Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Deerfly Chase 2013…

Almost forgot how to blog this season… more miles in the legs, more demands in life, work & family, & so funny that’s what seems to happens.

Despite the lack of updates, the season has been a good one & with plenty of stories.  Most recently the Deerfly Chase.

With the Chequamegon 40 & Fat Tire festival in the rearview mirror, the MTB race season for many takes a different tone.  Ok, maybe not for everyone, but certainly for myself.  You work hard all season long trying to eek out that extra watt of fitness for big races, then for a few weeks afterward, with just an occasional hard effort, you get to reap the benefit of riding fast but feeling well rested too.  Plus mentally it’s just nice to be riding & racing solely for the fun of it.

A race that just seems to get just right & offer some post Chequamegon Fat Tire MTB racing opportunity, is the annual Deerfly Chase MTB race.  Held the last weekend of each Sept at Hickory ridge trails, 30miles northeast of Eau Claire.  In it’s 3rd year, growing by leaps & bounds, race director Noah Michaelsen & crew have put together an event that encompasses a great trail system, an inviting atmosphere, a diverse race course & a great post race event afterwards. 

One element that sets this race apart is the pre-race “conversations” that start a month ahead of time.  Generally someone will start some congenial group email that will evolve into some of the most creative, pre race good natured smack talk to behold.  It takes a season of MTB stories & personalities to weave a tale so good.  Find someone with the thread on it & you’ll find yourself quite amused  -- if MTB’ing doesn’t work out for some of these guys a stand up comedy routine would.  You know who you are…

So Saturday (28th) rolls around.  Rumors about who’s gonna show…will some of MN top MTB series racers cross the river & join the show, will it be first year Deerfly Chase champion Chad Sova be coming back to try to regain the title he relinquished.  Will the secret late season training done by 2012 one year wonder Matt O’Meara come thru… Will the 2012 Deerfly chase 2nd place finisher, the man possessed, Kevin Roytek trade in running Nikes 26 miles… for turning the pedals a 26 mile bike race.

Does Nate Lillie’s mid season form come back around where he levitates uphills on a single gear, leaving others looking like they are dragging along their lucky piano’s…

As it turns out, a cast of characters both old & new were there at Hickory Ridge trails  start line ready to get rolling.  Among them the aforementioned, Kevin Roytek, former stellar MTB racer Jesrin Gaier, Nate Lillie, Matt Zak, Spring Street Sports Big crushing Mike Johnson, and not to forget last seasons midwest standout & my cross racing nemesis… Trevor Cross, I mean Koss to name just a few.

Having duked it out with Roytek last year & edging him on the final ski trail hills to the finish for the win, I was getting my own ribbing about how the race was gonna go in my favor.  However, having struggled with premature engine failure in the Seeley Pre Fat & Cheq 40 -- any race lasting over 90minutes held a slight bit of concern that I’d fizzle before the any sizzle.

The start was a rollout of a mile or so, before we were turned loose on a gravel road.  Mike Johnson & Nate Lillie were quick to the front, until the first hill when Trevor Cross Koss came marching up the right hand side of us thru the soft sand on the edge of the road, (does nothing stop that dude?)   By the way, Dan Hansen had the helmet cam on -- can check out the early goings here or the CORBA facebook website

Trevor lead for awhile, until we were back on the downhill descent & Mike took over again.   Eventually the lead group would have this bunch..


Pulling to the front before a hard left turn off the gravel & onto forest roads, I started to turn things up alittle, it wouldn’t drop anyone, but strung things out.  Fun fast slightly downhill where you could rip some speed & watch the random sticks on the flying this way & that.  Mindful to not launch one into the drivetrain but if it’s stuck a competitors wheels… hey, just one less guy to have to outlast.

With Nate close by followed by Trevor, Dan Hansen & Mike Johnson the group stretched out, it took a short single track section to further thin things down further before getting back on a gravel road section.


(Tongue out & to the right? Code for “Oh yeah, it’s go time..” Mike apparently didn’t get the memo & Trevor is like “Dude’s -- whatever.”)

Once back on the gravel road, I looked back only to see Nate nearby, Trevor had fallen 30 yards back or so & the front of the race appeared to be set. 

Just the Coyote & the Roadrunner – at least that’s what I mentioned to Lillie as he pulled up next to me spinning like a madman on his single speed.  (Come on you know what I’m talking about – Roadrunners legs in the cartoon? 


