Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 Wisconsin Bike Festival

Work before play.
This weekend was all about the Wisconsin Bike Festival. Things started on Saturday with the Wisconsin Women Century. Teammate Justin Schroeter and I ran the Cedar Lake Wayside rest stop just outside West Bend. Our volunteer time was repaid today with free entries in the Holy Hill Classic, a century ride that each of us wanted to use as a tune-up for Race The Lake on August 13.

I had not ridden farther than 63 miles this season. But endurance wasn’t my biggest concern; the weather was. How could that be? Today was sunny, dry, and our first 80° day since last Sunday. The answer is that it was eventually an 80° day. At 6 a.m. when the ride began in Cedarburg, the temperature was only 54° and I was dressed for October: thermal long-sleeve jersey, knee warmers … even a plastic shopping bag stuffed inside my jersey as a disposable wind block. I knew the day would warm up, but I didn’t know whether it would warm up fast enough.

The field for today’s ride was small. I recognized a few strong local roadies, but it seemed to be mostly a triathlon crowd. Justin and I committed to ride together, and eventually we settled in with a couple of guys who seemed to be compatible with our objectives. We weren’t out to kill this one.

Justin’s a big, strong boy. Get behind him into a headwind and out of his way on a descent. But he knew he would be tested by more than 4,400 feet of climbing on today’s route. This year’s Race The Lake will be longer and hillier than previous editions, so Justin’s takeaway from today is to keep riding hills over the next two weeks.

My takeaway has nothing to do with conditioning. I was very comfortable in the hills today and I handled the distance easily. My takeaway is to get my road bike fixed! About 60 miles into the ride, a spring broke in my rear derailleur. Fortunately that left me with my easiest gearing combination for tough climbs: 34x27. Unfortunately I was spinning out at about 16 mph in my 50x27 when the route went flat, and I wasn’t about to ride 40 miles like that. When the route passed close to West Bend I said goodbye to my companions and detoured home to get my cyclocross bike ... and to change out of the thermal clothes! At the moment my cyclocross bike is outfitted with 700x32 slicks—good enough to get me back to Cedarburg. I have never started a century I couldn’t finish, and I wasn’t about to end the streak today. I improvised a route that allowed me to complete the 100 miles, and I still got my 4,400+ feet of climbing.

It was my first century since August 2, 2014. It was also the exclamation point on a 13-hour, 217-mile week. The week to come looks wet and much cooler than I would like. It also brings the first of this year’s Tuesday evening cyclocross practices, an altogether different kind of effort that I expect will be a real shock to my system. And it’s back on the mountain bike next weekend, not to race—I couldn’t be less interested in the WORS event at La Crosse on August 6—but to look for more improvement in my skills. Juggling the not-so-complementary needs of race preparation for road, mountain, and cyclocross is no easy task.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2017 Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic

This has been an uncommonly wet summer in southeastern Wisconsin and for a while it looked like another round of heavy rains might force a postponement or even a cancellation of the Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic, today’s WORS race at Minooka Park in Waukesha. An already wet course got hit with more rain on Friday night, but not as much as predicted. The start of Saturday’s pre-ride was pushed back from 12 noon to 4 p.m. to give the trail crew more time to clean up, and those folks did an amazing job. I had such a good pre-ride that I went to bed last night with thoughts of a podium position.

Today’s race went well for me, but not that well! I took 8th out of 15 in the Sport 50-54 group, 86th out of 148 overall.

Why did I think I would do better? First, the uphill start and long ski trail lead-out played to my strengths. Second, the singletrack at Minooka—tight and twisty though it can be—isn’t especially technical. For example, there are no technical descents, and those are a big problem for me at other courses. Today I did get a good start and I was running with some of the top guys until we hit the singletrack. Then their superior skills allowed them to pull away. I reclaimed time on some of them when the trail would open up, but I lost too much time in the woods to be truly competitive. Series leader Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme) won the age group, his third victory this season. He also has four second-place finishes and has locked up the series points title.

My Team Pedal Moraine teammate Scott Palmersheim won the Sport 55-59 class. I like to think I helped: I quickly got out of his way when he caught me midway through Lap 2.

