Tuesday, October 31, 2017


You can tell I’m near the end of my cycling season. I’m getting outside less often, keeping my rides close to home, sleeping more, and getting a little grumpy. But there are other signs. Because I’m spending so little time on the bike, I’m giving more time to small projects around the house.

It’s a nesting instinct, albeit one that has nothing to do with reproduction! I’m already experiencing a bit of offseason ennui and there are darker days ahead, both literally and figuratively. So, I’m identifying holes in my music collection and filling them—a process that consists of downloading, verifying (listening to the tracks to ensure their completeness and quality), and cataloging. It’s a big collection, so I have to keep it organized. And I’m watching a lot of movies right now, mostly old horror flicks in acknowledgment of the Halloween season.

Staying entertained is a good thing, but staying productive is even more important. I just finished an audit of my usernames and passwords for dozens of websites. In many cases I established those credentials to make online purchases and then never returned to those sites. Those accounts—and in some cases the websites themselves—don’t exist anymore, so I don’t need to retain a record of them. I also have been purging paper records that have outlived their usefulness, things like sales receipts for items I no longer own and unused checks from an old bank account. It’s all junk. It’s just taking up space.

I won’t be satisfied with only a thorough cleaning of my horizontal file; there are other corners of the house that need a good sweeping. Old clothes, once-read books, long-neglected toys and games … time to find new owners. It’s so easy to dismiss the clutter when I’m on the bike every day, but things are otherwise when I’m home.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trainer Season?

Technically, today was a 40° day in West Bend, but that’s only because it was still 40° at midnight. This afternoon when I might have gone for a ride, the temperature was holding steady in the high 30s and I simply didn’t feel like out-dressing the cold. I did a turbo trainer workout in the home gym instead … the first one in a long, long time. And it wasn’t bad. I wondered why I feel so strong an aversion to such workouts. It’s really hard to beat them for convenience and efficiency.

I still haven’t taken the plunge into the world of smart trainers. With their power meters and other features that interact with cool applications like Zwift, smart trainers are the current state-of-the-art and the future. Someday soon they will take us into fully-immersive virtual reality training. For me, the cost is still too high. I can get by a while longer with my CycleOps Magneto and a collection of race videos shot by strangers with handlebar-mounted GoPro cameras.

As I announced last Saturday, there’s no racing for me this weekend. I’ll try to get outside, but I’m making no promises. I will, at least, keep using the trainer. This was a bad week for riding outdoors. Next week doesn’t look any better, and after that we’ll be off Daylight Saving Time. My cyclocross season is not over, so I need to stay fit. It’s not easy this time of year.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 GP Jo Vanderaffe

In 2011 at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, I did my very first cyclocross race. That was a good time, and so was the race there in 2012. And then Cross The Domes went away.

Today cyclocross returned against the spectacular backdrop of the Mitchell Park Domes, home of the celebrated horticultural gardens. The GP Jo Vanderaffe featured an outstanding course that mixed steep elevation changes, challenging off-camber areas, numerous riding surfaces, and (my favorite) plenty of hammer-down power sections. With abundant sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, attendance was strong. Even the Chicago crowd showed up for this one.

Despite a 2nd row starting position, I got out of the gate fast. That’s not typical for me, and my advantage didn’t last long, but it was fun! By the midpoint of Lap 1 my spot in the bottom half of the field was more-or-less assured. I kept pressing though, determined to beat a trio of riders of comparable ability: Peter Tampa (3CB Racing), Nate Phelps (Gryphon Velo Racing), and training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). And in each case I think it was on those power sections that I did the most damage. The run-up, the sand pit … we were all equal there. Just like last weekend at Fitchburg, I was good when I could stay on the gas. In the end I was 10th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race, beating that trio of rivals and a couple of other guys in the bargain. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) claimed his 4th victory of the season. He leads the series on points.

I think today’s race was my strongest showing this season, so it may seem odd that I have decided to take a little break. I won’t line up for tomorrow’s race at Waterloo or for either of next weekend’s races in Sun Prairie. The weather is definitely a factor. Today was warm and dry. Tomorrow will be wet. Next weekend will be cold. I’m not ready for winter yet, I need to adjust my training a bit, and I’m a little burned out by so much travel. The next 2 weeks will give me a chance to refocus. Look for me next at the Estabrook Park Beer Garden Classic in Milwaukee on November 4.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 Fitchrona Cross Omnium: McGaw Park

Cyclocross at Fitchburg’s McGaw Park and Verona’s Badger Prairie County Park is nothing new, but this year the organizers of those events promoted the weekend as a 3-day omnium. Racing began on Friday evening and I would have appreciated the novelty of racing under the lights around and between McGaw’s baseball fields. But I work on Friday nights. I couldn’t risk being late or, if things had gone really wrong, missing work altogether. On Saturday the omnium moved to Badger Prairie. Both races were muddy. I don’t think I would have done well.

