however, Putz had a 58-second lead on me. For much of Lap 3, I couldn’t see him. But I knew I was faster on the cross country ski trails and on the climbs, so I pushed especially hard in those areas and got back to Putz’s wheel with 3 miles to go. Again I was content to follow, sure that I could out-kick my rival on the long section of ski trail at the end of the lap. With less than a mile to go, my plans almost fell apart: I crashed when my front tire washed out in a sandy corner. I wasn’t on the ground for long, but any delay was a bad delay that late in the race. When I emerged from the singletrack Putz had a 200-meter lead. I went into the big ring, reeled him in, and finished 2 seconds ahead. I was grateful to have a reason to keep pushing throughout a race that easily could have turned into little more than a solo ride.

Then I saw the results and realized I finished only 19 seconds behind my top rival, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). I had lost sight of him early in Lap 1, which he completed in 45:45 and I finished in 47:03. I was 34 seconds quicker on Lap 2 and 25 seconds quicker on Lap 3, but it wasn’t enough.

With two category wins, Saturday was a great day for Team Pedal Moraine. Matt Grady won the long distance singlespeed race—that’s 101 miles of mountain bike racing—in 8:42:08, beating his closest rival by just 6 seconds! Nate Gruenke easily won the mid-distance fatbike category.

The next race in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series is the Romp In The Swamp Epic on June 10. Because of the distance between my office in Brookfield and the race venue in Wausau, I haven’t committed to that date. But Saturday’s race showed that I can race well even after an overnight work shift and a long drive. I’m hoping for a high finish in the series standings, so any points are good points.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Enjoy State Parks & Trails For Free

Most of Wisconsin’s state parks and trails require some kind of payment from their patrons. Each year I buy a state parks vehicle sticker ($28) and a state trail pass ($25). Those are good for unlimited visits to any state park or trail, but most years I use them only for mountain biking at New Fane. I visit New Fane often enough that the annual passes are far cheaper than daily passes ($8 vehicle / $5 trail). If cost has been holding you back, then circle next weekend on your calendar:


Monday, May 22, 2017

2007 Raleigh Competition For Sale


It's a great bike; I just don't use it anymore. The BMC Gran Fondo is my road bike now and probably will be for many years to come. But this Raleigh will be a super deal for somebody! Click here to see the details on Craigslist.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bumped From The Schedule



Wisconsin weather strikes again!

I’m taking the Iola Bump & Jump off my schedule. Iola is going to get more than an inch of rain tomorrow and that will wipe out the pre-ride window, then on Sunday the skies will be overcast and the wind chill will be 48° for the Cat 2 (Sport) race at 11:30 a.m. With no opportunity to pre-ride an unfamiliar course, and faced with a cold mudfest, I’m staying home.

Skipping Iola has big implications for my WORS season. There are 11 scoring opportunities, the best 7 of which count in the series standings. I got series points back on May 6 at the Englewood Opener. Now I have just 9 more chances to score. Distant races like the Red Flint Firecracker in Eau Claire (June 25) and the Hixon Forest Epic in La Crosse (August 6) have always been nothing more than “maybes” on my calendar. The WORS Cup offers 2 scoring opportunities—cross country on Saturday, July 8, and short track or enduro on Sunday, July 9—but the unusual race schedule meshes badly with my work schedule. Without 7 results there is no prospect of a high finish in the series standings, and the most realistic path to that goal now looks like this:

06/04 - Battle Of CamRock
06/18 - Mt. Morris Challenge
07/08 - WORS Cup: XCO
07/09 - WORS Cup: STXC
07/23 - Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic
08/20 - Reforestation Ramble

Racing at Iola would be unpleasant enough for me under the conditions the weather forecast describes, but it also might compromise my WEMS ambitions. The Stump Farm 100 is coming up next Saturday and I don’t want to miss it because of illness, injury, or mechanical failure. WEMS also uses the “best 7” format to determine series champions and I won’t get to 7 results in that series, but at least I should get to the minimum of 4 results I need to be award-eligible. Stump Farm will be my second WEMS race this year—Alpine Valley was the first—and I already have registered for the 3 races at the end of the season:

09/09 - Northern Kettles Fall Epic
09/16 - 9 Hours Of Silver Lake
10/07 - GEARS Greenbush Grinder (WEMS Championship)

So, 2017 still looks like a very full year of mountain bike racing even without Iola and, perhaps, without some of the other WORS dates.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

9 Hours Of Alpine Valley

Climbing well despite too much belly fat! (Brittany Nigh photo)

Last Saturday was peculiar. After working overnight, I crawled into a quiet corner of my office building and slept for a while. It didn’t make sense to drive back to West Bend from Brookfield, then hang out at home for a few hours, and then drive south again for the 9 Hours Of Alpine Valley WEMS race. Taking an hour of driving off my schedule made for an easier approach to a day that I knew would be challenging enough.

