Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Before Somebody Gets Killed ...


Bicycle riders may utilize the sidewalk except in downtown West Bend and downtown Barton. All three of these collisions occurred in a part of town where riding on the sidewalk is permitted. But bicycle riders on the sidewalk must stop at every intersection and must understand that they are less visible to drivers than they would be if they were on the street. This is nothing new. For their part, drivers must come to a full stop at a red light or stop sign before completing a right-hand turn and under all circumstances must yield to anyone in a crosswalk.

Infrastructure doesn’t fix this. Only better behavior fixes this. There will always be points of intersection between bikes, pedestrians and motor vehicles, and it’s up to you to conduct yourself safely at those points.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Unsanctioned Doesn’t Mean Unimportant

You might not think an unsanctioned race is as important as a sanctioned one, but somebody does!
Earlier this year I heard an American road racer say that, in the opinion of his cycling friends, a race without the sanction of USA Cycling isn’t a real race. I was surprised by that viewpoint. USA Cycling is our sport’s national governing body, fair enough, but many prominent races fall outside its purview. In 2013, the UCI asked USA Cycling to be more diligent in its enforcement of Rule 1.2.019, which forbids licensed racers from participating in unsanctioned events. But doing so would have cut off a major source of income for many of our domestic pros. USA Cycling went to bat for them, and the UCI backed down.

That was an acknowledgment of the value of non-USA Cycling events. Yesterday we saw another: USA Cycling and the independent Oregon Bicycle Racing Association announced an agreement that will make it easier for Oregon racers to integrate with USA Cycling-licensed racers from other states. The racing scene in Oregon is strong, and the new agreement recognizes that fact.

USA Cycling sanctions the road, track and cyclocross races of the Wisconsin Cycling Association and the mountain bike races of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series. And these races are popular, but in many corners of Wisconsin there is significant anti-USA Cycling sentiment. Some of our best racers hold no licenses and compete in non-USA Cycling events only. Are they cheating themselves? Hardly. Consider these points:

  • The unsanctioned Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series consists of 9 races, just 1 less than the far more expensive Wisconsin Off-Road Series, and many people would argue that they run on better trails.
  • With its signature 40-mile mountain bike race, the Trek-sponsored Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival draws 2,100 participants annually and has been a Wisconsin tradition since 1983. 
  • Wausau24 draws more than 200 participants annually for a full weekend of mountain bike racing.
  • The Minnesota Mountain Bike Series holds 2 of its races in Wisconsin and requires a USA Cycling license at the Pro/Expert level only. Licenses are optional for all other racers.
  • Milwaukee’s chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association hosts a series of unsanctioned races at a variety of Milwaukee County and Waukesha County trails every Wednesday evening in June, July and August.
  • The unsanctioned Wisport series runs most of the road races (9) and time trials (11) in Wisconsin, far more than the criterium-heavy WCA.
  • A smaller alternative to USA Cycling, American Bicycle Racing sanctions track events, criteriums, road races and mountain bike races throughout Wisconsin, often concurrently with Wisport.

Throw in some gravel grinders and fatbike races and in Wisconsin you could race all year long without a license. Are they real races? Well, first ask yourself whether a USA Cycling-sanctioned race is legitimate when its categories are so narrowly defined that all you have to do to reach the podium is to finish. For Juniors and women, that happens at almost every criterium, cyclocross race and mountain bike race. Meanwhile, the list of winners at the unsanctioned Chequamegon 40 includes cycling legends Greg LeMond and Steve Tilford. How’s that for real?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 Northern Kettles Fall Epic

The mountain bike trails at New Fane are “home turf” for Team Pedal Moraine, and I feel really good about the work my teammates and I did there in today’s WEMS race, the Northern Kettles Fall Epic.