Today the omnium returned to McGaw Park for its finale, and it also was muddy but I didn’t want to go race-less this weekend. High winds out of the northwest helped to dry the course in time for my 3:30 p.m. start. Some parts of the course stayed very wet, but most of it was nice and tacky. I ended up 12th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 field.

I lost ground before we ever left the starting grid, thanks to my low ranking on USA Cycling points. And by Lap 3 I was somewhat hampered by an accumulation of mud and grass in my fork. (You know who has it good? Those professional racers who get a squeaky clean bike from their pit crews every half lap!) But I had good legs today. When I could put down the power, I was fast. I might have cracked the Top 10 if the course had been dry.

Andrew Hague (Trek Midwest Team) got the win, followed by Josh Borgmeyer (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Chris Pappathopoulos (unattached). Pappathopoulos took 1st and Hague took 2nd on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Friday’s race wasn’t part of the Wisconsin Cycling Association series, but it will help Pappathopoulos on USA Cycling points. He’s having a great season and shouldn’t be starting next to me in the last row!

The series continues next weekend with the GP Jo Vanderaffe at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park on Saturday and the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday. I expect to line up on Saturday, but there’s rain in Sunday’s forecast and that would keep me out of the Waterloo race. Today’s race was as muddy as I want to get. We’ll talk about my commitment to “real cyclocross weather” when you volunteer to clean my bike, my kit, and my shoes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The “Go” Box

Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of a “go” box: a collection of cycling essentials that always stays in your vehicle as a kind of event insurance if you should forget your primary gear. And it’s a great idea, but I have been haphazard in my adoption of it.

No more! I should have learned my lesson after the 2015 Northern Kettles Fall Classic, when I forgot my helmet, shoes, jersey, and gloves. On that occasion I made an emergency call to my son, who delivered everything in time and saved my race. That event was just 20 minutes from home. If I had made the same mistake at a more distant location like Wausau or Madison, then I would have forfeited my entry fee. Although there have been no big mistakes lately—on 1 or 2 occasions I have neglected to bring my preferred eyewear, but there’s always a pair of sunglasses in my vehicle—I finally have implemented the “go” box as a permanent Plan B.

What’s in the box?

  • 1 spare team kit: jersey, bibs, socks
  • 1 helmet
  • 1 helmet liner
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 pair of SPD pedals
  • 2 water bottles

The reason for most of that stuff is obvious, but pedals? Yes. Someday I might need to borrow a bike! If it doesn’t already have SPD-compatible pedals, then I’ll be ready with my own. Borrowing a bike is very unlikely in a race situation, but there could be a shop visit or demo event that turns into a chance to ride.

There are many other things that the box could include. Mine assumes fair weather. It also assumes the company of other riders who can assist me if tools or tubes are required. And it assumes the availability of food and water at or near the start of the ride. Food and water aren’t made better by long-term storage in the back of a minivan that roasts in the summer and freezes in the winter.

I’m not prepared for every imaginable scenario, but I am prepared for the ones that are most likely to compromise my racing plans.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017 Diablo River Cross

Today I traveled to Sunset Point Park in Kimberly for the inaugural Diablo River Cross. I don’t have much to say; it went badly for me. I didn’t sleep well last night and maybe that was to blame for the listless performance that left me 10th out of 11 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race.

Sun Prairie’s Chris Pappathopoulos (unattached) got the win. He’s returning to cyclocross this year after a 6-year absence and already has 2 podium appearances to his credit. He was 3rd in the season opener, Cross-Shooshko, back on September 9.

I missed Cross-Shooshko … and I missed yesterday’s PumpkinCross in Grafton. But I have no regrets: yesterday’s Masters 35+ Cat 3 race ran under a steady rain. I didn’t pre-register for the race because I believed in the weather forecast. However, I did have a completed USA Cycling race waiver, enough cash to cover day-of registration, and a minivan full of cyclocross stuff … even a jersey with the number already attached. Had the rain stayed away, I would have rushed to Lime Kiln Park, just 15 miles from home. But I’m not a mudder. Hell, I’m having a hard enough time when the course is dry!