I didn’t have high expectations for my race performance, and I didn’t get a high finish: 26th of 39 men in the 3-hour division. I clipped a tree early in Lap 1 and crashed, dropping me behind some traffic that I wouldn’t have fallen behind otherwise. On a course that is almost all singletrack, it took a while to reclaim the spots I lost. Meanwhile, a couple of guys with whom I thought I would contend were able to get away and I never saw them again. But meandering across the Alpine Valley ski hill, I was very pleased with my climbing ability. To whatever extent I had success against other racers, that was the reason. My descending skills remain shoddy but they got a good workout that afternoon, and only by challenging myself will I improve.

In a typical year I don’t show up until I have enough fitness to compete at a reasonable level. This spring I am trying to race myself into shape. I consider last Saturday a success because I pushed much harder than I would have in a non-competitive environment. I also picked up some series points that will be useful later. I’m expecting a better result on May 27 in the Stump Farm 100 at the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico, where I usually race well. But my real targets on the WEMS calendar come at the end of the season: the Northern Kettles Fall Epic on September 9, the 9 Hours Of Silver Lake on September 16, and the WEMS Championships on October. It’s a long season and clearly I’m not yet where I need to be, but the wheels are in motion.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Try Some Buy Some


If you live in southeastern Wisconsin, then during the next week you will have two great opportunities to test ride new bikes from Giant and Rocky Mountain. Giant’s demo day will include road and mountain bikes. It will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. this Saturday, May 20, at the John Muir trailhead in Walworth County. Hosted by Belgianwerkx, Rocky Mountain’s demo day will be a mountain bike-only affair at Pleasant Valley in Ozaukee County, 4-8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 23. Both events are free, but remember your state trail pass and state parks vehicle sticker if you go to John Muir. You can buy 1-day passes at the trailhead if you don’t have annual passes.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ride 2,000

Pretty standard stuff ... with two notable exceptions.
Today’s ride was short: 22 miles with only 531 feet of climbing, completed in a little less than 1.5 hours. Really it was just an easy spin on my cyclocross bike, a “recovery” ride on the day after a much larger effort. But it was a significant ride nonetheless because (1) it was my 2,000th ride since my life as a cyclist began back in 2004, and (2) my left knee didn’t hurt.

So, what was this much larger effort on Saturday? The WEMS race at Alpine Valley. And why did I think my left knee might hurt? Because I crashed in the WEMS race at Alpine Valley. The crash didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. It happened just a couple of minutes into the race, and I then rode for about 2.5 hours without any discomfort. But my knee got tight overnight and had me limping around the house this morning. I was relieved that it didn’t bother me at all during this afternoon’s ride. In another day or two it should be back to normal.

I’ll post a race report as soon as WEMS posts yesterday’s results. I know I didn’t have a high finish, but I left Alpine Valley yesterday with literally no idea how many people finished ahead of me or behind me. I don’t think I have ever done that before, and I hated to do it but I couldn’t wait around any longer than I did. WEMS switched to a new scoring system this season and so far things have been a little clunky.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Englewood Opener

Team Extreme’s Stuart Shelton and Jeff Wren took the top spots.
The 2017 Wisconsin Off-Road Series began in Fall River on Saturday and I was there, using the occasion to begin my own racing season. In fact, I started the race from the front row and was solidly in the Top 5 on a long, uphill leadout into a stiff wind. But the ambitious start was too much, too soon: halfway through the first lap, I had dropped back to the middle of the pack. And that’s where I would finish, 8th place out of 16 in the Sport (Cat 2) 50-54 age group at the Englewood Opener.

Lap 1 was considered a prologue: a shorter lap that omitted most of the technical sections of the course. The idea was to create separation between riders and thereby prevent bottlenecks at the rock gardens and other tricky spots. The strategy worked for the most part, but with a big field of riders there was always someone for me to chase and always someone just behind. I was 91st out of 166 overall.

