Monday, September 30, 2019

Try To Remember …



… the last time September 30 looked like this! We hit 83° in West Bend, just 3° short of the all-time high temperature for this date. An average September 30 is only 65°, so we gave that a good beating! I hit the road for the ride depicted above, 50+ miles done counter-clockwise. Yes, it was windy—that’s why we were so warm—but you can’t pass up a day like this … especially when you look at the forecast. We might get 2 inches of rain tomorrow as a cold front comes through. This may have been our last 80° day of the year. Tomorrow might be our last 70° day. Things unraveled quickly last fall and it looks like they might do it again this year, but at least for today I was happy.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Humboldt Park CX


My preparation for today’s cyclocross race consisted of a 12-hour overnight shift at work in Brookfield, then a mad dash back to West Bend, then a hasty breakfast, then a somewhat-less-than-restorative 2 hours of sleep, then a trip down to Humboldt Park in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee that was delayed by road construction, then registration, then a scant 20-minute warmup that included just 1 preview lap of the course. That’s not ideal, but what followed was one of the best times I have ever had in a cyclocross race.

Yesterday’s forecast promised an inch of rain, and there was some reluctance by Milwaukee County Parks to allow the race to run. Velocause Centraal Cycling, the host club, assured the parks department that it would remediate any damage to the grounds. I went to work last night knowing that the race would be held but not knowing whether it would be a mudder. Fortunately the rainfall total turned out to be much lower than anticipated. In fact, course conditions were pretty close to perfect and the Velocause folks adjusted the posts & tape throughout the day to ensure that the riders wouldn’t wear out any one line.

In the past I described the Humboldt Park race as something of a track meet. It was again today: this fifth edition of the race was the least technical, and the tacky surface made for quick acceleration, sure braking, and confident cornering. I made the most of a third row start by placing myself right behind John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling), with whom I’m pretty closely matched despite lopsided results in his favor: I had beaten John only once in 13 previous career matchups, but he had finished immediately ahead of me on 5 of those occasions. If I could follow him off the starting grid and at least hold his wheel through Lap 1, then I would have a chance at beating him and maybe grabbing a spot in the Top 10.

The start was chaotic and I soon found myself in front of John. I didn’t expect that to stick, but I took it as a good sign and went to work on a couple of guys who got out off the grid quicker but didn’t really belong in front of me. Lap 1 went by in a blur and I was pretty pleased with myself until Dave Eckel (MOSH / Team Wisconsin) roared past me on the final straightaway. I couldn’t let that stand, as I had beaten Dave at Manitowoc in our only other meeting this season. I quickly came back to his wheel and we spent the next few laps working almost as teammates. We chased down Sean Shields (Hampshire Cycle Club), then suddenly both Dave and Sean were comfortably behind me and I was going to be one-on-one with—drum roll, please—John Lichtenberg for the final lap.

I was up for it. I knew singlespeed superhero Carlos Casali (Franco Factory Racing p/b Brightleaf Homes) was about to overtake us, so I passed Lichtenberg on a little climb and hoped Casali would prove disruptive. On such a wide-open course, however, Casali’s arrival did nothing to impede Lichtenberg. John and I then spent the first half of the final lap locked together, vainly trying to hang on to Carlos. Lichtenberg was quick over the triple barrier and got a little gap on me, but he really pulled away as we played along the hill near the end of the lap. I just couldn’t match him there, and the finishing straight was too short for me to pull him back. Another consecutive finish! This time it was Lichtenberg in 15th and Yours Truly in 16th out of 25 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) was today’s winner, followed by Tim Hacker (unattached) and Christopher Berge (unattached). The 25-man field was the largest in Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ so far this year, and I really enjoyed having company for the entire race.

Up next is PumpkinCross in Grafton on Saturday, October 5 … I hope. The preliminary weather forecast is really unfavorable. I was good today on a hammer-down power course. In the mud I wouldn't expect to do well.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Like Two Separate Rides

At the halfway point ...


Today’s ride from my home near the southern terminus of the Eisenbahn State Trail up to the northern terminus at Eden was like two separate rides. The “out” leg was a slow slog into a nasty headwind; the “back” leg was easy-as-you-please with a great push from the wind that for the first 90 minutes had been a bitter enemy. I mean …



The stats tell the story today.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Consolation Prizes On World Cup Weekend


This was the biggest weekend of the year for cyclocross in Wisconsin. Today’s elite men’s and women’s races in the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup were the centerpieces of three days of competition that included dozens of races for amateurs and professionals. Many of my friends and rivals competed, but I stayed home. Because I work overnight on Fridays, the Friday and Saturday races would not have fit easily into my schedule. And today’s World Cup races—I’ve had fun watching them before as a fan—were held in the rain on a muddy course. I understand why some people like slopfests, but they just aren’t for me. I stayed home, stayed dry, and watched the spectacle on TV.

If I do the entire Wisconsin Cycling Association cyclocross series, then I will get my fill of Waterloo anyway. The series goes to Trek headquarters on October 19 for the GP Jo Vanderaffe and on November 23 for the state championships. Throw in the Battle of Waterloo at Firemen’s Park on November 3 and maybe I should just have my mail forwarded there.