First thought after seeing Nate pull up alongside).

I thought it was pretty appropriate, the two of us, Nate & I began our season together this way on a two man breakaway at the Strada Fango in April that it would close that way as well.  Life comes full circle.

Needless to say I was almost premature in that thought as Mike Johnson poured it on time trial style on the gravel & came from way back in the single track to pass Dan & motor on -- eventually catching up to Trevor & dragging him up to our shirt-tails on the final section of gravel road before hitting the first serious section of single track.




Nate would hit the singletrack first, riding it smoothly causing collateral damage, applying torque so dominantly to each pedal stroke of his single speed that had he struck any rocks with his pedals the sparks may have ignited Hickory Ridge into a forest fire.

I needed to keep the concentration up as even the slightest lapse on my part & he’d have 4 or 5 seconds on me.   Taking advantage on the decents he’s pull ever so slightly away weaving thru the trees.



On the inclines I’d put in a harder effort to close things back up again.  Eventually I would trade places with him to avoid eating the rocks & splintering tree roots he was kicking out at me.

A few points in the race we’d catch site of Trevor on some switchback section, never too far behind & keeping us pushing the pace.

Much of the race went back & forth between Nate & I trading out leading different single track sections.  Around the half way point some rougher trail had Nate’s hardtail rattling his dentures loose & his next to zero gram spiderman webslinging saddle even with all it’s flex still wasn’t enough love for the guy.  All the while I’m seated pedaling behind thinking whoa… that my man, does not look like too much fun.

Despite the tight single track & reduced riding speeds -- drafting was still part of the race when we’d hit open lakeside sections of trail where the 15-20mph gusts of wind would be blowing thru the forest understory.

On some of the newer machine built trails they build this year, Nate continued to impress with his handling skills taking on the hucking jumps, while I’m doing the dreaded reverse back tire wheelies, testing the full squish of my front fork & tire.


(Some of the new machine built trail at Hickory ridge, great flow & speed to it).

At times I think both of us were finding our limits.  I was working on moderating my efforts as to not blow before getting to the finish.  Unlike hanging on for dear life last year against Roytek & swearing under my breath, I was alittle more comfortable with the pace this time around.

The final section of single track present a interesting challenge, that the very recently fallen leaves created.  At the speed we were going, I was at the front & kept talking back to Nate… “hey where’s the trail?!  You might not want to follow me…”  Just the perfect conditions to disguise it, actually made it really fun, as you’d have to make some very snap decisions to just stay on track.

Finally into the final 20minutes of racing, we’re back on gravel roads & a mix of forest roads & ski trails. 


Tell me me it’s not the camera, but Nate’s got some glowing super powers emitting from his legs.  Ah, weren’t onto your secret now Lillie!!


I’m at the front & Nate is glued to my rear tire sniffing the Caffe Latex in my tires, looking for an explosion to happen.  In my legs, his or both…

I really wanted Nate to have a good race too & should some mechanical still pop up for one of us I wanted all the hard work we put in to still pay off.  So we rolled the ensuing gravel roads taking turns at the front & working together holding a steady pace.

I knew at some point we’d turn onto a bunch of rolling pitched ski trails for the final finishing section.  The part I didn’t recall was just how long it that section would be….

A mile & half or two out, I’m thinking it’s less than a mile, and I’m anxious to get this thing finished.  Looking at the race time on my cycling computer it gave me an idea we had to be pretty close.  I pushed the pace just alittle bit harder believing I had to hold it together just a few minutes longer, telling Nate to hold on.  With most of my training is on open & gravel roads, I seem to have another gear I can tap into on that type of terrain.

After a few rollers Nate was struggling to hold my wheel, I yelled back again for him to stay on, but he wasn’t able to respond & catch me on the next decent.

I decide to try & finish the race strong at that point, again thinking the end was closer than it was, so when I was just about out of gas we go by some dudes in lawn chairs saying “ Hey way to go, good luck, 1 mile to go!”  Ugh,  I was hoping for a 1/4 mile.  As I conjure up in my mind just how long a mile is after 1:45hr of racing.  Looking back Nate’s 10-15 seconds back so I try to steady out my efforts again & hold the gap.

Nate to his credit kept inching back but I crested the final climb & coasted in with a 9 second gap for a repeat victory for the second year.



