Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Statistical Review



As 2017 began, my mileage goal was a modest 3,378. That was the number I needed for 60,000 lifetime miles, and I reached it easily. But as 5,000 came into view, I decided to go for it. That meant riding on some pretty cold days after the cyclocross season ended, days that I would have skipped otherwise. I will remember 2017 as another good year on the bike despite coming up short of that 5,000-mile goal. If only the weather had not been so cold lately: below 32° since December 22, and below zero for much of that time! I finished the year with 4,933 miles, the 6th highest total in my 14-year cycling career.

Here’s the breakdown by month:

120 January
285 February (PR)
158 March
439 April
516 May
615 June
727 July
694 August
583 September
425 October
260 November
111 December

If March had been even close to normal, then I would have wrapped up a 5,000-mile season before December arrived. Oh, well. And it should go without saying, but all of those miles are real miles. I would count miles around an indoor velodrome if I had that option, but I don’t count “miles” on a stationary trainer.

I did 21 races in 2017: 11 on the mountain bike (6 WORS, 4 WEMS, 1 unsanctioned short track race), 9 on the cyclocross bike (7 WCA, 2 HICX), and 1 on the road bike (Race The Lake). I won’t count my 9 practice cyclocross races at Royal Oaks Park in August and September, but those efforts were every bit as hard as some of the sanctioned races in which I competed.

While my 2018 competition goals are still forming, I can say that I won’t be as heavily involved in mountain bike racing as I was in 2017. Right now the only WORS event on my calendar is the short track race at the WORS Cup. That’s July 8. I should be good for 3-5 WEMS races. On August 26 I will be at Race The Lake for the third straight year. It might be my only road race again in 2018. Cyclocross will be the focus, and it could be months before I know that schedule.

I plan to spend more time on the road bike in 2018, and that should result in a higher mileage total. My goal is 5,000 miles. I have averaged 5,177 miles over the last 7 seasons, so that seems like a reasonable level. And I want to return to my roots as a cyclist by taking a series of long rec trail rides. I missed the Wild Goose State Trail this year. I also have unfinished business with the Wiouwash State Trail. I would like to see the Mascoutin Valley, Ahnapee, and Devil’s River state trails for the first time ever, and I would like to return to the Glacial Drumlin State Trail for the first time since 2009.

It’s hard to predict the future, but I expect to race a little less in 2018 and to spend a little less money on cycling. There are a couple of significant home improvements on my To Do list—expensive and time-consuming tasks that I will try to complete before July. With them behind me, the second half of 2018 will belong to bike racing!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The 2018 WEMS Schedule



This is definitely a work in progress and even some of the dates that appear to be set are subject to change, but this afternoon the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series announced its 2018 schedule:

04/28 - The Wild Ride Buzzard Buster @ Hatfield
05/05 - Southern Kettles Classic @ La Grange (John Muir Trails)
05/12 - 9 Hours Of Alpine Valley @ Elkhorn
05/19 - Stump Farm 100 @ Suamico
06/09 - Romp In The Swamp Epic @ Wausau
??/?? - 9 Hours Of Silver Lake @ Salem
07/14 - RASTA Rock ‘n’ Root @ Rhinelander
08/18 - Hundred-Down In The Underdown @ Gleason
09/08 - Northern Kettles Fall Epic @ New Fane
09/15 - Jack Lake @ Salem
10/06 - GEARS Greenbush Grinder (WEMS Championship) @ Greenbush

It’s great to see plans for an 11-race season from a series that was in danger of losing Greenbush and dropping to just 8 races in 2016. And for me it’s great to see two dates at Kenosha County’s Silver Lake Park in Salem, a new venue in 2017 that I found to my liking. Count me in for both as long as the September date doesn’t conflict with an important cyclocross race. That weekend belonged to Jingle Cross this year, a race against which the Wisconsin Cycling Association doesn’t compete. But for 2018 Jingle Cross likely will move to the last weekend in September. That means the UCI World Cup race at Trek headquarters in Waterloo probably will fall on the weekend of September 22-23, and that means there could be a WCA race on September 15. (This year’s Jingle Cross and Waterloo races were held in uncharacteristic heat, unpopular with the top European pros. Don’t be surprised if next year’s dates get moved back in an effort to find cooler weather.)