On Lap 2, feeling a little ragged from the aerobic challenge of the prologue, I ran through a couple of technical sections rather than risk a crash. If I still had been in the Top 5, then I would have accepted the risk, but I didn’t lose much time in the bargain. By the midpoint of Lap 2 I had settled down and my handling skills were feeling sharper. That helped me to recapture a couple of positions. I had ridden singletrack just 5 times this year prior to Saturday. Some of Englewood’s technical sections were at the limit of my ability, but I rode them all on Lap 3 with growing confidence. I spent the entirety of Lap 3 with teammate Larry Hipps, and together we picked off a few stragglers while defending ourselves from pursuers. The podium spots were out of reach but we did well to consolidate our positions. In the end, it was a Washington County 1-2: Stuart Shelton of Hubertus took the win, followed by West Bend’s Jeff Wren.

I’m OK with my result. During Friday’s pre-ride, I knew the technical sections would be a problem for me. But I also knew that I would do well on the open areas of the course, including the many climbing sections. Englewood was a must-do because it was new and because it was just 56 miles from home. That makes it the second-closest venue in a series that includes dates in Eau Claire and La Crosse. I haven’t committed to all 10 races, but I am glad to have opened my series points account. In the week to come I will spend more time on singletrack and more time on hills in preparation for the next WORS race, the Iola Bump & Jump on May 21. Whether that means I will line up for next Saturday’s WEMS race remains to be seen, though there may be no better preparation for Iola than the course at Alpine Valley.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Fane, New Look

Presenting the new Pedal Moraine jersey!

Today I returned to New Fane for some badly needed time on singletrack. I had not been on the mountain bike since I visited New Fane on April 15 & 16. I can attribute the layoff to an overabundance of rain and wet trails, but it’s also true that I was wavering in my commitment to the WORS season opener this Saturday. When I finally made the decision to race, the decision to practice followed swiftly.

If only I were riding swiftly! I can’t claim that yet. I did 2 short laps today and then 2 full laps. My full-lap times were 27:23 and 27:33, respectively. Those were my fastest laps this year, but I’m still about 30 seconds per lap behind the pace I set in last year’s Northern Kettles Fall Epic.

Tomorrow is another day … one that I will spend pre-riding the Englewood Opener course. I’m curious and optimistic about a purpose-built XC race course: trails not designed to be ridden, but to be raced. That’s unique in Wisconsin and it’s rare in most other parts of the country. We’re behind the rest of the world when it comes to course design, and it shows. Pre-riding is always a good idea and even if my fitness isn’t great at least my mental preparation for Saturday can be strong. It’s a huge advantage to be familiar with the course when others are not. For some of my WORS rivals who are used to Sunday races, the unusual schedule of the opening weekend will be a hardship. The Friday pre-ride window won’t fit everyone’s schedule. For me, it will be an opportunity to gain an edge. I have no real expectations for my performance on Sunday. I will be happy just to get the first race of the year under my belt, gain a little fitness by pushing myself harder than I could in training, and grab some points in the series standings. A good result would inspire me to be more active in the series than I might be otherwise, but I haven’t done enough this year to deserve a good result.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Not Your Average Cheesehead Roubaix

Lovers Lane is bad enough when it’s dry! Click here to see all the great Moroder Photography shots.

In years to come I hope I will remember the 2017 Cheesehead Roubaix as “the weird one.”

Today was the 8th annual running of my interpretation of the Spring Classics, and it was notable for two things. The first was the weather. Around here, an average April 30 has a low temperature of 40° overnight and a high temperature of 61° in the afternoon. Today’s high temperature was 41° ... and that doesn’t figure in the winds. With 10-20 mph winds from the northeast, the wind chill was in the low 30s. (It was 27° early this morning when I was setting up some of the signs along the route.) Mist and light rain fell throughout the ride. Conditions were just about as bad as they could have been. At least it didn’t snow, I guess. At least there wasn’t any lightning, I guess.

