Monday, June 30, 2014

Halftime 2014

Here at the end of the first half of the year, I have done 73 rides for a total of 2,159 miles (29.6 miles per ride). At this point last year I had done 76 rides for a total of 2,059 miles (27.1 miles per ride). It’s good to be ahead of last year’s pace. Being exactly 100 miles ahead is purely a coincidence. My official goal for this year is 4,470 miles, but if I stay free from injury I might reach 5,000 for the third time in four years.

My monthly and yearly mileage goals are important to me. They don’t really tell me anything about my fitness, but it’s generally true that I ride better as I ride more. Garmin Connect provides a number of other metrics including average speed, and in recent weeks my road ride speed has gone up without any change in my perceived effort. I’m happy with my fitness right now and I feel like I’m ready to take another step in my training.

I thought this would be a year with more competition goals on the road. It won’t be. It also won’t be a year in which I chase points in WORS or WEMS, though I will do a couple of races in each mountain bike series. I said I wasn’t going to do this again, but, damn it, I am building toward the cyclocross season. It dominates my thoughts and that must mean something. In the next two months I just need to deliver my body to where my head and heart are waiting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Goodbye, Sunburst Showdown

WORS announced today that the Sunburst Showdown has been canceled. The race was scheduled for July 27 in Kewaskum, and it would have been the only USA Cycling-sanctioned race in Washington County this year. I heard about the impending cancelation when I was at the Giro d’Grafton last Saturday, and I knew that WORS was scrambling to find another location. There just wasn’t enough time to put together a good replacement.

Pleasant Valley Park in Ozaukee County was one of the trail systems WORS considered. But that location has only a small fraction of the parking required for a WORS weekend. And the trails are so tight that there’s almost no place to pass. And half of the system is a swamp after even the lightest drizzle.

WORS will issue refunds upon request for racers who already had registered for Sunburst. For all-in-one series registrants, WORS will make some compensation in August. But the 2014 season will consist of just 11 cross country races instead of the usual 12.

Sunburst is now a two-time loser. The race disappeared from the WORS calendar in 2011, then returned for 2012 and 2013. Its demise in 2014—and particularly the way in which it failed—likely means that it won’t be back. The ski hill’s owners and the race organizers just weren’t on the same page, and there was little cooperation from neighboring landowners whose properties might have been used to extend a course that already suffered from a lack of singletrack. Because of its proximity to large population centers the Sunburst Showdown always drew a big crowd, but most racers regarded the course as substandard.

So, let the speculation begin for 2015! The Border Battle in River Falls was the event that got cut from the WORS calendar when Sunburst returned in 2012. It lives on as the Border Crossing in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series. Will we see its return? Back to Bear Paw, maybe? Or will an entirely new race emerge?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

(Put A Sweater) On, Wisconsin

First weekend of summer, you say? It sure didn’t feel like summer on Saturday morning in West Bend. With overcast skies and the temperature a mere 57 degrees, the Washington County Bicycle Club ride was sparsely attended but elaborately dressed. I added arm warmers, knee warmers and a windbreaker to the shorts and jersey that would have been enough almost anywhere else in America.

Things were a little better in the afternoon. As I worked the 3-5 p.m. shift at Turn 3 of the Giro d’Grafton—the 3rd of 11 races in the Tour of America’s Dairyland—the temperature improved from 68 to 70 degrees but I endured occasional light rain showers. Saturday was our 7th consecutive day with measurable rainfall.

This morning was dismal again, so I waited until 4:30 p.m. to hit the Eisenbahn State Trail on my cyclocross bike. With almost no wind and a temperature of 72, I was comfortable on the out-and-back ride. I reached Main Street in Campbellsport in 55:56 and returned home in 55:20, averaging 16.8 mph. That’s no record, but it was a good workout … faster, in fact, than the WCBC ride on Saturday! Today was the end of a training week in which I covered 203 miles in 11.5 hours. Not bad. During the week ahead I will be on vacation from my professional duties but I won’t be traveling. With lots of free time, I am hoping for another big week of training.

Oh, and …

This is my 500th blog post.

That’s pretty cool, I think. Since this blog began back on May 7, 2010, many other cycling blogs have come and gone … or at least haven’t been updated in months or even years. I’m a long way from done! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

ToAD 2014 Begins Today

The Tour of America’s Dairyland—11 consecutive days of bike racing—begins this afternoon. For several of my cycling buddies, ToAD is the biggest objective of the year. For me it is a time to be a fan; I am not a criterium racer. This year I am going to be a volunteer too: I will work the 3-5 p.m. shift at the Giro d’Grafton on Saturday. Next week I will be on vacation from my job but not from my love of cycling, so you might spot me in the crowd at Schlitz Park, Downer Avenue and Wauwatosa.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Metric Monday

As I rode out of my driveway this afternoon I honestly had no idea where I was going. All I knew was that a sunny, 84-degree day was a rare thing worthy of celebration. I figured I would be gone for a while.