As for the rest of the WEMS schedule, I might be in for Alpine Valley and Stump Farm again. Those races plus the two at Silver Lake plus the can’t-miss Northern Kettles Fall Epic at New Fane would give me the five results I need to have a respectable finish in the season-long points competition. But again my Friday night work schedule will make traveling to the more distance races an impossibility. That’s OK. I gave a lot of attention to mountain biking this year. In 2018 my focus will be cyclocross.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

West Bend Bike Route Proposal Fails

Bike Friendly West Bend suffered a resounding defeat at last night’s meeting of the Common Council. The advocacy group hoped to get approval for its Orange Loop, the first of four proposed bike routes in the city. Alderman Roger Kist made a motion to approve but there was no second, so the proposal died without a vote. Aldermen Adam Williquette and Chris Jenkins spoke in opposition to the plan on financial grounds. BFWB was prepared to cover much of the installation cost—estimated at almost $24,000—but not the ongoing maintenance of about $5,500 per year. As a point of policy, BFWB believes ongoing maintenance for on-street bike routes is properly a function of general street maintenance.

Implementing all four routes—expected to take 5 years or more—would require almost $100,000 initially and more than $23,000 per year in ongoing maintenance. All of the costs were presented on Monday, so maybe “sticker shock” played a factor as the Council contemplated the total price tag for the BFWB plan.

Whatever the case, the future of bike routes in West Bend is very much in doubt. But early this morning, BFWB signaled that it wouldn’t go away quietly. The group will ask the city to make the bike route plan part of a larger street maintenance referendum, to be conducted in early 2018. The Common Council has authorized a referendum in response to widespread criticism of the current condition of city streets. Asking that the entire electorate be given a chance to vote on bike routes is an interesting maneuver by BFWB. Strong public support would be hard for the aldermen to ignore, while strong public opposition would simply leave the topic where it stands today. It’s a nothing-to-lose moment for BFWB … and probably the last chance for the group to realize its primary objective without a major shift in the composition of the Common Council.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cycling Without Age

Pedal Moraine owner Mark Ramsey gets familiar with the Cycling Without Age rickshaw.


At the next meeting of the Common Council—6:30 p.m. on Monday the 18th at City Hall—Bike Friendly West Bend should learn whether its bike route plan will go forward. The vote could go either way, so contact your alderman and then attend the meeting to show your support.

Hopefully the Common Council and the rest of West Bend will recognize the earnestness with which BFWB is working toward more cycling opportunities in the city. For example, yesterday at Samaritan Health Center a joint effort of BFWB and the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department took another step toward implementation as training began for the Cycling Without Age program. Beginning in Spring 2018, Samaritan residents will be able to take rides on the rickshaw bike pictured above. Trained pilots will take the residents to popular locations like parks, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, and the downtown farmers market.

Cycling Without Age will be more than just a nice amenity for Samaritan residents. It will be part of a larger strategy to make bicycle traffic a normal part of transportation in West Bend. More riders, more awareness by motorists. More awareness, more safety. More safety, more riders ...


Monday, December 11, 2017

Presenting The 2018 Cheesehead Roubaix

We all appreciate a challenge, but the 2017 ride was, well ...


The 9th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix will begin at Newburg Fireman’s Park on Sunday, April 29, at 9 a.m.  Inspired by Spring Classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Cheesehead Roubaix is a 63-mile ride that features almost 10 miles of dirt and gravel. The ride will test your fitness with rough road conditions and about 2,000 feet of climbing.

Cheesehead Roubaix is free of charge, but please consider making a voluntary contribution to the Newburg Fire Department to show your appreciation for the use of its facility. There will be a donations jar at the concessions stand before and after the ride. NFD is a small, all-volunteer department. Your generosity will make a big difference!

