Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don't Miss The Demo Day!

Bad weather wiped out both of the demo days that were scheduled earlier this month, but tomorrow’s weather looks good. Belgianwerkx and Rocky Mountain have rescheduled their mountain bike demo at Pleasant Valley Park in Ozaukee County. Come out between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to see and ride the newest, coolest bikes in Rocky Mountain’s line.  Admission is free.

Monday, May 29, 2017

2017 WEMS Stump Farm 100

My race on Saturday at the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico could have been a disaster. Bad weather limited me to just 2 training rides between May 18 and May 26. I hadn’t been on the mountain bike since May 13. I worked 12-hour nighttime shifts on Thursday and Friday, and when my race began at 12 o’clock I had been awake for almost 24 hours. I should have been an embarrassing combination of under-trained and exhausted.

I wasn’t. I had abundant energy and a really fun race. I took 15th place in the 33-man short distance category. My time of 2:24:02 was way off the winning pace of 1:59:23 set by Dan Teaters (Team Wheel & Sprocket), but I never expected to match him. Teaters is a 33-year old Cat 1 who was racing on his home course, motivated to win Stump Farm for the second year in a row. His closest competition finished more than 4 minutes behind.

My closest competition was Shaun Putz (unattached), with whom I began working early in Lap 1. Putz was smooth through the singletrack and I was happy to follow his lines. And he was a good communicator, calling out hazards like slower riders from the mid- and long-distance categories … and like the big garter snake I would have crushed if not for his warning. We completed Lap 1 just 3 seconds apart and comfortably ahead of any chasers. By the end of Lap 2, however, Putz had a 58-second lead on me. For much of Lap 3, I couldn’t see him. But I knew I was faster on the cross country ski trails and on the climbs, so I pushed especially hard in those areas and got back to Putz’s wheel with 3 miles to go. Again I was content to follow, sure that I could out-kick my rival on the long section of ski trail at the end of the lap. With less than a mile to go, my plans almost fell apart: I crashed when my front tire washed out in a sandy corner. I wasn’t on the ground for long, but any delay was a bad delay that late in the race. When I emerged from the singletrack Putz had a 200-meter lead. I went into the big ring, reeled him in, and finished 2 seconds ahead. I was grateful to have a reason to keep pushing throughout a race that easily could have turned into little more than a solo ride.

Then I saw the results and realized I finished only 19 seconds behind my top rival, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). I had lost sight of him early in Lap 1, which he completed in 45:45 and I finished in 47:03. I was 34 seconds quicker on Lap 2 and 25 seconds quicker on Lap 3, but it wasn’t enough.

With two category wins, Saturday was a great day for Team Pedal Moraine. Matt Grady won the long distance singlespeed race—that’s 101 miles of mountain bike racing—in 8:42:08, beating his closest rival by just 6 seconds! Nate Gruenke easily won the mid-distance fatbike category.

The next race in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series is the Romp In The Swamp Epic on June 10. Because of the distance between my office in Brookfield and the race venue in Wausau, I haven’t committed to that date. But Saturday’s race showed that I can race well even after an overnight work shift and a long drive. I’m hoping for a high finish in the series standings, so any points are good points.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Enjoy State Parks & Trails For Free

Most of Wisconsin’s state parks and trails require some kind of payment from their patrons. Each year I buy a state parks vehicle sticker ($28) and a state trail pass ($25). Those are good for unlimited visits to any state park or trail, but most years I use them only for mountain biking at New Fane. I visit New Fane often enough that the annual passes are far cheaper than daily passes ($8 vehicle / $5 trail). If cost has been holding you back, then circle next weekend on your calendar:

Monday, May 22, 2017

2007 Raleigh Competition For Sale

It's a great bike; I just don't use it anymore. The BMC Gran Fondo is my road bike now and probably will be for many years to come. But this Raleigh will be a super deal for somebody! Click here to see the details on Craigslist.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bumped From The Schedule

Wisconsin weather strikes again!

I’m taking the Iola Bump & Jump off my schedule. Iola is going to get more than an inch of rain tomorrow and that will wipe out the pre-ride window, then on Sunday the skies will be overcast and the wind chill will be 48° for the Cat 2 (Sport) race at 11:30 a.m. With no opportunity to pre-ride an unfamiliar course, and faced with a cold mudfest, I’m staying home.