Up next on my race schedule is the 100-mile Race The Lake on August 13, so after today’s mountain bike race I went out for a quick 20 miles on the road. I finished the week with 201 total miles (mountain and road combined) and 13 hours in the saddle. It was my highest volume week so far this year. But I might surpass those totals in the week to come: I will test my endurance next Sunday in the non-competitive 105-mile Holy Hill Classic.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TDF Stage 13 Vs. My Monday Training Ride

Yesterday I completed my longest ride so far this season: 63 miles. That’s 101 kilometers, the same distance covered by the riders in the Tour de France last Friday on Stage 13. But total distance is where the similarities end!

My solo ride was just training, not racing. In a competitive situation—or at least in a group of riders sharing the work—I would have improved on my average speed of 17.5 mph. I took 3:36 to complete my route.

Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) won Stage 13 of the Tour de France in 2:36, completing his 101 kilometers an hour faster than I completed mine. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) finished last in 3:03. So, my training ride time was just 33 minutes off the time of a Tour de France contestant over the same distance. I should feel pretty good about myself, right?

Not so fast! My ride included 1,716 feet of climbing, which is an OK total over that distance in this part of the world but nothing special. Located in the heart of the Pyrenees, Stage 13 of the Tour de France included three Category 1 mountains and something like 7,600 feet of climbing! Faced with that much climbing, I surely would have been nowhere near Felline’s time, not that 33 minutes was very close in the first place. And I went into my ride well-rested after an easy weekend. The Tour de France guys had just completed a brutal 133-mile mountain stage on Thursday, 126 miles on Wednesday, 111 miles on Tuesday … you get the drift.

At 101 kilometers, Stage 13 was the shortest road stage of the Tour de France in 30 years. At 101 kilometers, my Monday ride was my first metric century of 2017. Usually that distinction goes to Cheesehead Roubaix, but not this year. I had not gone past 50 miles prior to yesterday—more mountain biking means fewer opportunities for long road rides. But I’m now less than 4 weeks away from Race The Lake, a 100-mile road race around Lake Winnebago, and I need to train for greater endurance. Yesterday I felt good. I would have needed some food and more hydration to make it to 100 miles, though. On July 30, the Holy Hill Classic will tell me whether I’m on track: 105 training miles with an estimated 4,474 feet of climbing. I won’t get through that without eating. It should be great practice for Race The Lake in every respect.

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Changes To The WCA CX Series

The Wisconsin Cycling Association has announced significant changes to its rules and daily schedule for the 2017 season, changes that create interesting opportunities for me even though I planned to focus less on cyclocross this season than I have in the past.

One of my greatest sources of dissatisfaction with the series was the seemingly impossible task of competing as a Cat 3 in a Masters race that scores 1s, 2s, and 3s together. When I upgraded from a 4 to a 3 before the 2015 season, I essentially upgraded to a 1. I have been pack fodder ever since. But this fall I will have a chance to compete on more equal footing in the new Masters Cat 3 race at the end of the day. Now, there will be guys as young as 34 in that race (racing age = 35), but I would rather go up against them than continue to pound my head against a wall of “old” Cat 1 & 2 racers. And the 3:33 p.m. start not only will satisfy my desire to race at the warmest time of day, but also will allow me to rest on Saturdays after my work shift ends at 7 a.m., then travel to the race.

The Masters 1/2/3 race isn’t going away, but it is changing. Instead of age groups of 35+, 45+ and 55+, there will be just two groups: 35+ and 50+. That makes me one of the younger 50+ guys instead of one of the older 45+ guys, but I don’t know how much that matters. Still, there might be one or two occasions on which I will be tempted to double up: Masters 1/2/3 at 1:16 p.m. and then the Masters Cat 3 race to end the day.

Also noteworthy is the Best 8 format that will decide the series champions. There are 18 dates on this year’s calendar. The WCA recognizes that almost no one can attend them all—in fact, the average number of races for a series participant is just 6. Thanks to racer indifference, we have slain the beast that was the SuperCup system that valued some races above others. SuperCup or no SuperCup, I certainly wasn’t planning to do all 18 dates, but I might do 8-10 of them. These dates look promising:

09/10 Sun - Humboldt Park Cyclocross @ Milwaukee
09/30 Sat - Flyover Silver Creek @ Manitowoc
10/08 Sun - Diablo River Cross @ Kimberly
10/21 Sat - GP Jo Vanderaffe @ Milwaukee
10/22 Sun - Battle Of Waterloo @ Waterloo
11/04 Sat - Estabrook Park @ Milwaukee
11/05 Sun - CamRock Cross @ Cambridge
11/11 Sat - Sijan Cross @ Milwaukee
11/12 Sun - FatKats CX @ Sheboygan Falls
11/18 Sat - Sunnyview Cross @ Oshkosh

I will miss the season opener (Cross-Shooshko in Milwaukee on Sep. 9) and the closest race to West Bend (PumpkinCross in Grafton on Oct. 7) because they conflict with mountain bike races for which I already have registered.