There will be a free, mid-ride rest stop courtesy of our friends from BELGIANWERKX. Please let us know you plan to attend so that we can ensure there’s enough food & drink at the rest stop. Join the fun at the Facebook event page, send me email or leave a comment below.

Moroder Photography will be on hand again to preserve your Cheesehead Roubaix memories. Check out these awesome images from last year!

Cheesehead Roubaix is designed for self-sufficient cyclists. The rest stop will be your only support. The ride uses only open public roads and park paths. You are responsible for your own safety and conduct, and you are expressly not exempt from Wisconsin traffic laws. Represent the sport well. Please visit the Cheesehead Roubaix website and print out your own copy of the cuesheet and map. The website also offers a data file for Garmin GPS devices.

See you on April 29!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bike Washington Counties (All 30 Of Them!)



Perhaps you have noticed that today is more than 30° colder than yesterday. It’s the sort of day that makes me wonder what it would be like to be a cyclist somewhere else. Usually such fantasies take me to places that are appreciably warmer. But today let’s confine our search to other Washington Counties … and to Washington Parish in Louisiana. What would a cyclist find in them? It’s really a mixed bag.

Washington County, Alabama – A sparsely-populated area on the Alabama-Mississippi line north of Mobile, this county has lots of forests and lots of dirt roads. We’re off to a good start.

Washington County, Arkansas – Although it is the 3rd most populated county in the state, this county features big hills and unpaved rural roads. Home to the University of Arkansas, the city of Fayetteville has designated bike routes and miles of paved recreation trails.

Washington County, Colorado – Flat and featureless, this county in northeastern Colorado is far from the image of Colorado shared by most cyclists. It’s almost 6 times the size of our Washington County but has fewer residents than Kewaskum.

Washington County, Florida – If you like flat, quiet roads, then this might be your little piece of paradise. Located in Florida’s panhandle west of Tallahassee, this county was poised for explosive population growth in the 1970s. Developers paved miles of roads for new subdivisions, then the economy tanked. The planned cities were never built, but the roads remain.

Washington County, Georgia – Road density is an issue in this quiet central Georgia county: few places to go, and few ways to get there.

Washington County, Idaho – Located north of Boise on the Idaho-Oregon line, this mountainous county features the Weiser River Trail. At 84 miles total, it is Idaho’s longest rail-trail.

Washington County, Illinois – Located southeast of St. Louis MO, this county is the typical flat, Illinois farmland you either love or hate.

Washington County, Indiana – The gentle roll of this rural area north of Louisville KY will remind you of our Washington County.

Washington County, Iowa – South of Iowa City, this county features the 14-mile Kewash Nature Trail.

Washington County, Kansas – This is the Kansas that the riders of the Race Across America warned you about: a whole lotta nuthin’ but sun-parched roads and headwinds.

Washington County, Kentucky – There’s good cycling to be had in this sleepy central Kentucky county, especially if you like long, gentle hill climbs.

Washington Parish, Louisiana – This mostly flat area on the Louisiana-Mississippi line features surprisingly good road density for its population, so it’s not a surprise that many of those roads are lightly traveled. You’ll find some unpaved roads too.

Washington County, Maine – The easternmost county in the United States, this Washington County borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick. At a massive 2,563 square miles, it’s bigger than Delaware and more than twice the size of Rhode Island. The county has hundreds of miles of quiet country roads, plus the 85-mile Down East Sunrise Trail.

Washington County, Maryland – This county can boast of gorgeous, Civil War-era farm roads and almost 80 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail network that connects Pittsburgh and Washington DC.

Washington County, Minnesota – Located between the city of St. Paul and the St. Croix River, this county shares a border with Wisconsin. Suburban sprawl from the Twin Cities is rapidly replacing farmland, but bike paths are common.

Washington County, Mississippi – This pan-flat county is bordered to the west by the Mississippi River. You’ll find a decent network of farm roads, some of which are unpaved.

Washington County, Missouri – Very hilly, very wooded Washington County MO is also very sparsely populated. Road density is limited, but what is there is gorgeous.