The rest of the race had Mike Johnson catching back up with Trevor on the gravel section but with nothing left in the tank to hold on the rest of the way.  So Trevor got 3rd, Mike 4th, the rest of the results are probably on the website, posted some below as well.

With the cloudy weather & pending rain overhead most everyone made it in before the rain dropped down in the afternoon.  One of the best parts of  the event is the post race party afterwards.  Cookout, eats, beverages, awards & give aways.  Most of all getting to to meet new people & visit with old friends, hear the stories of the race and season.

Can’t think of too much of a better way to spend a fantastic fall day wrapping up an otherwise great MTB season.  A big thanks Noah Michaelsen & every last person involved in the process to bring this event together. You know who you are, my gratitude & appreciation goes out to you.  Not easy, a lot of work, but you have many, many happy participants in this years Deer Fly Chase that thank you for it.   And to my friends, acquaintances & fellow Deerfly Chase racers, thanks for coming out adding your spirit & enthusiasm, as well as challenges, stories & struggles.  It’s all part of a really good shared experience, it makes me proud to be racing with each & everyone of you…

Til next year, wait & listen for the whispers of smack going down yet again & the good time that ensues in Deerfly Chase 2014…



Other pics & comments….



Gee Professor Mike, didn’t know they made bifocal Oakleys?


Adam, don’t let the single track lull you to sleep… there’s a lot of race still left…


Ain’t quite like it was last year, eh Kev?


Scared!  I think I’m not feeling so good…


Get out of my way rodent.  I’m gonna run you down…

Really?  Anyone ever see Gaier with such a serious look on his face & his mouth not open & talking while riding?


Mild mannered Jesrin……I’m gonna take that camera & break it over your head!


Yep, Kevin, definitely not the same as last year… still great to see you out there though.


Dude, What’d she say?  What’d she say?  -- You’re not gonna believe this, she’s gonna run the entire race with her front fork locked out.  Man,…. blondes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cable Area Off Road Classic…..

Big thanks to the people who put on the event & the ALL the fellow racers that came out & made it exciting this year.

It sorta had that old school MTB feel this year -- back to when there wasn’t zillions of miles of single track available.  It was challenging it’s own right and required some good skills & efforts.

I’ve tried 13 editions over the years….A lot changes in that time when you reflect back.  My first time?  Way over my head, finishing 241st overall, the bottom 10% or something worse than that.  I recall not bringing enough to drink.  I was dying.  So much so, at the finish, in a matter of 30minutes I’d downed three 32oz bottles of Gatorade, doesn’t seem humanly possible when I think about it now, but it happened.  At the time I was trying to “show off” to the new girlfriend that I was some kind of good MTB racer! HA!!  That sorta backfired on me.  She shouldn’t gotta clue right there.  Somehow though she stuck around though??  12 editions of the race later, instead of being that 28yr old & in a so called “prime” of life -- now 40 yrs old, married, with four kids.  This race Sat had results on the other end of the spectrum, the completely other end.

Heavy rain pounded the area late Friday nite & into early Saturday morning.  On the drive to Lakewoods, there were small lakes in yards & the ditches looked like raging waterfalls in parts with rain continuing to come down.   However by the time I got to the race at 9am things had let up, wasn’t any warmer but at least it wasn’t raining.  I’d pre road the course the prior week and was trying to figure just how nasty some parts might be & how to navigate them. 

I soon ran into some friendly faces from Ashland in Jamie Sajdak & Brian Hammond, who’d just registered & so we were bantering abit about what to wear in this wet semi cold raining weather. 

Though I’d brought both the Trek Superfly hardtail & Trek Cronus cross bike, I was going try my luck on the off road cyclo-cross bike.  There would be parts that I’d be at a disadvantage with but if I could make it thru that stuff, I was hoping other parts would make up for it.  However having pre-ridden the course with both bikes I would have been comfortable racing either.

Trying to turn over a new leaf, in getting to races earlier, got in a respectable warmup & soon it was time to line up.  I didn’t feel too out of place with my cross bike as I noticed several guys were on them as well as my longtime BayCross battling buddy Nikolai Anikin.

