Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A 2014 Cheesehead Roubaix Gallery

Riders on Sunday’s Cheesehead Roubaix were lucky to have Moroder Photography on hand to capture so many great images! To see the entire gallery you will have to visit Facebook, but here’s a preview:

Yours Truly, addressing the riders just before the start.
ISCorp Cycling Team’s Kyle Jacobson leads the way on Lovers Lane.
That's Dan Schaefer of Team Fond du Lac/Oshkosh Cyclery.
Julie Phelps was one of several Big Ring Flyers on this year’s ride.
Team Extreme’s Jeramey Werbelow pulls into the rest stop.
Volunteers from Belgianwerkx served up the rest stop goodies!
Jadon Jaeger recovered from a flat tire in time to catch the leaders as they resumed.
Here’s Jimmy Scharrer, still looking fresh at Waubedonia Park.
John Norman and his son Rowan head toward the finish line.
Thanks again, Moroder Photography! The pictures really capture the range of emotions brought out by the ride. Some of the participants were all business and you can see it in their eyes. Others were there just for fun and their smiles are infectious.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My 2014 Cheesehead Roubaix Performance

New signs like this one dressed up the Cheesehead Roubaix route today.
How was your Cheesehead Roubaix? Mine was really good, thanks, though it was very different from the four previous editions. Because I was expecting a really big turnout, I decided ahead of time to split the riders into three groups at the start. But cold temperatures, high winds and a little drizzle kept the attendance at approximately the same number we had last year. After overseeing the phased rollout from Newburg, I was the last man to leave the park. I spent the next few miles working through slower traffic in search of a group with which I could work. My late start plus a bathroom break at Yahr County Park—and I swear I went, like, five times before I left home—put me several minutes behind most other riders of my abilities and objectives.

Lovers Lane was a joy to me as I outpaced a couple of riders who had hit the climb a moment earlier. Today I avoided the line that nearly stopped me in my tracks during a trial run last weekend. But I also envied the people who were seeing Lovers Lane for the first time. It’s the first unpaved sector of Cheesehead Roubaix, and by far the most challenging. It’s the signature feature that will be remembered long after the names of the other roads have faded.

I rode alone and into the wind over a series of hills on Jay Road, Oriole Lane and Pioneer Drive. Willow Valley Road, the next unpaved sector, was something of a relief just because it was flat, though my nose was still pointed straight into the wind. It was on Willow Valley and County Highway B that I finally got together with other riders, briefly. At mile 27.5, the Belgianwerkx rest stop was a badly-needed opportunity to refuel and rehydrate. It was also cold. So close to Lake Michigan, the wind seemed to bite even harder. I didn’t hang around long. There were 20-30 riders at the rest stop when I resumed, but I resumed alone.

That wasn’t a bad deal: I was able to pick my own lines on a succession of unpaved roads that might have been dicey in a big group. But I surely did not suspect I would go 10 miles before seeing another rider … and he was cramping, so that was just a brief hello and goodbye. Another 17 miles would roll by before I encountered the next rider—a teammate this time—but he also was very fatigued. I reeled in one more rider just before the sharp little hill on Congress Drive, and moments later I was back in Newburg. All day long, only one rider passed me and made it stick. I had overtaken him when he flatted, but he made short work of me after he completed his repair.

I was 3 mph slower this year than in 2013, and that’s a big drop. But the weather conditions last year were much more favorable: drier roads, warmer temperatures and almost no wind. And last year I rode in packs where the riders did a good job of sharing the workload. I would like to get back to that in 2015 but I’m not disappointed with today’s solo ride. I gave an honest effort and can be satisfied not just with its physical attributes but also with the way I managed the psychological side of riding alone in adverse conditions: lots of positive self-talk. Training like that can pay big dividends later.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Final Recon For CR 2014

This evening I did a final check of the Cheesehead Roubaix route and I am pleased to report that everything is ready for tomorrow. Jay Road is not flooded, so no detour will be needed. Even if we get a little rain in the morning, Jay Road should remain open.

I have updated the cuesheet to remove the reference to a portable toilet at Dr. Weber Park in Newburg. It’s not there, and there are no toilets at the start/finish in Fireman’s Park. That means the first toilet will be at Yahr County Park, mile 6.2. Plan accordingly. Yards are not bathrooms. These are my home roads and the people who live along them are my neighbors. Be cool.