I end this week with only 7:04:22 in the saddle. It was my shortest week since the end of April, and I’m sure that impacted my performance in today’s race. I ride better when I ride more. Tomorrow I will embark on what I hope is a high-volume week. But there’s a lot of rain in the forecast after Monday. Time to dust off the trainer in the home gym?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Shoes Debut

Shimano M089
Why, yes, those were new shoes on Sunday at the cyclocross race in Wausau! I saw them in a browser window and I just had to have them.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Into The Hinterlands

Atop "Heckle Hill" at Flyover Silver Creek CX. (Nick Moroder photo)
As is true in most states, there’s a big city bias in Wisconsin’s cyclocross series. Racers in heavily populated areas are spoiled by an abundance of events close to home. Getting them to travel is tough, despite the novelty of new venues and unfamiliar opponents.

This season, though, there’s extra incentive to leave the Milwaukee-Madison corridor. Five races have banded together to form the Hinterlands Cyclocross Series. It’s a part of the larger Wisconsin Cycling Association series, but it will crown its own champions and pay out its own series awards. Savvy racers who want to win WCA overall titles will also recognize that the Hinterlands Series gives them 5 opportunities to score points in comparatively small fields: whether you’re the 1st of 10 or the 1st of 100, you get 25 points. When only the best 8 results count in the overall standings, it’s easy to see how 5 scoring chances in the Hinterlands sub-series could make or break your season.

2017 Flyover Silver Creek CX

Flyover Silver Creek CX kicked off the Hinterlands Series on Saturday at Manitowoc. It was the 4th running of the race and my 3rd participation—I missed it last year. The course is one of the best in the entire WCA, featuring a pair of tough hill climbs, a run along the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, and the signature flyover with its steep staircase. I got into my pedals quickly, but otherwise my start was pretty bad. I wasn’t adequately warmed up. As Lap 2 began I settled into a sustainable pace with West Bend rival Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) and the Hinterlands Series’ most vocal advocate, Nate Phelps (Gryphon Velo Racing). Wren had some issues with his chain and dropped back on Lap 3 while Phelps and I picked off a couple of riders from the Cat 3 Open and Singlespeed fields that had started before us. But we weren’t pulling back anyone from our own wave. By Lap 4 it was clear that Phelps and I were running our own race. Late in the final lap he accelerated hard and passed me on a little climb. I tried to close the gap on the final straightaway but came up 1 second short. I was 7th out of 9 in Masters 35+ Cat 3. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) took the win in a field that included no riders from the counties of Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Dane.

2017 Cross Of The North

Clearing the last barrier at Cross Of The North. (Melissa Putzer photo)
Waukesha and Dane were represented in today’s Cross Of The North at Wausau, but only 2 Milwaukee County guys made the trip. That’s not a big surprise; Wausau is 3 hours from Milwaukee by car. But the weather and the course were beautiful. If you missed out, then you really missed out. Again, I would rather do battle in a small field of riders on a warm, dry day than to scrounge for points in a big field on a wet, cold one. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) won again, completing a perfect weekend in Masters 35+ Cat 3. I took 9th out of 13, but it felt more like 2nd out of 4: by the midpoint of Lap 1 the leaders were comfortably out of my reach and my race became all about beating my friends from Gryphon Velo Racing. Nate Phelps gave me plenty of trouble yesterday, but today I was able to shake him by the end of Lap 2. Derek Moran—new to cyclocross but a very handy Cat 2 on the road—went back-and-forth with me for most of the race before passing me for good with 2 laps to go. But when he went, he dropped me off at the back wheel of Quentin Gniot. I did the rest, passing “Q” just before a tough run-up, setting the pace for the next 1.5 laps, then withstanding his last charge before the finish line. The bumpy finishing straight had convinced me to lower my tire pressure at the end of my pre-ride, and the extra traction helped me in the final moments of the race.

On Saturday I got Moran but Gniot and Phelps got me. On Sunday I got Gniot and Phelps but Moran got me. That’s good stuff! The new Masters 35+ Cat 3 race is now 3-for-3 in delivering the experience I want: real competition at my level, not just a ride through the park at a respectful distance behind the leaders.