The race started with the usual pace it does up Rock Lake Road, initially I stayed toward the front but drifted around in the initial miles as different guys took their time at the front.   As I recall Nate Klump took some time at the front, as did a guy on a cross bike.  Scottie KJ did some as well, ultimately it was Nate Lillie who after a few miles who really set the pace for a good share of the race.  Important to note… the guy is doing this on a Single Speed!  One gear, all conditions – flat terrain, uphill or downhill, gravel road!  Impressive, just impressive, I have no other words to put to it.   If some hills would come along I’d work to increase the pace alittle & try to use momentum to make the hills alittle easier.  Sometimes it would drop a few rider other times it wouldn’t.  Each time I turned around though it never seemed like the lead group got that much smaller. 

The miles were just ticking off quickly at first soon clipping along the rolling terrain at 20+mph.  Around the 5 to 7 mile mark the group was starting to get noticeably smaller, eventually whittling down to 7 guys – myself, Nate Lillie, Scottie KJ, Mike Bushey, Todd McFadden, Ryan Fitzgerald, Matt O’Meara & every so often we see Nikolai Anikin drifting back & forth. 

It’d pretty much remain this way til mile 10 or so when Matt & Nik dropped off & it was down to 6 racers with Nate driving it like a man possessed (but isn’t that what all single speeders look like when racing?  Shoulder rocking, & legs just a spinning) at the front & myself coming thru for an occasional driving of the pace. 

I don’t know about how the other 4 guys were feeling but I’d go back & forth from feeling taxed, to not feeling too bad. Some bi-polar racing I guess. 

I had my power meter on & heart rate monitor on & would check it.  Didn’t seem like I was going that hard but my heart rate would be quite a bit higher than expected & I’d try to keep it in check.  The average power would be settle into the 280’s(watts).  Later after the race, I talked to Todd McFadden & he was cruising along having no issues & a really low heart rate.  So as the race unfolded, it later that would become more apparent.

Just over 13 miles into the race there’s terrain would get rougher, less predictable, larger rocks in the road, bigger mud holes.  It seemed Mike Bushey & Nate pushed it harder through those sections or it was my cross bikes limitations that had me drifting alittle further back.  Once the race turned uphill, a few things just started to happen in what seemed like slow motion.  Nate pushed just a slightly harder pace with Todd right on his wheel that opened up a gap to Scottie KJ, Mike Bushey & myself.  I waited alittle bit for Scott to speed up & close it but when that wasn’t happening, I jump (&bounced on rocks) hard around Mike & Scottie to catch Todd’s wheel & before I knew it we had 6 or 7 bike lengths that grew more as the climb went up.

So it was looking like it was down to the three of us with over 5 miles to go.  Just some rocky downhills, mud holes & ruts to squirm through before getting on some pavement & the railroad corridor & finish.

I was going to be somewhat at the mercy of the MTB’s for the next two miles, Nate & Todd would get several bike lengths on me & where I could I’d push hard to back to get on Todd’s wheel. 

There was this major mud hole at one point where the “race leading vehicle” this truck -- I swear when I saw it looked like it went axle deep or worse going in the hole  Thinking to myself… oh boy, going thru that could end very badly…

Nate & Todd went far left (seeing how deep the truck sunk on the right) & squirmed through mostly ok, I sorta remember a line from my pre ride (but not covered in water at the time) that was closer to the middle.  I took that one & shot thru without any problem.  I saw Nate turn around on the ensuing climb with this “ah crap, sorta look on his face” when he saw I made it thru without problems.

I did almost take a digger at another mud hole when I had too much weight on the front of my bike giving a loud grunt that had McFadden turning around.

Knowing the rest of the course it – there would be just one other majorly rutted out muddy area and it was that way even before the rain.  There was simply no going right or left or finding a smooth line once you got to it.  It was like 50 feet wide, choose your adventure for the next 100 yards.  (This was the pre-ride picture… before all the rain!)


Nate went in first, sorta scooting from one rut to another, Todd had his go as well.  I could both see them squirm out alittle & start losing speed.   I went slightly to the right of them, actually stayed in a deeper rut & then wheelied into another one when that one ended.  I managed to keep up my speed and motor past both Nate & Todd and decided to put the hammer down.  It was still probably 3 miles to go but I figured why not see what they’ve got left.  I had downhill, smoother road & pavement coming up – how wrong could it go?

Well, I initially had a reasonable gap on Todd, but I keep sinking in the soft sand on the road & I think he was floating on it better so he steadily reeled me in.  Nate was trying but not having the same amount of luck & we must have had over 50 yds on him pretty quickly.