With a little bit of wind out of the south, I decided to go south. It’s a common strategy: fight the wind when you’re fresh and then have it at your back on the way home. At Maple Road and County Highway NN my wife spotted me as she was driving back from her summer job. Just north of State Highway 60 on County Highway M, I spotted a female teammate putting in some training time on her road bike and a male teammate waving to me from his pickup truck.

I continued southbound into Germantown, making good progress against the wind. Then I turned east and flew through Thiensville and into Mequon. It was almost 6 p.m., time for the weekly shop ride at Belgianwerkx.

Yeah, why not?

If the Belgianwerkx ride had been going south, then I would have said a quick hello and goodbye. But the ride was going north to Port Washington—more or less the direction I would need to go to get home—so I joined the other 19 riders and settled in. It was good to catch up with a few people I see infrequently, and the miles passed easily and quickly despite an unpleasant chill off Lake Michigan.

At Port Washington the riders hopped on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail to begin the return leg of their trip. Belgianwerkx manager Nick Moroder and I headed west through Saukville and made a good duo until we split at County Highway Y to go to our respective homes. I finished with a metric century (and then some): 63 miles at an average moving speed of 18.5 mph.

That’s a rare and wonderful Monday. Usually, Mondays are rest days for me. But after three days off last week—Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday—and with rain in the forecast for the rest of this week, I had to ride today.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Won't be needing this!

Something out of the ordinary is on my schedule four weeks from today: a Friday bike race. July 11 will be the first day of the 3-day WORS Cup in Portage. I plan to compete in the short track cross country (STXC) race at 5:50 p.m.—an unusual race at an unusual time. I expect a small turnout on what for most people will be a normal workday. For me it will be a vacation day and I will arrive early enough to preview not just the STXC course, but also the long course for the cross country race on Sunday, July 13.

If I’m not mistaken, the WORS Cup STXC race will be the only sanctioned STXC race in Wisconsin this year. The format is not for everyone. STXC is basically a mountain bike criterium on a grass and dirt course. Riders complete multiple laps in a spectator-friendly environment that has little in common with the lonely miles of wooded singletrack that make up a traditional cross country race. STXC is a close cousin of cyclocross, without the dismounts.

And it looks like the WORS Cup will be my next race: I will not go to Wausau this weekend.

To prepare for the WORS Cup, I will add some shorter but more intense workouts to my training plan. Sometimes those workouts will take the form of time trials, but there also may be opportunities to train specifically for STXC. Royal Oaks Park has been a good venue for cyclocross practice, and in the weeks to come I might see if it’s suitable for STXC. Loop 1 at New Fane—though just half a mile around—is another option. And then there’s Pleasant Valley Park, where a mix of turf trails and singletrack could be the right combination. In fact …

For 2015 I am looking into the possibility of a STXC race or even a series of races at Pleasant Valley. These would be properly permitted and insured events held by the Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers. Right now it’s just an idea I am discussing with a couple of the guys but I already have sketched out a course that is similar to the cyclocross practice course I considered last summer.

I wish every WORS weekend included STXC. I would be tempted to do only the STXC races—what great preparation for the cyclocross season! But if STXC comes to Pleasant Valley in 2015, don’t look for it on the WORS calendar. Racing at Pleasant Valley would be on a smaller scale … probably something just for the locals, and that’s OK.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Have you heard of the Adventure Cycling Association? Headquartered in Montana, the association describes itself “as a nonprofit organization {whose} mission is to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle.” This Saturday, instructors from the Adventure Cycling Association will kick off a 6-day Introduction to Road Touring course right here in West Bend. The course will show new bike tourists how to prepare for and execute a multi-day ride. The course will include camping, cooking, budgeting and other elements of successful touring. A second session will run June 21-26. Nationwide, there are just a few of these classes each year. We should feel honored that West Bend has been chosen as a host city. It says a lot about the quality of cycling in our area that people from other places want to come here to ride.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 Stump Farm 100

My return to mountain bike racing went pretty well, and there was probably no better venue for it than the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico, home of the Stump Farm 100.

Last September my racing season ended with a broken collarbone at the WORS race in Lake Geneva. That crash was on my mind during today’s WEMS race, but the Reforestation Camp is far less technical and I have raced it well on several occasions. Even without a pre-ride, I would not be intimidated by today’s course. That is not to say I rode it perfectly—heck, I even suffered a little wipeout near the end—but I am happy with my performance overall.