There’s good news and bad news about race registration. For me, the good news is that the Masters Cat 3 race will be just $25 pre-registered, $5 less than the Masters 1/2/3 fee. The bad news is that the day-of surcharge has increased to $10, turning that $25 race into a $35 race if I don’t pre-register. And pre-registration itself will be more of a gamble: the window closes on Wednesdays this year, not on Thursdays. Let’s hope for accurate weather forecasts. I’m not into the mud & snow thing, and I’m pretty likely to forfeit the $25 if bad weather arrives unexpectedly.

So, I’m now more interested in the upcoming season than I was before. That has to be a good thing, right?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2017 WORS Cup

STXC: More to my liking than the technical stuff. (Lynne Senkerik photo)

The WORS Cup is an unusual event. It’s the only weekend of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series season that includes cross-country, short track, and enduro races. It’s the only WORS weekend on which Cat 2 is not divided into Comp and Sport, distinctions not recognized by USA Cycling. Aside from its importance within the series, the WORS Cup is also the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Mountain Bike Championships, so there’s a big contingent of racers from other states. The visitors have no interest in WORS points. The series guys, for the most part, are more interested in WORS points than in regional championship medals. In a big field of riders with very different ambitions, it can be hard to know exactly against whom you are competing.

I didn’t imagine we would be competing against the race organization itself.

On Saturday I lined up for what was supposed to be 3 laps of the Alpine Valley cross-country course. The WORS Cup runs on a tight schedule, so we knew there was a time cut for the start of Lap 3. We didn’t know that the clock was already ticking as we sat on the starting grid. The race began in waves by age group, youngest to oldest. That’s normal for WORS, but in this instance it meant that only the first and youngest wave had the full allotment of time to begin Lap 3. Each successive wave had to be a minute faster than the one before it. That’s unfair already; making matters worse was the total length of the race. Even without the time lost on the starting grid, the vast majority of racers would have been unable to complete Lap 2 before the cutoff. Combining those factors led to an unceremonious conclusion for more than 80 percent of the field. Only the fastest racers from the earliest waves got to see Lap 3. For myself and my rivals in the 50-54 age group, nobody did the whole race.

Confusion and anger reigned in the 2.5-hour wait between the end of Lap 2 and the posting of results. Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme) wasn’t even on the initial draft, though we knew that he had finished first in our group. Racers clamored for the attention of the USA Cycling officials and eventually settled on an order that bore some resemblance to the actual results.

I placed 13th out of 19 in my age group. Forget about the overall; it’s meaningless under the circumstances. Every finisher got a “time” but those times are accurate only for the 3-lap guys. Of more importance to me was my placing among series finishers: 8th out of 10. That’s still not impressive, but I’d rather get 8th-place points than 13th-place points. Saturday’s trip to Alpine Valley was my third this year. I first saw it in May for the WEMS race, then returned on July 2 for a pre-WORS Cup training session. And in training I crashed pretty hard in a rock garden. That section was in my head as the race began. I had a good start, climbed strongly, handled the technical descents reasonably well, and lost no time running through the rock garden. I had found a bit of rhythm in the final moments of Lap 2, felt like I was closing on some riders in front of me, and was looking forward to the tough climb that would begin Lap 3. Oh, well.