Finally we got going vertical, like downhill vertical.  Checking my Joule cycling computer later it was almost 35 mph downhill on gravel.  I was just drilling at the front, figured Todd might hang on, but I was pretty convinced Nate, 25-30lbs lighter than both Todd & I – & on his Single speed would be spit out & gone, nothing more than a spec in the horizon behind us  --- spinning like a sowing machine & going nowhere fast. A devilish grin probably came across my face at that moment as well….

A mile later, I turn around… W.T.F!?  There he is!!  Right with us!  Oh, my God, how did do that?!  He’s freakishly fast going downhill, on a single speed bike.    It’s crazy.  Legendary.  I’ve seen him do this twice now.   A few weeks back at Strada Fango as well.

So anyways, so much for telling Todd earlier when Nate originally dropped that “We might just have one in the bank for The Ski Hut” (the shop we ride for).

Fortunately there’s now 2 miles or so left in the race, we hit the pavement of Randysek road.  Nate goes to the front for a brief moment before I decide to drop the hammer again.  I’m thinking… “it’s only 2 miles, it’s only 2miles.”  Well, that soon puts Nate soon several bike lengths back & Todd’s behind him.  I’ve got a gap again…. but Todd shoots around Nate & works back to my wheel.  We turn off Randysek Road & head west & south again before we transition onto the old railroad grade. 

Todd & I work together to keep Nate just fair enough behind, leaving that single speeding menace out to cook himself.   Todd kept saying just keep it steady, yet Nate would yo-yo closing & further from us – agonizingly so. 

If we could ride smoothly through the last short off road wet section to the railroad grade it would be mostly a time trial effort the last mile.  I gave Todd the lead to ride that section smoothly & I mostly kept up.  As we hit the railroad grade I caught back on & went to the front, Nate turned on the grade not more than 8 or 10 bike lengths back.

It stayed that way with Todd & I taking pulls at the front & Nate dangling, then about 75 yard before the single track transition back to Kavanah Road & 1/4 miles finish into downtown Cable.  I asked Todd to go to the front.  The last thing he needed was me to get slide out on the single track, taking us both out & let Nate catch up. 

Todd smoothly road thru but for some reason he opted not to accelerated hard at that point.  I took my time, playing it safe, but I could hear Nate’s squealing brakes just a length or two behind me as I was finally on the single track.  

Once on the pavement I worked up to the side of Todd as I wasn’t gonna draft my own teammate.  So we went steady for about 10 seconds before I just started accelerating alittle harder & pulling away.  I think I had more concern Nate would be joining the party if I didn’t.

I continued to pull away as the finish line was coming into sight, a bike length or more.. thinking I had a big enough gap I eased up alittle only to see Todd right on me I had to put in a second effort as we crossed the line in almost the same time, just coming across before Todd.

It’s a really crazy thought that goes thru your mind when you consider yourself an avid but “ok” bike racer and you win a race that never seemed within your reach after a dozen years.  Wow.  That you could do well at it but never win.  It was really cool & sorta surreal. 

I gotta hand it to both Todd & Nate though, as well as the other guys for making it such a great race.  Todd’s a pretty amazing guy if you don’t know him.  I remember one of my first races back in ‘01, the Fat Back Boogie, Todd won that race handily.  I thought one day, wow, if I could only be as good as that guy!  He’s got more top three podium finishes at the Cable Off Road Classic than anyone else in it’s 18yr history.  In his years racing, he’s won the Arrowhead 135 and placed second at a Chequamegon 40.  But as good as he races, he’s a heck of a genuine person & great guy.  Always great to talk about biking with and I know he keeps my excitement up for racing as much as anyone.  Gotta just says thanks for the great day.  And Nate?  Gosh, there aren’t words for how crazy well he’s riding.  He certainly was the most aggressive racer & instigator in the race.  Whatever he’s doing, he should keep it up and he’ll have a great season.  He’s definitely a top pick for winning any single speed category races this year.

After the race, great to hear how everything went in other parts of the race.  Ron William piloted his Carver Fat bike to 13th overall & 1st place in the Fat bike spot.  Good ‘ole Tom Gaier nailed 3rd in the Fat bike category riding some absolute monster fat bike with a big ole front shock.  Guys I’m guessing that’ll have later season fitness Matt O’meara, Nik Anikin had decent days too.