Bathrooms at the rest stop in Belgium are open. That’s mile 27.5. And bathrooms are open in Waubedonia Park at mile 48.0. These are good places to throw away energy bar wrappers and other trash. Let’s have no litter on the route. Again, be cool.

Carpool if you can. Park your vehicle somewhere other than Fireman’s Park if you can. Newburg has plenty of on-street parking. We don’t want to fill up Fireman’s Park to the exclusion of its other users.

Be prepared for rain. I am bringing front and rear lights and I suggest you do the same. Most of these roads have very little motor vehicle traffic, but you are still responsible for your own safety and for adherence to Wisconsin traffic laws. If it’s raining, motorists will not expect us to be out there. Be visible.

Finally, be cool to each other. If someone needs your help, give it. Completing the route safely and having fun are your first priorities.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunters?

"You're expecting HOW MANY people?"
Cheesehead Roubaix is now just one week away and I suppose there is still time for the weather forecast to turn really bad, but right now it looks like April 27 will be cool and mostly dry. And that, I think, is what the riders want. Too wet and the unpaved roads would be a slopfest; too warm and the ride just wouldn’t feel like the northern European spring classic it is designed to emulate. If the Facebook event page is even close to accurate, then there could be in excess of 200 riders this year. A ride that big has a couple of built-in problems.

The first problem is parking. We won’t all fit in Fireman’s Park. There’s a small lot available to us but it is imperative that we not park on the grass or on the park road. It is also imperative that we not park right next to the fire department, as those spaces will be needed by firefighters if there is an emergency. If you can, please carpool with friends to reduce the number of vehicles coming to Newburg. As a village of just 1,200 people, it won’t easily accommodate 200 visitors. We will gather at Fireman’s Park to begin the ride, but please consider parking on one of the nearby streets rather than inside the park itself.

The second problem is how to begin the ride in an orderly fashion. Traveling on open public roads, we simply cannot present motorists with an unbroken line of 200 cyclists. Riders are coming to Cheesehead Roubaix with very different objectives. Some want to go as hard as they can to test their fitness; others want to enjoy the ride at a more relaxed pace. Let’s let the hard chargers go first so that they aren’t fighting through slower traffic in the early miles. If you are a USA Cycling-licensed rider, road/cyclocross category 3 or higher, you belong in the first wave. Cat 4/5 riders go next, followed by everyone else. Obviously I have no way to enforce these recommendations, but please do an honest self-assessment of your abilities and objectives before you begin. If you expect to ride much slower than average, feel free to begin before 9 a.m. or change your start/finish to Yahr County Park. That will ensure you reach the Belgianwerkx rest stop before it closes at 12 o’clock.

We will wait a couple of minutes between waves to create separation. After a few miles of riding, things will string out in a more organic way. Trust me: you do not want to hit some of these unpaved roads in groups so large that you can’t see anything but the rider immediately in front of you. There are dangerous ruts and potholes on the route and it is critical that you be able to pick safe lines. On the first unpaved sector, Lovers Lane, it’s very unlikely that you will encounter motor vehicles. It’s very likely that you will need to swing from one side of the road to the other to avoid obstacles. Other than that, ride as if the commissaires are going to disqualify you for crossing the center line. These are open roads and you are not absolved of your responsibility to Wisconsin traffic laws. Be safe and represent the sport well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pop Goes The Schedule!

© Deb Davis
Last week I mentioned that my employer might send me to Tampa FL for a conference, May 12-15. Today that possibility became an actual plan, one that will have significant impact on my cycling ambitions this year.

I will drive to Tampa over the weekend that precedes the conference and I will drive home when the conference is done. So, I will miss the mountain bike races at Greenbush (May 10) and Rhinelander (May 18) as a direct result of the business trip. I expect to be home on Friday, May 16, but after all that driving the last thing I will want is another 450 miles round-trip to hit the Rhinelander race. We’ll see if I feel energetic enough to participate in the Washington County Bicycle Club time trial on Saturday morning, May 17; I might just officiate.

The mountain bike race at Iola (May 4) is off my calendar too. I still have not ridden singletrack since last September and the trails in my area remain closed. There is no way I will be ready to race in less than three weeks.