Skipping Iola has big implications for my WORS season. There are 11 scoring opportunities, the best 7 of which count in the series standings. I got series points back on May 6 at the Englewood Opener. Now I have just 9 more chances to score. Distant races like the Red Flint Firecracker in Eau Claire (June 25) and the Hixon Forest Epic in La Crosse (August 6) have always been nothing more than “maybes” on my calendar. The WORS Cup offers 2 scoring opportunities—cross country on Saturday, July 8, and short track or enduro on Sunday, July 9—but the unusual race schedule meshes badly with my work schedule. Without 7 results there is no prospect of a high finish in the series standings, and the most realistic path to that goal now looks like this:

06/04 - Battle Of CamRock
06/18 - Mt. Morris Challenge
07/08 - WORS Cup: XCO
07/09 - WORS Cup: STXC
07/23 - Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic
08/20 - Reforestation Ramble

Racing at Iola would be unpleasant enough for me under the conditions the weather forecast describes, but it also might compromise my WEMS ambitions. The Stump Farm 100 is coming up next Saturday and I don’t want to miss it because of illness, injury, or mechanical failure. WEMS also uses the “best 7” format to determine series champions and I won’t get to 7 results in that series, but at least I should get to the minimum of 4 results I need to be award-eligible. Stump Farm will be my second WEMS race this year—Alpine Valley was the first—and I already have registered for the 3 races at the end of the season:

09/09 - Northern Kettles Fall Epic
09/16 - 9 Hours Of Silver Lake
10/07 - GEARS Greenbush Grinder (WEMS Championship)

So, 2017 still looks like a very full year of mountain bike racing even without Iola and, perhaps, without some of the other WORS dates.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

9 Hours Of Alpine Valley

Climbing well despite too much belly fat! (Brittany Nigh photo)

Last Saturday was peculiar. After working overnight, I crawled into a quiet corner of my office building and slept for a while. It didn’t make sense to drive back to West Bend from Brookfield, then hang out at home for a few hours, and then drive south again for the 9 Hours Of Alpine Valley WEMS race. Taking an hour of driving off my schedule made for an easier approach to a day that I knew would be challenging enough.

I didn’t have high expectations for my race performance, and I didn’t get a high finish: 26th of 39 men in the 3-hour division. I clipped a tree early in Lap 1 and crashed, dropping me behind some traffic that I wouldn’t have fallen behind otherwise. On a course that is almost all singletrack, it took a while to reclaim the spots I lost. Meanwhile, a couple of guys with whom I thought I would contend were able to get away and I never saw them again. But meandering across the Alpine Valley ski hill, I was very pleased with my climbing ability. To whatever extent I had success against other racers, that was the reason. My descending skills remain shoddy but they got a good workout that afternoon, and only by challenging myself will I improve.

In a typical year I don’t show up until I have enough fitness to compete at a reasonable level. This spring I am trying to race myself into shape. I consider last Saturday a success because I pushed much harder than I would have in a non-competitive environment. I also picked up some series points that will be useful later. I’m expecting a better result on May 27 in the Stump Farm 100 at the Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico, where I usually race well. But my real targets on the WEMS calendar come at the end of the season: the Northern Kettles Fall Epic on September 9, the 9 Hours Of Silver Lake on September 16, and the WEMS Championships on October. It’s a long season and clearly I’m not yet where I need to be, but the wheels are in motion.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Try Some Buy Some

If you live in southeastern Wisconsin, then during the next week you will have two great opportunities to test ride new bikes from Giant and Rocky Mountain. Giant’s demo day will include road and mountain bikes. It will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. this Saturday, May 20, at the John Muir trailhead in Walworth County. Hosted by Belgianwerkx, Rocky Mountain’s demo day will be a mountain bike-only affair at Pleasant Valley in Ozaukee County, 4-8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 23. Both events are free, but remember your state trail pass and state parks vehicle sticker if you go to John Muir. You can buy 1-day passes at the trailhead if you don’t have annual passes.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ride 2,000

Pretty standard stuff ... with two notable exceptions.
Today’s ride was short: 22 miles with only 531 feet of climbing, completed in a little less than 1.5 hours. Really it was just an easy spin on my cyclocross bike, a “recovery” ride on the day after a much larger effort. But it was a significant ride nonetheless because (1) it was my 2,000th ride since my life as a cyclist began back in 2004, and (2) my left knee didn’t hurt.

So, what was this much larger effort on Saturday? The WEMS race at Alpine Valley. And why did I think my left knee might hurt? Because I crashed in the WEMS race at Alpine Valley. The crash didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. It happened just a couple of minutes into the race, and I then rode for about 2.5 hours without any discomfort. But my knee got tight overnight and had me limping around the house this morning. I was relieved that it didn’t bother me at all during this afternoon’s ride. In another day or two it should be back to normal.