Washington County, Nebraska – You’ll actually find a few long, gentle hills in this rural county north of Omaha.

Washington County, New York – Home to several state forests and other natural areas, this county on the Vermont border offers many cycling opportunities far away from East Coast traffic.

Washington County, North Carolina – It’s easy to find a quiet country road in this flat county near the Atlantic Ocean.

Washington County, Ohio – Big hills, dense forests, and unpaved roads are common to this county in the southeast corner of Ohio.

Washington County, Oklahoma – This rural county north of Tulsa is home to the 12-mile Pathfinder Parkway along the Caney River in Bartlesville.

Washington County, Oregon – This rapidly urbanizing county west of Portland has a bit of everything: flat farm roads, long hill climbs, and a complex network of bike lanes, paths, and recreation trails.

Washington County, Pennsylvania – I was not yet a cyclist in 1988 when I lived in this county near Pittsburgh, and I’m not sure I would have become one if I had stayed. The hills are extremely tough and the roads are busy. But nowadays cyclists can enjoy long, flat rides on the Montour Trail and the Panhandle Trail. Those trails didn’t exist when I lived there.

Washington County, Rhode Island – This low-lying county in the southwest corner of the state is surprisingly rural and has a dense network of quiet, wooded roads.

Washington County, Tennessee – Unless you really like climbing, skip the road bike and bring your mountain bike to this northeastern Tennessee county. The new Tannery Knobs Bike Park in Johnson City is going to be a big deal.

Washington County, Texas – Good road density provides lots of places to explore in this rural county between Houston and Austin.

Washington County, Utah – Bordered by Arizona and Nevada in the southwest corner of Utah, this arid, mountainous county is home to Zion National Park and a growing trail network in the booming city of St. George.

Washington County, Vermont – Very hilly and heavily forested, this county features miles of gorgeous gravel roads.

Washington County, Virginia – This mountainous county near Bristol is home to the 35-mile Virginia Creeper Trail.

See anything that you like? The grass isn’t always greener, of course, but some of these places look pretty appealing as winter blows into Wisconsin.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2017 Wisconsin State Cyclocross Championships



Surprise! My 2017 racing season did not end on October 21; it ended today at Trek’s world headquarters in Waterloo, site of this year’s state cyclocross championships. (Yeah, that’s the same place that hosted a UCI World Cup race back in September, and today we used most of that course.) It was my first participation at a state championship race—usually the weather is far too cold for me this late in the season—and even though I didn’t get a high finish, I raced well and had fun.

We had lots of bad weather from late October through late November. By the middle of November I was convinced my racing season was done. My training volume and intensity dropped to almost nothing, my weight went up, and I was content to be done. But the weather made an unexpected recovery late last week and I started riding with a little more interest. As this weekend’s forecast came into view—dry and 50°, more than 10° above average—I ramped up the intensity even more. I don’t know how much fitness I recovered in the last two weeks, but I was good enough for 17th out of 21 today in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race. Madison’s Tim Vanderjeugd (unattached) took the win, followed by Brent Rohrs (Diablo Cycling) and Ted German (Neff Cycle Service).

My race was largely a duel with training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme), who pressed me hard on his way to 18th. I was faster on the steep hills and the flat power sections; Jeff was faster on the technical dirt sections. We were a long way from the leaders, but our friendly rivalry helped us to dispatch some of the Elite Cat 3 and Open Singlespeed riders who had started before our wave. We rode well; we simply got outrun by faster guys. The racer I was back in October might have been 14th or 15th today, but that’s barely worth mentioning. I got what I wanted out of today and out of the season generally: races that were fun and in which I always had someone against whom to test myself.

One final cyclocross race remains on the 2017 calendar: the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Championships next Saturday in Sun Prairie. As I write this, the forecast calls for a high of 17° that afternoon. You could double it and I wouldn’t be interested. You could triple it and … well, maybe.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Renewing The Call For Bike Infrastructure

Bike Friendly West Bend envisions multiple routes throughout the city.