As always, the race featured long-, middle-, and short-distance options. I chose the short-distance option … or should I say the short-duration option? Riders in my race had 3 hours in which to complete as many laps as possible. Vince Steger (High Gravity), a Cat 1 from Fitchburg, was the only rider to complete 7 laps, finishing in 2:44:46. He was untouchable. He completed Lap 6 at 2:20:43. The closest pursuer was my teammate Matt Grady, who finished 6 laps in 2:36:45 and won the fatbike division by more than 16 minutes! Chris Tamborino of Hubertus was 2nd in my 26-man category, completing 6 laps in 2:40:15. Eric Larson of Schofield was a close 3rd at 2:40:59.

I placed 4th in 2:42:21. I couldn’t see Larson and my closest pursuer was almost 6 minutes behind me, so I didn’t ride the last lap as hard as I might have. Memories of crashing on the last lap of the 2015 race were fresh in my mind and I wasn’t about to do anything that could jeopardize my cyclocross season. Last year on essentially the same course, I was 7th out of 25 men in the 3-hour race, finishing in 2:38:01. So, this year was just a little slower but there were some greasy spots on the course, thanks to rain earlier this week. I rode a strong but cautious race. After working overnight, I slept from about 8 a.m. until about 11:30. That’s not much, but it was enough. I was confident as the race began at 2 p.m., I felt energetic throughout the race, and my nutrition/hydration strategy was sound.

Team Pedal Moraine had 5 riders in the race. Long-time team members Bill & Brittany Nigh served as hosts today, putting on a great event with some timing table help from yet another teammate. Two more team members showed up as fans, offering their support and congratulations to the racers. It was a nice display of unity … and racing prowess.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Gold Star Memorial Trail

Back in April I had some fun imagining a new bike route that would connect the Wild Goose State Trail, the Eisenbahn State Trail and the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. It was all very speculative and wasn’t meant to reflect any existing projects or proposals. At that time, I didn’t know about an initiative in Dodge County that actually could come to fruition in the not-too-distant future.

The Gold Star Memorial Trail is still just a dream, but it’s one with a dedicated group of people already working toward it, and it appears to have support within Dodge County government. Unlike my idea, it would not be a rails-with-trails project, but instead would run within highway corridors like the Old Plank Road Trail, which parallels State Highway 23 in Sheboygan County. The Gold Star Memorial Trail—envisioned as a 15-mile ribbon of asphalt—would connect Beaver Dam, Horicon and Mayville, intersecting with the Wild Goose State Trail just north of Minnesota Junction. That intersection is just 5 miles from downtown Juneau, through which the Wild Goose passes. So, this new piece of the trail network would link roughly one third of Dodge County’s population.

And it could become part of an eventual link between the Wild Goose and the Eisenbahn. From its eastern terminus in Mayville, the Gold Star Memorial Trail would be just 21 miles west of the Eisenbahn. But while I could recommend a couple of very pleasant on-road connections, there isn’t an obvious corridor if you want to build an off-road alternative. The best choice might be a bike trail parallel to State Highway 28, connecting Mayville first to Theresa and then to the Eisenbahn at Kewaskum. Such a route would be a little short on scenery, but it would be better than nothing.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The 2016 CX Season Begins

Suyko killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

This was the opening weekend of the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2016 cyclocross season and for me it was a humbling but useful experience. I did three races and got the result I deserved in each. On Saturday I felt pretty good about that; today I’m looking for the silver lining.


We’ve had a lot of rain recently and even more threatened on Saturday. But I knew a damp morning would turn into a dry afternoon at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. I previewed the course about an hour before my 2:15 start time and found it slick but rideable. The course was a well-balanced mix of fast straightaways, meandering hill climbs, and off-camber sections with multiple lines but no consensus “best” way around. I was a little worried that a rideable course would become crash-filled at race speed. The sun and wind did their job, however, and the course was in excellent shape as I lined up for the Masters 1/2/3 race.

