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.

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