Of course I am taking a bike to Tampa, where the average high temperature for May 12-15 is 87 degrees. In West Bend we haven’t had an 80-degree day since September 19. Our high on Tuesday plus our high on Wednesday didn’t even add up to 80! With plenty of sunlight after each day’s meetings conclude, I should have good opportunities to ride while I’m in Florida.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spreading The Gospel Of Gravel

Your reading assignment for this morning is the 2014 Cheesehead Roubaix preview I wrote for Belgianwerkx. This year's ride will be bigger and better than ever!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Weather This, Whether That

Don’t stop now, damn you.

Late yesterday afternoon we finally cracked 60 degrees. We got to enjoy it for only an hour, but it broke a long streak of below-60 weather that began on Oct. 31, 2013. Today we reached 63, making this the warmest day of the year. I shouldn’t complain, but today also marked exactly six months since we last hit 70 degrees: Oct. 11, 2013. This is not an exaggeration: I literally never put my cold-weather gear into storage. I have needed warmers and tights even in July.

Tomorrow I will be at Greenbush with some other Team Pedal Moraine people for four hours of trail work. The popular John Muir Trails opened this afternoon, but that’s 80 miles south of Greenbush. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources still has not opened the mountain bike trails of the northern Kettle Moraine. Greenbush, New Fane and Pleasant Valley (a non-DNR property) all remain closed. And the weather forecast is not good: rain throughout the weekend, a rain/snow mix on Monday, cold and cloudy through the middle of next week and then more rain and/or snow next weekend. Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area (a West Bend park) is open, technically, but no responsible rider would use it until it dries out.

I have not ridden on mountain bike trails since Sep. 8, 2013, when I crashed and broke my collarbone in a WORS race at Lake Geneva. The races at Iola (May 4), Greenbush (May 10) and Rhinelander (May 18) are still on my calendar, but I am far from 100 percent committed to them. As of last weekend, people were skiing at Iola. That means Rhinelander still has snow too. And now there’s a new wrinkle that could wipe out my plans for Greenbush and Rhinelander even if trail conditions dramatically improve: another business trip. I might be going to sunny Tampa FL for a conference, May 12-15, with travel days before and after. I am not a big fan of Tampa or of Florida in general, but at least I wouldn’t need my cold-weather gear.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

35th Street NW

The Spring Classics are in full swing and my favorite one-day race, Paris-Roubaix, is now just five days away. There are few places where you can still ride on cobblestones—even in northern France, some of the roads used for Paris-Roubaix are closed at all other times of year. While on vacation two weeks ago, I had the unexpected experience of descending a steep hill on cobbled 35th Street NW in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC:

The photo above, taken in June 2011, is from Google’s “Street View” mapping feature. Conditions were not as nice when I visited. Two weeks ago that smooth gutter was partially blocked by debris. I had to venture onto the cobbles, and I am a good rider on bad roads, but I would have preferred to ride the gutter all the way down.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekend Of Mixed Emotions

I had a very full weekend of cycling for early April. It began on Saturday morning with a drive around the Cheesehead Roubaix route to check road conditions. And that news is good: everything is shaping up according to schedule. Some of the unpaved roads are still closed, but the ones I could see were not too bad. On Saturday afternoon I did a 35-mile road ride. On Saturday evening I watched the Sunny King Criterium as it streamed live on the USA Cycling website.

Sunday began with streaming coverage of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, won in a four-man sprint by Fabian Cancellara. The race was marred by a series of crashes. Stijn Devolder suffered more than most, either getting caught behind crashes or crashing himself. Devolder’s heroic efforts to get back into the race moved Eurosport commentator Carlton Kirby to tears, but ultimately the Belgian road champion could finish no better than 86th, nearly 10 minutes behind three-time winner Cancellara.

But the worst crash at Flanders involved Johan Vansummeren, who collided at high speed with a woman who was standing on a traffic island in the middle of the road. Here’s a still image from a video taken by another fan, showing the woman, a man and a small child standing where no fans should ever be during a bike race:

Just seconds later, Vansummeren and the woman were lying on the ground. Vansummeren was taken to the hospital for treatment of facial cuts and then released. The 65-year-old woman was placed in a medically-induced coma and remains in intensive care with life-threatening brain injuries. Belgian law enforcement authorities have begun a formal investigation into the incident.