I didn’t merit a spot on the front row, but that’s where I found myself when nobody else seemed to want it. Immediately to my right was John Lirette (Ben’s Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.), who would go on to win. I let him know that I wouldn’t contest the holeshot. Whatever advantage being in the front row gave me, it wouldn’t have been right for me to impede the heavy hitters in my age group. I got a decent start but it didn’t take long for the faster guys to pull away. In the first minute of the race, I lost almost every spot I was going to lose. I was left with a very fun fight with age group rivals Jon Suyko (BELGIANWERKX), John Young (Hollander Benelux Racing), and West Bend’s Troy Sable (unattached). Suyko wanted to be in the lead of the group and I couldn’t stop him from taking it. He never really pulled away, but I never really threatened to pass once he got around me. Young seemed content to follow. Sable passed me on Lap 2 but couldn’t get a gap. I retook that position at about the time we ran into the back of the 35+ age group that had started 1 minute ahead of us, and Sable dropped back, eventually finishing in 15th place. Suyko, Young and I worked with 55+ age grouper John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling) to get clear of any pursuers by the midpoint of the race.

Young then went around me but I kept him close and felt sure I could out-climb him late in the final lap. Lichtenberg and I gapped him before the uphill barriers and then made a last-ditch effort to overtake Suyko, but ran out of racecourse. Suyko was 11th of 17 racers in the 45+ age group while I took 12th and Young took 13th. I would have liked one more lap, as I had really settled into a nice rhythm. The deep endurance I enjoy at this time of year was there for me on Saturday … and would be tested again today.

Cross Of The North

I’ve written before about the reluctance of Milwaukee-area racers to travel outside of southeastern Wisconsin, and today’s race in Wausau was way outside of southeastern Wisconsin. For me it was 320 miles, round-trip, and as long as I was going to invest that much time I was going to get my money’s worth in the suffering department.

I entered my first-ever Elite Cat 3 race and found myself in a field of only 6 competitors. The other guys were all from Dane County and ranged in age from 25 to 35. I didn’t have a prayer, but I did the race as a warmup for the Masters race that would follow. Cross Of The North ran over a really interesting and imaginative course, featuring several very technical sections. I was dead last in the Elite Cat 3 race, but it was a good warmup that gave me a lot of familiarity with the course.

In the Masters 1/2/3 race that began just 15 minutes after the end of Elite Cat 3, I actually finished 3rd out of the 5 Cat 3s, benefiting from that deep endurance. My average speed was the same as it had been in the earlier race; I didn’t suffer any performance dropoff from accumulating fatigue. But that really is looking for the silver lining, because I was 11th out of 13 overall in the 45+ age group, taking a serious beat-down from a strong group of Cat 2s. Minnesotans took 1st, 3rd and 4th. The top Wisconsin guy was Appleton’s Jeff Abitz (Diablo Cycling) in 2nd place.

There were 254 pre-registered racers at Cross-Shooshko, a SuperCup race in the heart of Milwaukee. There were only 56 pre-registered racers at Cross Of The North, only 1 of whom was from Milwaukee County. But I understand not wanting to drive 400 miles. (For the Dane County guys, it was still about 300!) Needless to say, fields were small in every category. That’s too bad. The course was cool and the weather was beautiful.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cyclocross Eve 2016

The 2016 Wisconsin Cycling Association cyclocross season begins tomorrow with one of its top events: Cross-Shooshko at Milwaukee’s Kosciuszko Park. Cross-Shooshko is the first of eight races in the SuperCup, our state championship series. SuperCup events bring out more racers and, generally, better racers than non-SuperCup events. Tomorrow’s fields will be stacked with everyone who has championship ambitions, plus anyone who’s tuning up for next weekend’s Trek CXC Cup, a non-series event in Waterloo that some people consider an even bigger prize.