The second thing that made this year’s Cheesehead Roubaix so different for me was that I didn’t ride it. As the event’s creator, I had never missed a chance to see the ride from behind the handlebar. But today I saw it from behind the steering wheel of my minivan. In fact, I saw most of the route more than once. Cheesehead Roubaix is intended for the self-sufficient, but conditions were so rough today that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to leave the riders without any support. As you might imagine, poor weather had a dramatic effect on the turnout. For the last couple of years I have been getting about 300 riders, but today I had only about 30. That meant each rider had fewer companions on whom he/she could rely, and many riders rode long stretches of the route alone. A couple of riders bugged out after climbing Lovers Lane. At least 11 abandoned at the Belgianwerkx-sponsored rest stop in the Village of Belgium, roughly halfway through the route. I provided transportation for 2 of them. Short-cutting the route on my return to Belgium, I saw a few more riders feeling their way back to Newburg.

Newburg itself was a little different this year. During the winter, an ice jam caused the Milwaukee River to flood Newburg Fireman’s Park. The fire department is still working to reverse the damage, and the parking lot was not available to us today. We’ve had nearly double the normal amount of rainfall for April, slowing the park’s restoration. But the fire department did come through with a portable toilet, and the post-ride snacks available at the concessions stand were a nice treat for several riders. Between concessions sales and cash donations, today netted about $300 for the department—a big drop from last year, but not bad under the circumstances.

Today’s ride was challenged by some of the worst weather Cheesehead Roubaix has ever seen. When the temperature is 20° below normal and the whole day is wet, windy, and dark … what can you do? Today the people behind the ride supported the riders in more direct and personal ways than ever before. Next year we might have beautiful weather and 300 riders and a bucket full of cash for the fire department and things will be back to normal. And normal at Cheesehead Roubaix is pretty great. Today was weird, but hopefully the people who showed up thought it was pretty great anyway. We did our best to make it so.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Let’s Take It Statewide

All of Wisconsin deserves a cyclocross series, not just the I-94 corridor.
Yesterday’s release of the 2017 WCA cyclocross calendar once again confirmed the big city bias of which I have written before. And I don’t mean that as an indictment of the people behind the series. It makes sense to hold races where a lot of people will attend and where the promoters can at least cover their costs. Where do you find a lot of people? In the I-94 corridor that connects Milwaukee and Madison.

Races in cities like Oshkosh and Wausau prove that even great promoters with great courses cannot count on the support of racers from the I-94 corridor. As I have said before, the big city racers are spoiled to the point where a lot of Milwaukee folks skip the Madison races and a lot of Madison folks skip the Milwaukee races! The SuperCup—the 12 races that actually count toward the series championship—is split evenly between Milwaukee and Madison. And only your best 6 results count in the SuperCup standings, so in theory you could win the championship without ever leaving your home territory.

Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe Wisconsin is just too big for one series. It’s 430 miles from the Superior in the northwest to Kenosha in the southeast. This isn’t a small state and our population is not evenly distributed across it. So, what if instead of marginalizing races in cities like Oshkosh and Wausau, we made them important to their own series? Take the 18 races on the 2017 WCA schedule, pull out the state championship because it belongs to everybody, and split the others by region:



For now, drop the “best 6” provision and count all race results within each regional series. The “best 6” concept can be revisited if the regional series grow. And let them grow! Allow each region to establish its own schedule even if the dates conflict. Some will argue that to do so would be to split a finite pool of racers into too many small pieces, making it harder for promoters to attract enough racers to cover their costs. I don’t agree. We’re already split. Just look at the results of past races to see how reluctant racers are to leave home turf. The greatest challenge to multiple races on the same date may be the availability of USA Cycling officials. While I’m not sure we have enough at present, we can do more to attract, train, and then retain them.

What if you could add Green Bay and Appleton to SuperCup-North? What if SuperCup-North split into Northeast and Northwest someday after welcoming places like Superior, Eau Claire, La Crosse, and exurban Minneapolis-St. Paul into the fold? The current WCA model discourages racing in those parts of the state. There is and shall remain just one state championship, and it’s a big enough prize to pull in people from all over. But clearly the SuperCup is not. The “best 6” rule is itself a concession to the reluctance of racers to travel to every race in pursuit of every point. By splitting the series into regions, every race would matter again, if only within their own regions, and markets the WCA has either ignored or underserved would have a chance to develop.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The 2017 WCA Cyclocross Schedule

Surprise, surprise, surprise!