On the ladies side, Todd’s lovely wife Diana McFadden took home the win on the ladies side with Sara KJ in 2nd.   It was a good day for anyone in the 5th decade of life & riding for the Ski Hut, having placed 5 rider on the 6 podiums spots.  Hey,if Jens Voight is still winning & doing races well as a professional at 40+… why not keep trying.  This years Cable Off Road Classic, was it hard work & effort over time?  Or just too old to know any different…. 


Monday, May 6, 2013

Will there be the Cable Area Off Road Classic 2013 edition….

For a lot of the MTB’ers in the northern midwest, one knows the race season has started with the Cable Area Off Road Classic

This untimely late winter weather has probably got a lot of people wonder… “hey, it’s less than  2weeks away & there’s like 2 feet of snow in the woods still.  Are they gonna do the race!?”

Here’s my take on it…

One, a lot can happen.  Snow melts fast in May with more direct sunlight, higher temps & any amount of wind.  What Mother Nature bringeth, Mother Nature can taketh away.

Two, if conditions are less than ideal for a lot of single track.  I still don’t see them necessarily cancelling or rescheduling the race.  Look for more of a gravel sections & climbing in the race.

Announcements on it will probably come later in the week after a week of sunshine and warmer weather starts working it’s magic… to which I can only say “Halleluiah!”….

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Strada Fango Spring Classic continued….

So how did things play out for the first race of the season? 

Between the 2013 spring snow storms, none us are going to forget anytime soon , mother nature blessed us with a nearly perfect day for a good hard bike race April 28th.

Arrived at the Murphy Flowage Co. Park in Rusk County – east of Rice  Lake a solid 30minutes before the race.  Those that know me can enjoy the humor of that & may find me ruining my reputation for timeliness in 2013… ok, let’s get real…don’t worry, I don’t expect the trend of arriving early for races to continue.

The parking lot was full of friendly familiar faces.  Todd McFadden, last years champ, sporting a shiny new ‘cross bike.  Soon after I was greeted by Tim Andrews, then race director, Noah Michaelsen, Nate Lillie, Nikolai Anikin, and a bunch of guys from the Eau Claire area. 

Going into the day -- I’ve been battling being sick several times over all winter long, and that day I was on the last days of a cough/cold I’d gotten earlier in the week.  Left home feeling pretty draggy & only modestly better when I got to the race.  I road around once getting there trying to get that sluggish feeling to go away but to no avail.  I was really hoping the start would be easy. 

Soon it was 10am & we rolled out.  About 200 yards into the rollout  there was the sound of “starters” gun… in reality?  It had the unmistakable sound of a tire blowing.  Probably not a good omen for that person racing this season.

Things started reasonably easy.  Being the first race of the season, everyone is sorta juggling around who should be out front leading.  The default sorta seemed to land on Todd McFadden who blew everyone away at last years Strada Fango, but more impressive & recently winner of the 2013 Arrowhead 135 & 3rd in the Fat bike Birkie.  If he could translate on to skinny tires what he did on the Fattest ones he’d be the guy to stick with. 

Todd did a good share of work at the front in the initial miles of the race but as things continued others came to the front for a while  rotating thru (even a Fat Bike racer – I just can’t come up with his name for the life of me right now).  Nate Lillie stayed like glue on Todd’s wheel.  Mind you Nate was the only one of us in what would later form a lead group on a MTB, but not just a regular MTB,  a single speed (37x??) gearing. 

Eventually with a sizeable hill or two the lead group of 6 riders was established.  Myself, Nate, Todd, Tim Andrew, Shawn Miller, Josh – “who I can’t recall his last name.”  It’d stay this way over the subsequent miles that is until we hit “Noah’s surprise”….


Innocent enough looking picture,…. but this would be the corner where things got crazy.  Up til this point the course at worst was some soft gravel, at best pavement.  I can’t speak for the other guys  but my eye’s kinda got big as there was crazy shit ahead…

Nate happened to be out front, myself in 2nd, followed by Todd.  The course turned off onto a what is best described as a half melted winter snowmobile trail with two 6” wide ruts of running water. Next time your out try to ride a balance beam 6” wide with snow packed 3-5” high on both sides of your tire.  Concentration & skill is less of luxury & more of a necessity.    Of course the other option was bunny hopping on to the crystalized snow & squirming back & forth to stay upright.