This week, Bike Friendly West Bend is stepping up its efforts to bring a master bike plan to the city. Jeff Puetz, BFWB’s president, has contacted the Common Council to request not only the addition of the bike plan as an agenda item for the Council’s meeting on December 18, but also face-to-face meetings with individual Council members in advance of the public meeting. BFWB’s plan is a collaborative effort with City staff and it enjoys financial backing from West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, but its adoption is far from guaranteed. The Common Council has heard the pitch before.

What makes the latest appeal different is its focus on the “why” and not on the “what.” Here is BFWB’s business case for the bike plan, reprinted verbatim from the document shared with Council members this week:

Transportation

The Common Council and Bike Friendly West Bend agree that building and maintaining a transportation infrastructure and public safety are roles of government. Please consider that bicycling is a form of transportation with the same legal standing as motorized modes of travel.1 Bicycling is also the sole effective transportation means for some people, such as children and senior citizens. Though cyclists appreciate the ability to cycle on sidewalks in West Bend, sidewalks are less safe than properly marked streets.2

The bike routes requested within the Bicycle Plan for the City of West Bend update the transportation infrastructure, increasing safety for all road users while providing a more usable transportation infrastructure for bicyclists. Safety is especially important for children, families and less experienced bicyclists. Bicyclists can be divided into four categories: Strong and Fearless, Enthused and Confident, Interested but Concerned and No Way No How. The largest category by far is the Interested but Concerned group at 60%3 - and this is the group that will benefit most from route safety. Increased safety addresses the concerns of employers like West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., which supports a bike commuting program. The identified routes connect places where people live to places they want to go, leveraging the existing roadway infrastructure, by only adding signs and paint.

Constituent Demand

State and national statistics suggest about half of your constituents regularly bicycle. A Wisconsin commissioned study on the economic impact of bicycling states that 48% of Wisconsin adults cited bicycling as a recreational activity in which they participate.4  Articles and anecdotal evidence suggest that the bicycling rate among children is similar.

In separate surveys of residents, West Bend Parks, Recreation and Forestry and Washington County Planning and Parks found that more bicycle facilities are a top priority of residents. As anecdotal evidence supporting the validity of these surveys, on May 10, 2017, 318 people participated in Bike to School Day in West Bend at 4 schools.

The number one impediment people cite when asked what prevents them from bicycling is lack of a bike infrastructure.5 This holds true across multiple formal and informal surveys.

Benefits

For residents and for businesses in the City of West Bend, building a bicycling infrastructure will have numerous benefits.

A robust bicycling infrastructure increases public safety and reduces conflict between motorists and bicyclists. When cyclists have designated space they know where they’re supposed to be and drivers know that as well. There’s greater awareness and, subsequently, less conflict when space is clearly spelled out.

Bicycle tourists have money to spend! Locations with a robust bicycling infrastructure attract people from the surrounding area. Ozaukee County’s Interurban Trail and Milwaukee County’s Oak Leaf Trail are prime examples, bringing hundreds and sometimes thousands of users to nearby businesses every day. Those destinations are reaping bicycling tourism dollars that could be spent in West Bend. Some of those dollars are from West Bend residents who leave our city to find destinations with a more robust bicycling infrastructure.

Local businesses get a commensurate increase in sales with a nearby bicycling infrastructure. Several studies show bicyclists spend more per month per person than motorists.6 If the City’s proposed 25% share of Washington County’s sales tax is successful, increased sales will directly benefit the city.

A robust bicycling infrastructure raises commercial property values through increased demand for space as business sales increase. Wauwatosa’s revitalization along W. North Ave. with new bike lanes and other traffic calming features is a prime local example of how a more bikeable and walkable approach has yielded an economic boon.

A robust bicycling infrastructure attracts and retains residents and businesses to a city. Cities are competing to attract new businesses and the next generation of worker / entrepreneur. Businesses are moving to where the workers are. Local amenities are a key consideration in attracting residents and businesses, especially considering the revolution of telecommuting.