I’ll post a race report as soon as WEMS posts yesterday’s results. I know I didn’t have a high finish, but I left Alpine Valley yesterday with literally no idea how many people finished ahead of me or behind me. I don’t think I have ever done that before, and I hated to do it but I couldn’t wait around any longer than I did. WEMS switched to a new scoring system this season and so far things have been a little clunky.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Englewood Opener

Team Extreme’s Stuart Shelton and Jeff Wren took the top spots.
The 2017 Wisconsin Off-Road Series began in Fall River on Saturday and I was there, using the occasion to begin my own racing season. In fact, I started the race from the front row and was solidly in the Top 5 on a long, uphill leadout into a stiff wind. But the ambitious start was too much, too soon: halfway through the first lap, I had dropped back to the middle of the pack. And that’s where I would finish, 8th place out of 16 in the Sport (Cat 2) 50-54 age group at the Englewood Opener.

Lap 1 was considered a prologue: a shorter lap that omitted most of the technical sections of the course. The idea was to create separation between riders and thereby prevent bottlenecks at the rock gardens and other tricky spots. The strategy worked for the most part, but with a big field of riders there was always someone for me to chase and always someone just behind. I was 91st out of 166 overall.

On Lap 2, feeling a little ragged from the aerobic challenge of the prologue, I ran through a couple of technical sections rather than risk a crash. If I still had been in the Top 5, then I would have accepted the risk, but I didn’t lose much time in the bargain. By the midpoint of Lap 2 I had settled down and my handling skills were feeling sharper. That helped me to recapture a couple of positions. I had ridden singletrack just 5 times this year prior to Saturday. Some of Englewood’s technical sections were at the limit of my ability, but I rode them all on Lap 3 with growing confidence. I spent the entirety of Lap 3 with teammate Larry Hipps, and together we picked off a few stragglers while defending ourselves from pursuers. The podium spots were out of reach but we did well to consolidate our positions. In the end, it was a Washington County 1-2: Stuart Shelton of Hubertus took the win, followed by West Bend’s Jeff Wren.

I’m OK with my result. During Friday’s pre-ride, I knew the technical sections would be a problem for me. But I also knew that I would do well on the open areas of the course, including the many climbing sections. Englewood was a must-do because it was new and because it was just 56 miles from home. That makes it the second-closest venue in a series that includes dates in Eau Claire and La Crosse. I haven’t committed to all 10 races, but I am glad to have opened my series points account. In the week to come I will spend more time on singletrack and more time on hills in preparation for the next WORS race, the Iola Bump & Jump on May 21. Whether that means I will line up for next Saturday’s WEMS race remains to be seen, though there may be no better preparation for Iola than the course at Alpine Valley.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Fane, New Look

Presenting the new Pedal Moraine jersey!

Today I returned to New Fane for some badly needed time on singletrack. I had not been on the mountain bike since I visited New Fane on April 15 & 16. I can attribute the layoff to an overabundance of rain and wet trails, but it’s also true that I was wavering in my commitment to the WORS season opener this Saturday. When I finally made the decision to race, the decision to practice followed swiftly.

If only I were riding swiftly! I can’t claim that yet. I did 2 short laps today and then 2 full laps. My full-lap times were 27:23 and 27:33, respectively. Those were my fastest laps this year, but I’m still about 30 seconds per lap behind the pace I set in last year’s Northern Kettles Fall Epic.

Tomorrow is another day … one that I will spend pre-riding the Englewood Opener course. I’m curious and optimistic about a purpose-built XC race course: trails not designed to be ridden, but to be raced. That’s unique in Wisconsin and it’s rare in most other parts of the country. We’re behind the rest of the world when it comes to course design, and it shows. Pre-riding is always a good idea and even if my fitness isn’t great at least my mental preparation for Saturday can be strong. It’s a huge advantage to be familiar with the course when others are not. For some of my WORS rivals who are used to Sunday races, the unusual schedule of the opening weekend will be a hardship. The Friday pre-ride window won’t fit everyone’s schedule. For me, it will be an opportunity to gain an edge. I have no real expectations for my performance on Sunday. I will be happy just to get the first race of the year under my belt, gain a little fitness by pushing myself harder than I could in training, and grab some points in the series standings. A good result would inspire me to be more active in the series than I might be otherwise, but I haven’t done enough this year to deserve a good result.