It’s disappointing that today’s weather was so rotten, but I’m more concerned about my training than I am about a missed opportunity to be a spectator. I didn’t ride outside yesterday or today, making this my first 0-for-2 weekend since June 15-16. It was still a 9.5-hour week, but I was hoping for 12 or more.

On the upside, I got a lot of other stuff done. I bought groceries, new shirts to wear at the office, and a couple of things for the house. I cut my hair, shaved off my whiskers, washed dishes, did laundry, binge-watched a show on Netflix that I didn’t particularly like but felt obliged to see through to the end, and was generally virtuous and productive.

I have cleared away every obstacle that might have prevented me from having a great time on the bike in the week to come … except the rain. There’s a lot more of it in the forecast. Monday and Tuesday look good, but it’s Saturday that really needs to be nice. I’m anxious to return to racing and the course at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee is a good one for me. I need dry conditions though, so my participation may be an 11th-hour decision.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Volumize



My 2019 cyclocross season has been busy: 3 WCA races, 6 practice races at Royal Oaks, 1 skills practice at Ridge Run … all since August 13. That’s something cyclocross-y every 3 days or so, on average.

But now there’s a little break. This year’s Royal Oaks practice series reached its conclusion yesterday, and my next WCA race is 10 days away. It’s time to ramp up the training volume, big-time. Experience has taught me that as the cyclocross season progresses my performance drops because my overall training volume drops. Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight lead to less saddle time. And historically I’ve done a poor job of complementing outdoor rides with turbo trainer rides, which I know would do me a world of good if I took them seriously.

The weather still looks OK though, so I’m planning several long training rides. Today the big, beefy Gatorskins went back on the cyclocross bike—I’ll save the race tires for competition—and I covered 32 miles on the Eisenbahn State Trail. Sometime during this period I also would like to hit the Wild Goose State Trail and perhaps others, but nothing is more convenient than the Eisenbahn. It’s not hard to imagine that the trail I can see from my living room is the one I will use most often.

I’m now only 166 miles away from my 11th straight 4,000-mile season, and I mean to surpass that goal next week. This will be a Top 10 year for mileage if I surpass 4,410, but it won’t be a 5,000-mile year. And the all-time record of 6,236 miles, set in 2015, is safe until at least 2020.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 Lion Cross



Making its second appearance on the WCA cyclocross calendar following a successful launch last season, today’s Lion Cross at Waterford Town Park in western Racine County was an exercise in humidity and, for me, humility.

Recent heavy rains left much of the park under water and forced the organizers to take the sand volleyball court out of the course. I didn’t mind its exclusion; on the final lap last year that feature cost me a position I had been fighting hard to win. We didn’t have rain during the race but it might have been welcome. With temperatures in the 70s and humidity in excess of 80 percent, the air was thick. On a course with no running, I didn’t hesitate to take a water bottle on my downtube. I had time for only a couple of sips, but they were comforting.

During the race I felt bad about my performance. I had a rough start, and when I lost the wheel of John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling) halfway through Lap 1 some of the fight went out of me. I needed a couple of laps to find it again. It helped that I was picking off singlespeed riders who had started a minute before my wave, but the biggest resurgence in my momentum came when I spotted age group foe Richard Prodans (unattached) just ahead. Prodans benefited from a better start than mine, but by Lap 4 he seemed to be out of gas. Pursuing and then dropping him gave me a small victory in the dying moments of an otherwise below average race.

I finished 13th out of 17 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. John Lirette (Ben’s / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) took the win, followed by Jarrod Kerkhoff (MSN Pro Coaching) and Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling). Six of the 17 racers were from Illinois, but this was still the smallest field of the season. Some of the usual suspects were in Iowa this weekend for Jingle Cross. Incidentally, that's a pair of Cat 2s at the head of affairs. I was 10th out of the 14 Cat 3s.

Up next is the Trek Cup and the UCI Cyclocross World Cup races in Waterloo. I will be there on Sunday to watch the pros, then it’s back to racing for me on Saturday, Sep. 28, at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cyclocross Comes To Ridge Run … Finally!





Seven years ago I had a little fantasy about bringing cyclocross to Ridge Run Park. It didn’t seem possible though, because Ridge Run at that time was a “no bikes allowed” Washington County park and not a City of West Bend park. Then the city acquired the park from the county and today my idea became a reality.

Four other racers joined me for a skills session that included starts, barriers, and a sand pit. We didn’t do a practice race like those we run on Tuesdays at Royal Oaks; today was all about technique. I think we’ll do something like this to kick off the 2020 practice season … probably on the first Tuesday next August when the temperature is likely to be higher than what most people find comfortable for a 30-minute race. Thanks to everyone who came out today! I hope you found the session to be valuable.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The 2019 WCA Cyclocross Season Begins!

Manitowoc’s flyover: steep stairs up, steep ramp down. (Melissa Putzer photo)





Flyover Silver Creek CX

On Saturday the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2019 cyclocross season kicked off in Manitowoc with the 6th edition of Flyover Silver Creek CX. Lake Michigan’s uncommonly high water level kept us off the beach this year, so the only running was up the stairs of the eponymous flyover. All the other course elements that make this race special were still in play, and I had lots of fun even if I didn’t have a particularly good result.