This morning the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced its 2017 cyclocross schedule and there are definitely some surprises. Here’s the schedule itself:

09/09 Sa - SuperCup: Cross-Shooshko, Milwaukee
09/10 Su - SuperCup: VeloCause CX, Milwaukee
09/30 Sa - Flyover Silver Creek CX, Manitowoc
10/01 Su - Cross Of The North, Wausau
10/07 Sa - SuperCup: PumpkinCross, Grafton
10/08 Su - Diablo River Cross, Kimberly
10/14 Sa - SuperCup: Fitchonia Cross Omnium, Dane County
10/15 Su - SuperCup: Fitchonia Cross Omnium, Dane County
10/21 Sa - SuperCup: GP Jo Vanderaffe, Milwaukee
10/22 Su - SuperCup: Battle Of Waterloo, Waterloo
10/28 Sa - SuperCup: Crossfire @ Angell Park, Sun Prairie
10/29 Su - SuperCup: Sun Prairie Cup @ Sheehan Park, Sun Prairie
11/04 Sa - SuperCup: Estabrook Park, Milwaukee
11/05 Su - SuperCup: CamRock CX, Cambridge-Rockdale
11/11 Sa - SuperCup: Sijan Cross, Milwaukee
11/12 Su - FatKats CX, Sheboygan
11/18 Sa - Sunnyview Cross, Oshkosh
12/02 Sa - SuperCup: State Championships, Waterloo

Surprise #1: So many Sundays! There is a faction within the WCA that wants to confine this series to Saturdays as much as possible, leaving Sundays open for the Chicago Cyclocross Cup series. Chicago races attract larger fields that include more top-quality racers, making them more valuable to elite Wisconsin racers looking to improve their USA Cycling rankings for nationals. I expected to see some movement away from Sundays this season, but that aspect of the schedule didn’t change.

Surprise #2: Cross Of The North is back. As a new event in 2016, it featured a great course … but dismal attendance due to its location. Wausau is simply too far away from the big population centers of Milwaukee and Madison. Those who do give this race a try will not be disappointed.

Surprise #3: With the GP Jo Vanderaffe, cyclocross will return to Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes. That’s where I did my first-ever cyclocross race back in 2011.

Surprise #4: No Halloween-themed race. It was a tradition at Washington Park in Milwaukee. Then a muddy race damaged the park in 2015 and the threat of rain prompted Milwaukee County to cancel the event in 2016. (OK, maybe this one isn’t that much of a surprise.)

Surprise #5: After a 1-year absence, Sheboygan returns to the schedule … under new management. The FatKats, better known as a mountain biking team, have stepped up to replace Sheboygan Bicycle Company.

And now here’s something that won’t surprise anyone who kept up with my 2016 cyclocross season: I’m going to miss most of these races.

This season my top competitive priority is mountain biking. I’m already registered for WEMS races on Sep. 9 and Oct. 7, dates that otherwise would belong to cyclocross. Cyclocross is still important but I'm not going to put as much pressure on myself as I have in recent years. For example, I have always wanted to do Patriot CX—Sep. 10 in Rantoul IL—but it has always conflicted with something else. And it does again this year, but why shouldn't I do it anyway? Also, as I demonstrated last season, I am reluctant to travel very far for a Saturday race, given the overnight work schedule that keeps me in the office until 7 a.m. on Saturdays. So, this might be the extent of my 2017 WCA schedule:

10/08 Su - Diablo River Cross
10/21 Sa - SuperCup: GP Jo Vanderaffe
10/22 Su - SuperCup: Battle Of Waterloo
11/04 Sa - SuperCup: Estabrook Park
11/05 Su - SuperCup: CamRock CX
11/11 Sa - SuperCup: Sijan Cross
11/12 Su - FatKats CX
11/18 Sa - Sunnyview Cross

Those 8 races plus Patriot CX plus Region Riot Cross in Crown Point IN on Nov. 26 would give me 10 for the year, which is the same number of cyclocross races I typically do. Let’s face it: I’m not competing for a series title or state championship. I should build a schedule that makes me happy.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stick Around For Joy



This weekend got off to a terrible start. I was at work early Saturday morning when the news of Michele Scarponi’s death reached me. There really is no other sport that loses its stars during training. Automobile racing? It’s not the same. Test laps at the track are conducted in a controlled environment. Scarponi’s training ride was on open roads near home. Like mine. That’s what makes these situations so hard to take. When the best riders in the world can die in almost stereotypical fashion, then how can we deny our own vulnerability? I know the risks, I accept the risks, and I do everything I can to mitigate the risks. There’s a right way to conduct your business out there. It doesn’t guarantee that you will come home, but it greatly improves your chances. As I rode this weekend I thought of Scarponi, and of Amy Dombrowski and of Burry Stander, and still I rode without fear. They weren’t martyrs. I don’t intend to be one either. I’m not riding the roads to prove a point; I’m riding the roads because it pleases me. To degrees great and small, risks are everywhere. Some can be avoided entirely—I will never die in a skydiving accident because I will never go skydiving—but many cannot. Anything to which you give your heart comes with the risk of loss. Your spouse may leave you. Your children may grow up to disavow you. Your friends may betray you. But most likely, those people will be sources of great joy. Cycling is one of my great joys—one of only a few—so it’s worth the risk.

