Monday, May 30, 2016

ToAD Update

Three weeks from today, the Tour of America’s Dairyland will come to West Bend for the first time in its history. The series will run June 17-26 and I plan to enjoy several of those dates as a spectator, but the June 20 criterium in downtown West Bend should be extra special. Back on January 20, I shared a map of the course based on the information I had at that time. The map above is the (let’s hope) final, official course. As revised, the course should prove less disruptive for downtown businesses. Savvy business owners will recognize ToAD as a huge opportunity. In particular, downtown restaurants and bars can expect big benefits. Racing will start at 12:30 p.m. and conclude at 8:30 p.m., bringing hundreds or even thousands of people into the downtown area on what otherwise might be a sleepy summer Monday.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Gravel Metric

Up to my ankles in the middle of Steward Creek.

The Gravel Metric is hard. Really hard. Technically, it’s not a race. But people race it. Technically, its course runs on nearly 70 miles of gravel and dirt roads. But the term “road” applies to some of them only by the broadest definition.

Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) and I loaded up our cyclocross bikes and traveled to Waterman IL this morning for the 7th running of The Gravel Metric. Previously, the ride started and finished in the heart of DeKalb IL. The new start/finish was a family farm, eliminating the “garbage miles” that we used to ride to get out of town and then to return. This year’s ride was a fight all the way. It was my 3rd appearance and Jeff’s 2nd. And just like 2014—the 1st time that Jeff & I traveled to the ride together—our on-road collaboration didn’t last long. We got separated at Mile 3 and didn’t see each other again until the ride was over.

Neither of us lacked company: about 300 riders turned out. It was mostly an Illinois crowd, but I saw some familiar faces. I rode for a few minutes with fellow Wisconsin cyclocross racer Kellen Muldoon (BELGIANWERKX) before he powered away. Little groups formed here and there, worked together for a while, then split up. Everyone needed shelter from the wind, which blew steadily at 15-18 mph and hit us with gusts in excess of 25 mph. The wind was the limiting factor today, much more of an obstacle than the course itself. I managed the 69.12 miles in 4:55:55. That’s just 14 mph … and I was far from the slowest rider! Some of the "B" roads were more challenging than most singletrack mountain bike trails.

Our hosts, Axletree, had plenty of food and beverages available at the finish. I almost couldn’t look at it. I didn’t trust myself to eat or drink anything more than a few chunks of fruit and some fresh water. But now the event is almost 6 hours in the past, I’m home, I have eaten dinner and I’m contemplating a recovery ride tomorrow. Today was an ass whoopin’ as The Gravel Metric should be. It was hard training—really hard—and that should pay off when I’m pinning on a number later this year.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

From The End Of The World To Your Town

I haven’t said a lot about my new role as the captain of Team Pedal Moraine, and for the most part I have been silent because I haven’t done any racing yet. But others have. We’re already 3 races into the WEMS season and 1 race into the WORS season, plus there was another mountain bike race unaffiliated with either series. TPM racers were present at all of those.

The WCA road season is more than halfway done—don’t ask me why it starts in April and then ignores most of July and August—but TPM hasn’t been a part of it. We’re not really a road racing team. There will be some Team Pedal Moraine participation in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, June 17-26. This year’s Tour visits West Bend on June 20, so that’s an ideal occasion to fly our colors. But I think we’ll make a bigger splash in Fond du Lac on August 14 when 6 of us line up for Race The Lake, the largest road race in Wisconsin. Race The Lake attracts more than 1,000 competitors and starts in multiple waves. I will be doing it for the first time, and unless I make an unexpected addition to my calendar it will be my first road race since the Omro Classic in the 2008 Wisport series. As TPM captain I think Race The Lake is an important opportunity to increase the team’s profile, so on Thursday I paid the not-inconsiderable registration fees with team funds. I want current members and prospective members to recognize that the team isn’t only about mountain biking. In 2015 we competed in more cyclocross races than mountain bike races, did some road races, and dabbled in multi-sport and winter fatbike events. We're more than just brown dirt cowboys.

Today, though, was a time for Team Pedal Moraine to take things a little slower and get back to its roots. I invited my teammates to join me at New Fane for mountain biking and a picnic. It was the sort of gathering that fosters a sense of community within the team, and that’s something our members have always appreciated. If that’s something you aren’t getting from your current team, then think about joining us.

For me, today also was the end of a very solid week: 201 miles covered, and more than 12 hours in the saddle. That’s my fullest week of training this year and a big rebound from last week. It was exactly what I needed in advance of the challenging Gravel Metric next Sunday. True gravel grinders don’t appeal to most Team Pedal Moraine racers, and Illinois is below an imaginary line that my teammates hesitate to cross … though they routinely travel twice as far to race in northern Wisconsin. I expect to be the only TPM guy in attendance, just as I was in 2014 when a rider who knew me only by my kit said, “Team Pedal Moraine, you are a useful and courteous cyclist.” And well he might have complimented me, as I had been towing him into a headwind for miles. But I’m hardly a hero; just someone my mother might know.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


(of a person) without purpose or guidance; lost and confused

This was not the week I wanted or needed. I rode on Thursday and I rode today, a total of 3 hours. That’s not good enough, but it was the best I could do. The weather was awful: snow, hail and sub-freezing wind chill on Saturday? Come on. Throw in some rain and high winds earlier this week and I was thoroughly demotivated. Wednesday was decent enough, but I got home from work to find a broken torsion spring on my garage door. I lost the whole morning getting it fixed. Those were hours that I usually spend asleep, and when I finally went to bed at 2 p.m. my day was over. We’re halfway through May and already I have had 7 days off the bike, as many as I had in the entire month of May 2015.

