Sunday, April 29, 2012

Awesome Day At Cheesehead Roubaix

Riders reach the top of the climb on Lovers Lane near Boltonville.

I’m calling this one a success.  As the creator of Cheesehead Roubaix, it was gratifying to have something like 30 riders meet me in Newburg this morning to test themselves on an intentionally-hard metric century that features about 9.5 miles of unpaved roads.  As a rider, I was challenged by my own creation and by the riders it attracted.

The first 7.5 miles of the ride were fairly conventional as we rolled away from Fireman’s Park at a pace that kept everyone close to each other.  This wasn’t a no-drop ride, but even the strongest riders seemed content to take things easy until we reached the first unpaved sector.  Lovers Lane—essentially a mile-long farm machinery path between County Highway H and Highland Drive—provided the first real demonstrations of power and bike handling.  It’s an awful road, easily the toughest on the route, and it stretched the riders into a very thin line.  Saturday’s rain had left puddles in some of the ruts, but even high spots were soft and muddy.  I was among the first riders to reach this uphill sector but mid-pack by the end, hampered somewhat by road tires that didn’t always bite into the road surface.  But instead of pressing their advantage, the first riders to summit called a truce and waited for the others.  At least one rider walked up the steepest part of the hill, the last bit before Highland.  It took several minutes for everyone to regroup, during which time one rider fixed a flat tire and many others cleaned mud from their tires and brakes.  I was happy to be riding my cyclocross bike with its cantilever brakes and generous frame clearance.

Dirk Hofman Motorhomes was with us in spirit as we entered Waubedonia Park. (If you have to ask ... )
Not long after we resumed, the group broke up for good.  We tackled a series of rolling hills in a near-constant headwind for more than an hour.  I got dropped at mile 16, then caught the leaders when they stopped briefly at mile 24.  By mile 31 I was dropped again and rode many solo miles between the group I couldn’t stay with and the group that couldn’t catch me.  I reached Waubedonia Park (mile 47) with a small group that stopped briefly to refill water bottles.  But then I outdistanced my ride partners as we gained elevation over the next couple of miles and was alone again until mile 59.  By that time I was starting to feel a few cramps in both thighs and was worried I wouldn’t make it up the short but sharp hill on Congress Drive, less than two miles from the finish.  A teammate from Team Pedal Moraine caught up to me and our chatter helped to take my mind off my physical discomfort.  I got over the climb and rode strong to the end.  Total time: 3:52, a 16.3 mph average.  That’s not a bad set of numbers when you take into account the wind effects, the unpaved roads, and all those solo miles.

Cheesehead Roubaix will be back next year, providing a tough training opportunity on roads you normally would avoid.  I’m sure I’ll spend lots of time considering route changes and other refinements to make the event even more special.  But I’ve got a year to work that out.  Now it’s time for me to ensure my readiness for the WORS season opener in Iola next Sunday.

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