Nate had joked earlier in the ride how he wouldn’t be sticking with us very long due to his single speed MTB & the rest of us on ‘cross bikes.  He couldn’t have been more wrong that day.

His wider tires better floated over the snow & “ice cobbles” than anyone.  I was able to use the ‘ole cyclocross racing technique & hold with him initially.  As this road/trail keep going things begin stretching further & further apart though.  Nate would put distance on me going downhill & after a few hills & particularly more snow laden sections without ruts -- he’d gotten in the grove of riding it & was soon out of sight.  I turned around to see Todd initially 50 yards behind & later closer to a minute back as we struggled, twisted & turned our bikes to stay upright through the most difficult section. 

Noah said later that section of trail was only 3 miles but it felt a lot longer.  I enjoyed the challenge & really started to feel better pushing my limits going thru it.  Sometimes when your riding your bike on certain terrain something just snaps in your head & you go on instinct to ride a hill faster or single track smoother.   In my case it was a flashback to cyclocross and I was having the most fun I’d had in a long time.

Once I’d exited the snowmobile trail & was back on gravel it was a hunt for that dastardly Nate Lillie fella who so eloquently dispatched the many of us.  So it was around one corner, then another & another… still no Nate.  Then a long down hill… still no Nate in sight.  Finally with a long uphill a mile later I saw him, later discovering he was over 90 seconds ahead.  Behind Todd was probably just over a minute back & no one else in sight.

The terrain now really favored the ‘cross bikes once again & I was able to bear down & time trial my way closer & closer to Nate.  I’d do time checks -- over the gravel & later pavement sections I was able to slice into his lead, down to minute, then 40 seconds, then 20 seconds, until 5 miles after initially spotting him I finally caught. 

It was at this time, it was back to hilly roads & a lot of gravel.  Initially I thought I had the advantage and lead out for much of it, but catching up to Nate had taxed me more than I thought & it was now Nate, once again pulling away over the soft gravel climbs, at one point over 40 seconds in front of me again.  Eventually I caught up again and by the half way point of the 68 mile race we were stuck together for most of the rest of the way. 

Both conscious of Todd being behind & very capable of catching up over long distances like this we pushed it, but still tried to conserve so as not to bonk before the end of the race. 

Races like that get feeling pretty long when you’re the only two out front.  You assume it’s a head wind in any of three directions you turn (honestly that day, I think it was true – it never felt like we had a tail wind, ever!)

At a midway point Nate had to stop for a water refill, as I kept going, sure enough he caught back on.  Another time I bobbled my water bottle & had to stop go back for it & catch back on. 

With one significant out & back hill to climb & turn around on I figured it give us a good gauge of how far back anyone would be.  Though Nate easily out climbed me to the top we came down together with no McFadden in sight giving us probably more than a 5minute gap with 13 miles to go. 

I know I was getting pretty gassed at this point & probably Nate as well as I turned to him & said “For two guys that like to talk as much as we do this ride sure has gotten quiet.”  He thought that was pretty funny & so true.  I think the other part was neither one of us could handle another gel/gu.  We’d ate and drank to our capacity. 

This story is all good & we getting ready for a great finish, with just one or two turns to make before hitting the home stretch.  Only….. well, let’s just say one of the directional markers was misinterpreted by yours truly.  This being a mostly unmarked, unofficial race there was always a strong possibility of a wrong turn being made.  Nate was considering going left but followed me going right.

At one pt we ran into riders going the opposite direction, I’d thought they’d cut things short & were doing a cool down or something, but when we still weren’t at the finish 2 1/2 miles later the next rider we came across told us we were going the wrong way. 

At this point I gotta say I became very impressed with the reserves Nate had in store to power back to the course & drive things home to the finish.  Again on a single speed & fast rolling MTB tires -- I think he brought the right gun to the knife fight.  He’s riding really strong, if he keeps it up I see a really good season happening for him.  The 2 1/2 miles to get back on course & 6 miles to the finish Nate led a good share of the way.

Spotting McFadden those 5 miles was more than enough for him & Shawn Miller to finish ahead of us.  I think Todd had to laugh just because the same type of thing essentially happened to him last year.

We finished up doing 73 miles in 4:35hr.  I’ll be honest these long ones aren’t my favorite but it was a fun day & a great training ride.  After chatting with everyone I made a bee line for the freezing cold river nearby to put my overcooked legs into – that felt awesome.