I have no SuperCup or Trek CXC Cup ambitions, but I do look forward to tomorrow. Cross-Shooshko has been a good event for me historically. I don’t expect to beat the Cat 1 & 2 guys in the Masters 1/2/3 race; my goal will be to place well among the Cat 3s and to catch some of the guys in the 35+ age group that will start 1 minute before my 45+ wave. On Sunday at Cross Of The North—a new, non-SuperCup event in Wausau—my challenge will be a little different. I will double up for the first time in my cyclocross career. I’m registered for both the Elite Cat 3 race at 1:15 and the Masters 1/2/3 race at 2:15. Each is 45 minutes long, so I will have just 15 minutes to recover between races. Why double up? To have more fun is probably the best reason, but there are competitive advantages. More racing is more of a workout, more time spent on cyclocross-specific skills, and more experience with race tactics. There’s also the matter of USA Cycling rankings, the less-than-perfectly-calculated numbers on which the WCA bases call-ups. Competing against a (presumably) larger field of (presumably) younger racers should help my ranking and therefore my position on the Masters starting grid in the weeks to come. But there are no guarantees: if pre-registrations are any indication, then both the size and quality of the Elite Cat 3 field will be inferior to that of the Masters 1/2/3 field at Wausau.

Moving up to Cat 3 at the start of 2015 was the equivalent of moving up to Cat 1 from a competitive standpoint, and I’m not that good. This season I hope to be one of the best of the Cat 3s in a Masters field that is rich with talent. And, of course, I hope to compete in the state championship race on December 3. I still have never made it that deep into the cold part of the season.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bike & Pedestrian Funding Awarded To Washington County

Here’s great news from Debora Sielski, Deputy Planning & Parks Administrator for Washington County, reprinted verbatim from a news release she issued last Friday:

“The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced the award of the 2016-2020 Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) to the Washington County Planning and Parks Department for the development of a Bike & Pedestrian Plan for Washington County. The project has been awarded up to $72,000 of federal funds. It is one of 33 projects and $15 million of approved TAP funding for the 2016-2020 program cycle. The Bike & Pedestrian Plan for Washington County is being developed in an effort to increase opportunities for non-motorized vehicle transportation. The Plan will make recommendations to develop a countywide network of trails and routes as alternate modes of transportation that can be integrated into a user’s daily routine. The Plan will focus on creating trails and routes that provide accessibility to essential services, such as schools, commercial centers and major employment centers as well as creating a trail network that provides varied recreational opportunities that are enjoyable for all residents. The Plan will promote recommendations for policies, programs and ordinances that will support development of a safe and accessible network of trails which encourage active lifestyles in a way that is safe, comfortable and enjoyable for all users. The Plan will consider connections between existing trails throughout Washington County as well as trails in adjoining counties. By providing connections to existing trails, Washington County residents will have access to a greater variety of opportunities and destinations.”

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Last Of The Big Blocks

It’s Sunday, the end of my training week. I screwed up my ride stats today by pausing my Garmin during a water stop and then neglecting to un-pause it when I resumed. I lost a few miles and several minutes of riding, so “officially” today’s ride was just 45 miles. I surpassed 4,000 miles, year-to-date, on Friday, so I can live with a few lost miles today. But if I add back the lost time, then this was a 10-hour week. It might prove to be my last big block of training this year.

The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are trending lower—though there is a nice dose of summer in the forecast for the new week—and the cyclocross season is scheduled to begin on Saturday. My base is very solid and I can afford to drop the volume if I increase the intensity. I’m going to use Mondays as flex days to focus on any part of my game that needs extra attention. (Tomorrow that means mountain biking, as I don’t feel prepared for the WEMS race at New Fane on Sep. 17.) Tuesdays will continue to be dedicated to cyclocross practice at Royal Oaks Park through the end of September. That’s a hard effort, but a short one. Wednesdays will be rest days. Thursdays will be long-steady-distance days. Fridays will be reserved for time trial efforts: hard, short, and hopefully the right workout to take me into the weekend primed but not fatigued. There are a lot of back-to-back races on the cyclocross schedule this season. It’s not good enough to be prepared for Saturday’s race if I’m exhausted in the starting grid for Sunday’s. I’m probably looking at an average of 6 hours of training per week during cyclocross season, not counting the races themselves.

On today’s ride I performed like a big block engine: plenty of power at low RPM. It was a sweet-spot ride for me … and nothing like the effort required by cyclocross. Fine tuning began back on Aug. 2 at Royal Oaks. Now it’s time to take the intensity up another notch.