A robust bicycling infrastructure reduces strain on parking and delays the need to build new parking. For every one to two cyclists who choose to bicycle to their destination (Farmers’ Market, Dublin’s, MOWA, downtown businesses, etc.) one less vehicle parking spot is needed. More bicyclists also reduce the congestion associated with jockeying for position for parking spaces. Our bicycle parking plan utilizes off street bicycle racks which don’t compete with car parking. The cost of constructing a parking spot is in the thousands of dollars. Bicycling within the city saves expense to the city. That’s not even considering that every trip taken by bicycle instead of by car reduces road wear exponentially.7

Cost

Low cost compared to demand is the final factor you should consider when making your decision.

Through the generosity of West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., which is concerned about the safety of its employees who commute by bicycle, we have a pledge to cover the cost of materials for the implementation of all routes.

With signs estimated to last 15 to 20 years, the annualized cost of signs is less than .1% of the 2017 West Bend streets budget. With pavement markings estimated to last 2 to 3 years, the annualized cost of the paint for pavement markings is less than .3% of the 2017 West Bend streets budget. The total annualized cost of materials for maintaining the proposed bicycling infrastructure is less than .4% of the 2017 West Bend streets budget. This small percent of the streets budget is all that is needed to support a favorite activity of approximately half your constituents.

Labor estimates for sign installation and pavement marking is approximately 1,406 person-hours, which will be spread over more than one year. If acceptable, volunteer labor for implementation of all routes could cut the city’s labor commitment.

Footnotes:

1.       Wisconsin State Statute 346.02(4)(a)
2.       Articles on the dangers associated with bicycling on sidewalks 1 2  
3.       Four Types of Transportation Cyclists in Portland
4.       The Economic Impact of Bicycling in Wisconsin
5.       Here’s what keeps people from riding a bike
6.       Bicyclist spending habits
7.       Road wear comparison

What can you do to help? First, contact your alderman before December 18. Ask that the bike plan be added to the December 18 agenda and then give your personal reasons in favor of its adoption. Council members are very receptive to contact from their constituents, so your voice will be heard clearly. If you are not a resident but you work, shop, or enjoy recreation in West Bend, then contact the mayor. Second, attend the meeting. Again, BFWB is hoping for December 18. Watch the city's website for the agenda.

BFWB’s master bike plan is a practical, financially-responsible step toward better, safer bicycling for both transportation and recreation. Please show your support.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Blue Sky Day

I would have settled for 57° throughout the ride, but it just kept getting warmer!
Where did this day come from? On a date whose average high temperature is 40°, West Bend hit 64° to tie the all-time record set 86 years ago. I’ll bet November 24, 1931 was a windy one too, as we don’t get this kind of weather at this time of year without a gale from the south. During the ride I experienced steady winds in the 18-21 mph range, with gusts in excess of 30 mph. It was the first 60° day since October 22. At 35 miles, today’s ride was my longest since October 17.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving Weekend: Done!

West Bend's Ridge Run still bears the signs of its former status as a Washington County park.


I’m a great fan of Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday by a wide margin. But this Thursday is probably going to feel like just another Thursday. I will come home after a Wednesday night workshift, have some breakfast and watch a little TV, then go to bed for a while before heading back to work Thursday night. My wife has to work too, and that’s the biggest reason why Thursday won’t really be Thanksgiving at our house. I can’t complain though, as we had our big family feast yesterday.

Today had kind of a holiday weekend feel too. My day began with streaming coverage of UCI World Cup cyclocross from Denmark on NBC Sports Gold. While it certainly was a legitimate race in its own right, it also was a trial run for next season’s world championships. Hopefully more fans will find their way to Bogense in February 2019; today’s crowd was a little thin. I couldn’t talk myself onto the bike today—all that sunshine was pretty enough, but the 20° wind chill was too big a deterrent. In lieu of a bike ride I accepted a surprise invitation from my daughter to hike the Ice Age Trail from Paradise Drive north to Ridge Run Park and back. That’s a little more than 4 miles roundtrip, easy enough for me but a good challenge for her. And now we’re looking for more opportunities to hike together … and maybe to go snowshoeing together this winter.