I spent Sunday afternoon on the Eisenbahn State Trail, in the company of friends as far as Eden and then on my own for the trip back to West Bend. The trail surface was a little soft in places and the headwind really cut into my speed on the return. I averaged just 13.8 mph over 50 miles. That’s slow, but it was an honest effort. We’ll see what kind of legs I have on Tuesday when I get back on the bike after today’s scheduled rest. Sunday’s ride put me ahead of my 2013 mileage pace, and I ride better as I ride more so I’m hopeful that greater fitness is on its way.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Swim/Bike/Run (To Nowhere)

In 2013 the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships came to Milwaukee and attracted a record number of participants: more than 4,000 athletes, representing all 50 states. The event will return this year, August 9-10. If you want to be ready for the bike portion, then the good people at RacerMate have what you need:

Just add the aroma of brewer’s yeast and dead alewives for a fully immersive experience!

“Ride past the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by renown (sic) architect Santiago Calatrava, along the shores of Lake Michigan on a short out and back. When you pass transition again you are directed onto the Hoan Bridge—not accessible (normally) to bike traffic. After a ride out to the city of Cudahy you’ll turn around for a ride back to the Hoan Bridge and back into transition.

“This popular ride can only be ridden on race day—or on CompuTrainer.”

Wow. Sandwich an indoor ride between a swim in the endless pool and a run on the treadmill and you’ll never have to leave the house! People do seem to want to ride across the Hoan Bridge for some reason, but once you’ve actually been to Cudahy, staying home will seem like the more attractive option.

But seriously: the CompuTrainer is a great product. I have used it on a few occasions and would have one of my own if not for the expense. There are three different options starting at about $1,600. Because of the cost, many users rent time at CompuTrainer-equipped shops rather than investing in the hardware themselves. A typical CompuTrainer studio will have between 4 and 16 stations, allowing riders to compete against each other and even to simulate the aerodynamic benefits of pack riding. Friends from Belgianwerkx and Team Extreme recently competed for charity at an indoor time trial hosted by Crank Daddy’s.

Spring still hasn’t quite sprung across Wisconsin, but it will soon and indoor trainers will collect dust for a while. But wouldn’t it be great to have a CompuTrainer racing league next winter?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Cock-Up From NBC Sports

Looking forward to the Ronde van Vlaanderen—a.k.a., the Tour of Flanders? It’s always one of the best one-day races of the year. You can bet I will be watching it live on Sunday morning. But not on American television. Nobody bought the broadcast rights.

On the following Sunday, April 13, NBC Sports Network will show Paris-Roubaix live … at its website. And if you have the right cable provider, then you can sign in with your username and password to view it. The network won’t broadcast the race on TV until Monday, April 14, 7-10 p.m. CDT. Rather than show the race on live TV as it has done in the past, NBC will broadcast 8½ consecutive hours of British soccer. (That should be long enough for one goal, a dozen fake injuries, and almost limitless acts of hooliganism by the crowds.)

The big question now is, why bother with NBC Sports Network at all? On some cable systems it’s not a basic tier channel, so viewers are paying extra to get directed to a website they may not be able to access for the coverage they thought they would have on TV. Meanwhile, at least three Internet sites (CyclingFans.com, ProcyclingLive.com and Steephill.tv) will link you to streaming coverage of almost every significant bicycle race on the planet. The coverage is live and it’s free. OK, it’s not high-definition video and you really don’t want to click on any of the ads—viruses and spyware aren’t just for porn sites—but it’s live and it’s free. Some of the minor road races and virtually all of the cyclocross races will have commentary in a language other than English, but it’s live and it’s free.

If we can trust the schedule at NBC’s website, then the next live TV broadcast of a bike race will be on May 11. That’s the first stage of the Tour of California. At 120 miles, Stage 1 will take about 5 hours to complete. It will begin at 12:50 p.m. CDT and conclude at roughly 5:50 p.m. CDT. The NBC broadcast will begin at 4 p.m. CDT, so you’ll see the finish but you can count on a lot of commercials. The better option will be TourTracker, which will feature the same video feed and announcers but will start earlier and probably will run without commercial interruptions. TourTracker should be in place for August’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado too. The Tour de France might be NBC’s only opportunity this year to present us with live TV coverage that is better than what we can get on the Internet. And the Tour is a big deal, but OLN/Versus/NBC used to give us so much more.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pedal Fest 2014

April 2-13
1421 S. Main St., West Bend
(262) 338-2453

Support the local bike shop that supports Team Pedal Moraine and countless other cyclists in and around Washington County! Pedal Fest is the shop's biggest sale of the year.