I got a decent start from the second row of the grid and moved well through the Little Zolder woods and then over the flyover itself. But then Lap 1 turned on me. Hitting Jeckle Hill for the first time, there was a big KA-CHUNK from my bike and for a moment I thought I had broken the frame. I soon realized that I had merely knocked my saddle tilt off-level … not a good thing, but not fatal. My confidence was a little shaken for a while—I couldn’t be absolutely sure there wasn’t additional damage—and that slowed me down. I lost a couple of positions that I would never get back, but eventually I rallied and stopped the bleeding.

Well, the figurative bleeding. The literal bleeding began a couple of laps later when my front tire slipped out on a root during the singletrack descent down the back side of Heckle Hill. The scrapes on my leg were to become the least of my worries when I got home and discovered a bent derailleur hanger. More on that later; the important thing is that the bike held together for the duration of the race.

I wasn’t making any forward progress though, and I finished 16th out of 22 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) took the win ahead of Ted Schaff (Diablo Cycling) and Christopher Berge (unattached). I was hoping to be the first West Bend guy, at least, but that distinction was denied to me by Wade Loberger (Team Wheel & Sprocket), who finished in 10th place.

Cross-Shooshko

Neff Cycle Service, the good folks who provide neutral tech support for the series, fixed my bent derailleur hanger today in advance of the race at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. Thanks, Isaac! Knowing that the bike was back in top condition gave me a lot of confidence I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also drew confidence from my pre-ride, during which I significantly dialed down the tire pressure. Kosciuszko Park has a well-deserved reputation as a bumpy course. It’s not very technical though, and I knew I would enjoy the long power sections once I wasn’t bouncing over them.

It was another decent start for me … not stellar, but I was running with Greg Ferguson (Trek Midwest Team) for most of Lap 1. “The Tallest Man in Cyclocross” is one of my benchmark riders; staying with him for any length of time is an achievement. Greg got away from me when we caught the back of the singlespeed field that had started before us, and he would go on to an 8th place finish. If only I could have stayed on his wheel.

I ended up 20th out of 27 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) won again, Christopher Berge (unattached) took 2nd and Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling) took 3rd place. I had Johnson’s teammate, Michael Daws, in my sights on the final lap and just ran out of racetrack. Daws and I were pulling back Michael McManus (Gryphon Velo Racing), who finished 18th overall but 10th among the Cat 3s. I would be very satisfied to get such a Top 10. That may seem like a modest goal, but I’m realistic about my chances against Cat 1 and Cat 2 guys. Gotta have something to chase.

For me, today’s race was more fun than Saturday’s and that’s all down to the competition between the guys. I was never more than a couple of seconds behind one or ahead of another. There was a great ebb and flow: someone would pass me on a part of the course that suited him, then I would surge back in front on a part of the course that suited me. And I left the park feeling good about next Sunday’s race, knowing that Waterford is another power course where I can expect another good performance. Yes, another. I didn’t race badly this weekend; I simply lost to faster guys. I’ll be fine if I keep living up to my expectations of myself.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Good To The Last Drop



A couple of years ago I had enough sense to buy a bunch of chain lube from Nashbar at a really low price. Today I dipped into the final bottle; there will never be another. This was great stuff, easily the equal of—if not superior to—the expensive brands. If you were a Nashbar and/or Performance Bike customer, then what do you miss most?

Monday, September 2, 2019

Laboring

Today's ride was a labor of love: spirited but not strained.


How was your Labor Day Weekend? Got some extra time off, did you? It was otherwise with me; I worked more, but at least it was my choice to do so. And I was fairly compensated. Working 12 hours of overtime from Saturday evening into Sunday morning pumped enough extra cash into the coffers to cover all of my race registrations for the upcoming cyclocross season. Priorities!

The downside to the extra shift was that I missed a Saturday bike ride for the first time since June 15, and the 8 hours I spent in the saddle last week constituted my shortest effort since June 10-16. Cycling was still very much on my mind—I made time to watch the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and Stage 8 of the Vuelta a EspaƱa—but Saturday was a day of rest otherwise. I began Sunday by watching Stage 9 of the Vuelta, then got some long-overdue sleep, then got back on the bike for a 35-mile solo road ride. And, as I do on the first of every month, I weighed myself. At 188 pounds, I am 1 pound lighter than I was on September 1, 2018, and I’m down 15 pounds from my offseason peak. That’s a good way to go into the cyclocross season, during which I will drop a few more pounds. As I look in the mirror I fancy that I’m starting to see abs, and there’s a little idea forming in my head about how I’m going to keep from getting fat again when winter arrives.

Today began with some home and garden projects, but by mid-afternoon I was knocking out the ride you see above. That’s my fastest ride since Race The Lake on August 26, 2018. As a solo rider I live in the 17-18 mph range on ordinary training rides, but today I had the company of two other riders and we pushed each other a little bit.

Now to get some dinner and a couple of hours of sleep before my new work week begins …