I haven’t been on the bike since last Monday, but tomorrow looks good: 48° with sunshine and not too much wind. With 27 miles tomorrow I will reach 4,700 this year. If I can find another 101 after that, then 2017 will go into my record book in 6th place, all-time. That’s not much of a goal, but it’s more incentive to ride than I would have without such meticulous recordkeeping.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My 2017 Racing Season Ends

Man-made snow today at Sunburst. Yeah, it's THAT cold already. (Jeff Wren photo)


Back on October 21, a warm and sunny Saturday, I didn’t imagine that I was doing my last race of 2017. But the GP Jo Vanderaffe will have that distinction. Our rapid temperature drop is mostly to blame for my recent lack of motivation. We’ve been 10-15° below normal all month. There are other factors, though.

I gave up today’s cyclocross race in Sheboygan Falls so that I could complete my fall cleanup around the yard and the garage. Friday will be this year’s last leaf pickup in the City of West Bend, and I’m damned if I’m schlepping bags of leaves to the city yard for disposal. (As you can see above, there was time for a 25-mile ride late this afternoon. But I couldn't spend the whole day on bike racing.) I will give up next Saturday’s cyclocross race in Oshkosh to be with my family for Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition we normally keep on the holiday itself but which requires a different schedule this year.

What about the state cyclocross championships on December 2? Well, maybe if it’s an uncommonly warm day, but there’s no reason to expect that. And my fitness will only decline between now and then, so it wouldn’t be a good result for me anyway. I’ve done 19 races this year, more than I usually do … and probably enough.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dark, Wet, Cold … You Know: “Normal”



November 4 is the last day of the year whose average high temperature is 50° or more. We didn’t get there yesterday. We didn’t get there today either. In fact, we haven’t seen 50° in West Bend since October 28. This week we will struggle to stay above 40°. And it was no gentle transition from warm to cold: we were in the 70s as recently as October 21.

I rode outside on only 3 occasions in the last 11 days, including today. I would have liked to be at the Estabrook Park cyclocross race in Milwaukee yesterday, but I wasn’t willing to endure the rain and mud. Today I used a backup wheelset on my cyclocross bike for a 90-minute ride to, around, and then back from Kewaskum. Washington County is applying a new layer of fine gravel to the Eisenbahn State Trail, starting at the south end of Sandy Ridge Road (pictured above) and going all the way north to the Fond du Lac County line. The work is supposed to continue through November 14, closing that part of the trail between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. This morning I found everything open from the north end of Sandy Ridge to the county line … but it’s Sunday. And don’t worry: I was a good boy. I stayed off the closed section of trail and took Sandy Ridge itself. I often go that way, as the road rejoins the Eisenbahn after climbing a little hill that I like.

By next Saturday I will be 3 weeks removed from my last cyclocross race, but I still plan to line up for Tough Udder CX in Dousman. And I want to do the FatKats CX race in Sheboygan Falls next Sunday. Both of those races are new, and it’s always cool to check out new courses. I’m past the point of expecting good race results, though, and my long absence from competition won’t help. I will use the indoor trainer to keep my legs moving this week, but whether my cyclocross season continues is all down to the weekend forecast. At the moment, that forecast is not very encouraging: highs in the mid-30s both days, with a chance of a little snow from late Saturday into early Sunday.

On the way back from Kewaskum today I passed Sunburst Winter Sports Park, where a pre-season ski swap had just begun. A parking attendant tried to wave me in from Prospect Drive, asking whether I wanted to trade my bike for some skis. I declined.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nesting



You can tell I’m near the end of my cycling season. I’m getting outside less often, keeping my rides close to home, sleeping more, and getting a little grumpy. But there are other signs. Because I’m spending so little time on the bike, I’m giving more time to small projects around the house.