I’m just not getting it done right now. I am 3 pounds lighter than I was on this date a year ago and obviously that’s good, but my mileage and my hours in the saddle are way down and I still have just 1 mountain biking session to my credit. Mountain bike racing was never going to be a big part of my 2016 plans, and getting off to such a slow start makes me even less interested in it. The only races that I feel completely committed to are the WEMS events at Suamico (July 16) and New Fane (September 17). The Reforestation Ramble (August 21) might drop off my calendar because of the change WORS is making to the format, opting for multiple short laps instead of 2 long ones. This year’s race will have more singletrack and less ski trail, negating the advantage I have enjoyed there.

Right now I just want to find some kind of rhythm in my training. Despite having almost 1,300 miles in my legs this year I don’t feel like the base is really solid yet. I know I have the endurance to complete The Gravel Metric on May 29, but I don’t know whether I will have the fitness to complete it in style. Maybe style shouldn’t matter in what is, after all, just a training event and not a proper race, but I have ridden that event well in the past and I want to give a good account of myself.

The week ahead appears to offer warmer temperatures, less wind and dry conditions on the roads and trails. I need that forecast to prove true.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sprung From Cages South Of Highway 23

Ask Jeff Wren how tough Cedar Lane was on Friday!

This week really felt like springtime in Wisconsin: I was warm for 4 hours. That’s 4 hours more than I get in winter, and 4 hours less than I get in summer, so … springtime!

During those 4 hours—I should mention that they happened on Friday afternoon—I knocked out a challenging metric century in the northern Kettle Moraine that featured 3 gravel roads I wish I could include on the Cheesehead Roubaix route. Unfortunately, those roads are too far away. Including them would turn Cheesehead Roubaix into a 100-mile ride, and that’s too long for the last Sunday of April. There’s a fourth gravel road just south of Glenbeulah, but that’s really getting far from home and was not part of Friday’s adventure.

For what it’s worth, both Division Road near Dundee and Cedar Lane near Cascade would be 5-star sectors on Cheesehead Roubaix, every bit as tough as Lovers Lane but for different reasons. Division Road is hilly and features deep, loose gravel that is extremely difficult to navigate with road tires. Cedar Lane was recently resurfaced with limestone screenings so soft and loose that the effect is like riding through sand. I might return to Cedar Lane later this year to see whether the road has settled down, as limestone screenings will from the combination of traffic and rainfall. The surroundings are gorgeous, but right now the road itself is an energy-sapping buzzkill.

I spent 11.5 hours in the saddle this week, making it my busiest week of training so far this year. The week ahead doesn’t look especially good—lots of potential for rain—but I will try to keep my training volume high as I prepare for The Gravel Metric, May 29 near DeKalb IL.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 WCA Cyclocross Schedule Announced

Shortly before I went to work last night, the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced its 2016 cyclocross schedule. It probably goes without saying that I thought about almost nothing else all night! The WCA says the dates are final but the locations are not, and one of the races not currently in the SuperCup could be elevated to that status. Here’s the schedule in its current form:

09/10 Sat - Cross-Shooshko @ Milwaukee (SuperCup)
09/11 Sun - Wausau

10/01 Sat - Flyover Silver Creek @ Manitowoc
10/02 Sun - Omro

10/08 Sat - PumpkinCross @ Grafton (SuperCup)
10/09 Sun - Sheboygan

10/15 Sat - Celtic Cross @ Fitchburg (SuperCup)
10/16 Sun - Badger Prairie Cyclocross @ Verona

10/22 Sat - Velocause Cross @ Milwaukee (SuperCup)
10/23 Sun - Sun Prairie Cup @ Sun Prairie (SuperCup)

10/29 Sat - Halloween CX @ Milwaukee
10/30 Sun - The People's Cross @ Oshkosh

11/05 Sat - Estabrook Park CX @ Milwaukee
11/06 Sun - CamRock CX @ Cambridge

11/12 Sat - Waterloo (SuperCup)

11/19 Sat - Team Wisconsin CX @ TBD
11/20 Sun - Cross The Isthmus @ Madison

12/03 Sat - State Championships @ Waterloo (SuperCup)

12/18 Sun - USGP Redux @ TBD

That big gap in late September comes from the two UCI events in our part of the world: the Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo (Sep. 17-18), and Jingle Cross in Iowa City IA (Sep. 23-25). The WCA was wise not to schedule anything against those.

I have no Trek CXC Cup or Jingle Cross ambitions—not as a racer anyway, though I might show up to watch the pros—and I have no prospect of success in the SuperCup series. I may forego the opening weekend of the WCA season in favor of a weekend getaway to downstate Illinois: mountain biking in my former home of Charleston on Sep. 10, followed by Patriot CX in Rantoul on Sep. 11. Look for me in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series race at New Fane on Sep. 17, after which I will be in cyclocross-only mode.

It’s interesting to see Estabrook and CamRock on the same weekend. They are the last of the five races that made up the inaugural WCA cyclocross season in 1996. And it’s always interesting to see new locations like Wausau and Omro getting their chances.  In 2006 I made my racing debut at the now-defunct Omro Classic Road Race in the Wisport series, so it will be cool to go back 10 years later. If the weather is nice enough I will break out my souvenir T-shirt! On the downside, the Lake Geneva race lost its spot to the Trek / Jingle Cross juggernaut and could not be rescheduled, and I think the Manitowoc and Sheboygan races worked better on a single weekend than they will apart, and I’m not crazy about pushing the state championships back into December. Oh, well. For what it’s worth, the 2015 state championships were held in November in freezing temperatures on a snow-covered course … and I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t think of myself as a fair-weather racer, but I have my limits. The weather makes no guarantees, so I make none. I expect to participate in most of the races on this year’s schedule, like usual.