Sunday was a better day. The short track course was fast, relatively flat, and not very technical. It was a little too rough to allow me to use my cyclocross bike, but the effort would be much like a short cyclocross race: 18-20 minutes in the red zone. I got a really strong start from Row 2, blowing past front-row starters who had no business there. Lap 1 was a blur. Early in Lap 2, eventual race winner Tom Wendland (Team Extreme) roared into the lead with Stuart Shelton in tow. I matched them for a little while, using that momentum to overtake my main rival, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). Wendland is in a different age group, so I didn’t trouble myself much about him, but I would have liked to hang with Shelton. For a couple of laps I was running 2nd among the Sport 50-54 guys, then Chip Way (Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) slipped by. In the last couple of laps I held off a hard-chasing Wren and finished 9th out of 22 in the race but 3rd out of 5 rivals in the series. With that 186-point bump I have overtaken a couple of guys in the standings, and that gets me a better spot in the starting grid on July 23 at Minooka Park in Waukesha.

And …

Sunday was a good day to sell an old road bike. I found a new owner for my 2007 Raleigh Competition, a bike that I guess I just never fell in love with and that had fallen into disuse as soon as I bought my BMC. I want to replace my existing mountain bike, a hardtail, with a full-suspension model. That won’t be cheap and I don’t have a firm timeline, but selling the Raleigh brings me a bit closer to making the purchase.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Sagan-Cavendish Controversy

1. Contact, 2. Elbow.
Peter Sagan has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

Peter Sagan, the reigning World Champion, has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

Peter Sagan, the reigning World Champion and only reason half of the TV audience even bothers to watch, has been kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.

His crime? He raised his elbow after he and Mark Cavendish made contact with each other in the sprint finish of today’s stage. His elbow did not hit Cavendish, but to the race referees it appeared to have bad intent. Never mind that Cavendish was trying to squeeze through a too-small gap between Sagan and the barriers at the side of the road. Never mind that Cavendish was leaning on Sagan in an effort to create space. Never mind that Cavendish has a long history of dangerous sprinting, including this gem from the 2013 Tour. Sometimes you wonder whether the fix is in. I have often wondered that in regard to Cavendish, a rider who seems to enjoy special favor.

Sagan is the biggest star in the sport today. That doesn’t make him immune to the rules. But disqualification from the Tour de France, in which he was the 5-time defending green jersey winner … if he deserved a penalty at all, then why not relegation to last place on today’s stage? Disqualification is far too harsh, and it’s a decision that will turn many fans away from this year’s Tour.

Monday, July 3, 2017

TV, AV, And My Knee

I was no couch potato over the weekend—the new cuts and bruises I acquired on Sunday while mountain biking at Alpine Valley are evidence of that—but I did watch a lot of cycling. On both Saturday and Sunday I watched the Tour de France on NBC Sports Gold. The coverage was a little disappointing because the audio frequently cut out. Numerous comments on NBC’s various Facebook pages prove I was not the only one with that technical glitch. And a lot of people are disappointed that the streaming coverage includes commentary by Matthew Keenan and Robbie McEwen instead of the more familiar team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, but I don’t mind. The Phil & Paul act has grown a bit tedious in recent years. Keenan and McEwen are Australians whose commentary NBC is borrowing from an Australian TV network, so there’s a strong Australian bias in their presentation. Complaining about that, though, would be silly when the only alternative is the shamelessly pro-British commentary of Phil & Paul.

Infinitely better in its presentation was the coverage of the UCI World Cup mountain bike weekend from Andorra. That began on Saturday with the downhill and concluded on Sunday with the cross-country races. features multiple cameras, knowledgeable commentators, and entertaining pre- and post-race segments with course previews and racer interviews. You can check out the next round of the World Cup from Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on July 8 & 9. is completely free, but it’s so good you might feel a little guilty watching it without having to pay.

Coverage of American bike races doesn’t measure up. Nevertheless, I tuned into YouTube late Sunday afternoon to watch the US criterium national championships from Louisville KY. The old Chicken-or-Egg argument came to my mind again: Do we have minimally-acceptable coverage because there are no fans, or are there no fans because we have minimally-acceptable coverage? There was almost nobody watching our national championships in person, despite warm and sunny weather. And the hit counters at the websites with streaming video suggested that not many people were watching online. Pretty sad.

About those new cuts and bruises … I crashed on some rocks at Alpine Valley and that’s not good. My right knee got the worst of it and we’ll see how it feels in the days leading up to the WORS Cup. I’m registered for both the cross-country race and the short track race next Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Yesterday’s visit to Alpine Valley was supposed to be a confidence-building pre-ride, but I left there injured and with no better understanding of the cross-country course. So, fail.