It’s a nesting instinct, albeit one that has nothing to do with reproduction! I’m already experiencing a bit of offseason ennui and there are darker days ahead, both literally and figuratively. So, I’m identifying holes in my music collection and filling them—a process that consists of downloading, verifying (listening to the tracks to ensure their completeness and quality), and cataloging. It’s a big collection, so I have to keep it organized. And I’m watching a lot of movies right now, mostly old horror flicks in acknowledgment of the Halloween season.

Staying entertained is a good thing, but staying productive is even more important. I just finished an audit of my usernames and passwords for dozens of websites. In many cases I established those credentials to make online purchases and then never returned to those sites. Those accounts—and in some cases the websites themselves—don’t exist anymore, so I don’t need to retain a record of them. I also have been purging paper records that have outlived their usefulness, things like sales receipts for items I no longer own and unused checks from an old bank account. It’s all junk. It’s just taking up space.

I won’t be satisfied with only a thorough cleaning of my horizontal file; there are other corners of the house that need a good sweeping. Old clothes, once-read books, long-neglected toys and games … time to find new owners. It’s so easy to dismiss the clutter when I’m on the bike every day, but things are otherwise when I’m home.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trainer Season?



Technically, today was a 40° day in West Bend, but that’s only because it was still 40° at midnight. This afternoon when I might have gone for a ride, the temperature was holding steady in the high 30s and I simply didn’t feel like out-dressing the cold. I did a turbo trainer workout in the home gym instead … the first one in a long, long time. And it wasn’t bad. I wondered why I feel so strong an aversion to such workouts. It’s really hard to beat them for convenience and efficiency.

I still haven’t taken the plunge into the world of smart trainers. With their power meters and other features that interact with cool applications like Zwift, smart trainers are the current state-of-the-art and the future. Someday soon they will take us into fully-immersive virtual reality training. For me, the cost is still too high. I can get by a while longer with my CycleOps Magneto and a collection of race videos shot by strangers with handlebar-mounted GoPro cameras.

As I announced last Saturday, there’s no racing for me this weekend. I’ll try to get outside, but I’m making no promises. I will, at least, keep using the trainer. This was a bad week for riding outdoors. Next week doesn’t look any better, and after that we’ll be off Daylight Saving Time. My cyclocross season is not over, so I need to stay fit. It’s not easy this time of year.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 GP Jo Vanderaffe



In 2011 at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, I did my very first cyclocross race. That was a good time, and so was the race there in 2012. And then Cross The Domes went away.

Today cyclocross returned against the spectacular backdrop of the Mitchell Park Domes, home of the celebrated horticultural gardens. The GP Jo Vanderaffe featured an outstanding course that mixed steep elevation changes, challenging off-camber areas, numerous riding surfaces, and (my favorite) plenty of hammer-down power sections. With abundant sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, attendance was strong. Even the Chicago crowd showed up for this one.

Despite a 2nd row starting position, I got out of the gate fast. That’s not typical for me, and my advantage didn’t last long, but it was fun! By the midpoint of Lap 1 my spot in the bottom half of the field was more-or-less assured. I kept pressing though, determined to beat a trio of riders of comparable ability: Peter Tampa (3CB Racing), Nate Phelps (Gryphon Velo Racing), and training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). And in each case I think it was on those power sections that I did the most damage. The run-up, the sand pit … we were all equal there. Just like last weekend at Fitchburg, I was good when I could stay on the gas. In the end I was 10th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race, beating that trio of rivals and a couple of other guys in the bargain. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) claimed his 4th victory of the season. He leads the series on points.

I think today’s race was my strongest showing this season, so it may seem odd that I have decided to take a little break. I won’t line up for tomorrow’s race at Waterloo or for either of next weekend’s races in Sun Prairie. The weather is definitely a factor. Today was warm and dry. Tomorrow will be wet. Next weekend will be cold. I’m not ready for winter yet, I need to adjust my training a bit, and I’m a little burned out by so much travel. The next 2 weeks will give me a chance to refocus. Look for me next at the Estabrook Park Beer Garden Classic in Milwaukee on November 4.

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!