Early this morning I drove most of the Cheesehead Roubaix route and it’s looking good for next Sunday. The wildcard is the weather. Too much rain in the days before the ride could force a detour from low-lying Jay Road, but even rain on Sunday morning will not cancel the event.

There’s no rain in the forecast tomorrow, though, or on Tuesday, and I will need good training rides on both days to make up for the poor effort I gave today. This week I’m going to hit 1,000 miles for 2017, but I’m still not in any kind of groove. I always look to the completion of the first 1,000 miles as a major goal, because historically I “switch on” at that time. No promises this year … except that I will keep looking for the switch.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Two-Fane



Spring has been cool and wet overall, and that’s not unusual around here. This weekend was uncommonly warm and mostly dry, but the winds were very high. It would have been a frustrating time to be on the road bike. Fortunately, I got to hide from the winds at New Fane, whose mountain bike trails opened for the season on Friday. Greenbush is now available too, and I plan to visit it several times before the WEMS Championship there on October 7. This weekend, though, was all about New Fane.

New Fane is important not just because of its proximity, but also because it is the site of the Northern Kettles Fall Epic on September 9. I have done well in that race historically and I intend to do well again this year. A big key to my success there is familiarity. The more practice laps, the better. I did 2 laps yesterday—my first visit to New Fane since last year’s Northern Kettles Fall Epic—and I did 2 more laps today. And they weren’t great. I was slow because I’m out of shape. I was hesitant because prior to this weekend I had only 1 hour on singletrack this year: last Sunday’s trip to Glacial Blue Hills. About all I can say is that today’s laps were faster than yesterday’s laps. It’s a start.

There’s a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, I’m confident that I will get back to where I want to be … in time to give a good account of myself this fall. Whether I will be in anything like race shape by May 6—the date of the WORS season opener—is a more pressing concern. It’s back to the road tomorrow for some fat-burning, endurance-building miles, and then maybe it’s back to the turbo trainer if rain returns on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Good Busy

Stop, paint, drive to the next intersection, stop, paint, drive to the next intersection ...


This was a good weekend. And thanks to my strange work schedule, perhaps it’s not over yet: I’m free on Mondays until late at night, so there’s a better-than-average chance that I’ll spend some time on the bike tomorrow. But even if I don’t, I will remember this weekend as one that was full of cycling in several forms.

On Saturday I did a respectable 30-mile road ride, then returned home just in time to watch streaming coverage of the Sunny King Criterium from Anniston AL, pro women first and then pro men. Entertaining stuff, but really just an hors d’oeuvre for this morning’s Paris-Roubaix. That’s my favorite pro race, and this year’s edition did not disappoint.

Paris-Roubaix ended shortly after 10 a.m., leaving me with the rest of the day to fill with my own cycling activities. Knowing that it was going to be a dry day—and knowing that I can’t always count on those—I was determined to prepare the roads for Cheesehead Roubaix, now just 3 weeks away. Jeff Wren joined me and we knocked out the route in about 3.5 hours, which is roughly how long it takes to ride those 63 miles! But stopping at every intersection to paint logos and directional arrows is tedious work. And it was work that alternated between hot and cold: with a strong wind from the southeast, we were toasty as long as we were a couple of miles inland, but chilled when we were close to Lake Michigan.

In West Bend the temperature reached 73° this afternoon, just 3° from the all-time record. It was our warmest day so far this year and our first 70° day since November 17. Starting at 5:30 p.m.—love me some Daylight Saving Time—I spent an hour working on mountain biking skills at Glacial Blue Hills. It was my first time on singletrack since the WEMS race at New Fane on September 17. The long layoff and my relative unfamiliarity with the trails was evident, but at least it was a step in the right direction as I prepare for the mountain bike racing season.