WEMS races are not broken down by age or ability, so in the men’s 30-mile category I was up against some real heavy hitters. I didn’t expect to win. The victory went to Team Pedal Moraine’s Jeff Melcher, who completed the course in 2:21:07. My time was 2:54:04, good for 24th place out of 40. And just like last year, I finished my 30-mile race with nothing but respect for the men and women who compete in the 60- and 100-mile categories. For me, 30 is enough.

This year’s course was considerably different from last year’s, running in the opposite direction and utilizing more singletrack and less of the wide-open skiing trails. That brought the average speed down and that worked against me. But I think I got my training right in the lead-up to the race, and I was happy with my nutrition and hydration.

Training for the next race—which may or may not be the WORS race in Wausau on June 15—begins tomorrow.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Taper

Not tapir, dummy, TAPER!
Yes, this is a taper week: a period of lower training volume designed to ensure fresh legs at Saturday’s mountain bike race. But it’s not a week off. After a scheduled rest on Monday, I returned to New Fane for three full laps on Tuesday and I rode pretty well … certainly with more purpose and intensity than I showed on Sunday.

On Wednesday I went to Cedarburg for the fast Ozaukee Bike Club training ride. Ten miles in, I couldn’t stay with the leaders on the big hill on County Highway M. For the next 3.5 miles I still could see the lead group, but I couldn’t make the catch. At mile 15.5, tired of making zero progress in No Man’s Land, I stopped for 2 minutes to allow a solo chaser to reach me. We then made good progress through Newburg and down County Highway Y to Knollwood Road. Our goal was to get ahead of the leaders before they hit Blue Goose and St. Augustine, which you may recognize as the final unpaved sector of Cheesehead Roubaix. And we achieved our goal, but we cut off too much of the route and the leaders never caught us. In the end I did 33 miles at an average speed of 19.7 mph, my fastest ride so far this year. I probably had the legs to hang with the leaders for all 40+ miles of their route, if only I had stayed with them on the big hill.

Also yesterday I signed up for the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS). On the surface that doesn’t make a lot of sense—right now I’m committed only to Saturday’s race at Suamico and to the Northern Kettles Fall Epic at New Fane on Sep. 13. But I might do the Kewaunee Buckthorn Buster on Aug. 30, and by registering for the series I can contribute to Team Pedal Moraine’s pursuit of the team participation trophy. Whether I will compete for series points in WORS remains to be seen. Team Pedal Moraine is not in the hunt for WORS team trophies this season.

Today I did a good solo road ride. Tomorrow I won’t do much, if anything. Saturday’s race should take 2.5 to 3 hours depending on the weather. It’s going to be warm and that suits me, but it might be wet and that would slow things down.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Party Of One

Don't be shy about helping yourselves to punch and cookies.
Last Sunday was awesome. It was so awesome that it got even more awesome as the week progressed. When I recapped my performance at the Gravel Metric, I mentioned that I had finished in the top half of the 360-rider field. As it turns out, I was probably in the top 20 percent. A few days after the event, several people published photo albums online and by finding myself in those chronologically-ordered pictures I was able to see just how few people were ahead of me.

It was a great feeling to be part of something as big as the Gravel Metric. So many times in my life I have been convinced that there was a better party somewhere else, but last Sunday I felt like I was at the center of the cycling world … except for the Giro d’Italia, maybe. This weekend I once again felt like I was missing the party. The WCA had a road race yesterday and a crit today. It was a WORS weekend at CamRock. None of it was in my plans. This weekend I was a party of one.

Saturday was OK. I did a reasonably fast 45-mile road ride to reach 1,500 miles, year-to-date. My route combined elements of the Covered Bridge Ride, the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and Cheesehead Roubaix. But today kind of sucked. I went to New Fane not because I wanted to go, but because I had not ridden the mountain bike since May 20 and I needed to practice. Unmotivated and just a little fatigued from a long week of training, I completed two slow laps and called it a day.

I will take a scheduled rest tomorrow, then I will return to New Fane on Tuesday with fresher legs and, hopefully, a better attitude. The WEMS race at Suamico on June 7 will be my first mountain bike race since last September and I want to perform well, so another practice session on singletrack is in order. Middle-distance road rides are on the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday. Friday will be another rest day or an opportunity for a short Eisenbahn State Trail ride.

As June begins I am 5 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of May. My resting heart rate is very low—just 44 beats per minute—and my blood pressure is a healthy 101/54. I’m happy with those numbers and with most of my recent road rides. Now I need to convert improving fitness into better performance on the mountain bike.