Thanks again to Noah & everyone who played a roll in putting things together.  Had a great time catching up with you all.   (Thanks too to Tim Andrew’s wife Laura for her sense of humor & in particular for the great brats she had to share too).

Up next… I’m going to try to some some blogging  installments throughout this year on “Watts it take”.  I did a number of races last year & plan to do all of them this year with a power meter.  I hope to offer some insight on what kind of training or racing output it requires to finish races in a given place.  Have any comments or questions feel free to shoot ‘em my way… til then ride hard & keep the wheels down.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Strada Sno-go… I mean Fango Spring Classic…

This past Sunday wasn’t about to missed the revised 2nd annual Strada Fango Spring Classic.  In tribute to what some cherish as the hard one day classic races done in the professional cycling early in the season (versus the “Tour” races that everybody hears about later on). 
It’s a race that goes out for a solid distance over “hard man” terrain.  Take 4-6 hrs to finish. 
In the popular culture of Europe it’s races done on semi-dirt roads & those with cobbles (yes, cobbles – bricks, that crappy road material – but hey, who am I to complain, I live in the midwest – asphalt has potholes).  Not those glossy races where a ton of guys are speeding along on smooth pavement.  Don’t get me wrong those are all good too.  I just like those races that require more toughness throughout & less drafting.  They are just plain awesome.
Noah Michaelsen served up a good course re-route this year as Mother Nature wasn’t going to take this race off the calendar… it’s go a honey badger – it don’t take no…, well if you haven’t seen that video you’ll know what I’m saying. 
Otherwise just check out the Strada Fango Spring Classic here.  No it did not have stone cobbles… but it served up 3 miles of “ice cobbles” to navigate on the “glacier” section.
Unknown to any of in the race, beside the race director that was gonna be the breaking point in the race,  18 miles in on a 68 mile course.   Whoever got thru & in what position would be in for a long day of solitude or with any luck help from a friend or foe.  Fortunately enough I got to be part of the action as those fireworks started. 
Re-cap on that in another day or two with the  shout outs & the story line…. stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Note to God…

Dear God,

I talked to my physician – Please don’t feel bad about this…. but even an All Knowing Deity after an eternity can suffer from premature memory loss.

Just a gentle nudge & reminder… that season they call “Spring”, warmer weather, no snow…. yeah, that one?  Your missing it.  Please begin implementation.  Thanks,

Most humbly,


PS – please forgive all those who took your name in vain with the snow shovels… they know not what they do.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Product Reviews: Shimano XC50N Shoe & Leyzne HV Micro Pump & Leyzne Dirt floor HV Pump

If you spend enough time riding, fixing and being around MTB bikes over time you find things that live up and beyond your expectations; Those that match it;  and unfortunately those things that are exceeding underwhelming.

I don’t often write about products I’ve used, but it came to mind as I constantly am out there researching things that might be on my radar to purchase.  I thought to reflect back on some of the better experiences I’ve had recently.

MTB shoes – First off, I’ve gotta start with all peoples feet are different.  No I don’t mean some of us have 6 toes & others only 4 (from when a 54” Musky mistook that pinky toe for a tasty treat one summer day as a kid).   But for that standard 5 toe person, different brands, styles and shapes work better than others.  For myself?  Shimano shoes have always had the best fit. 

What I like so much about the Shimano XC50N is what a fantastic cooler/cold season shoe it is.  It’s pretty shocking actually.  To offer some perspective, at the Fat Bike Birkie this past weekend.  I tried to take a sampling of what everyone was wearing.  Mostly Lake MTB boots or the 45 North Wolvhammers.  Regardless, it seemed like everyone was in boots.  Me?  At just below freezing temps at the start line -- on what could be a 2 or 3hr race -- I thought “What the heck let’s see what these shoes can do versus the made-for-winter boots”.  Over them I throw on some completely worn out pearl izumi shoe covers and away I went.  

Now understand, I’ve got circulation issues or something with my feet so I fought symptoms of cold feet my entire life (marriage included, just ask my first fiancé, but I digress…) 

Anyways, these shoes did an admirable job of keeping my feet warm give the 2+hr duration of the race, all with the same double layer of socks I use with my Lake boots.  That was nice to race in shoes instead of the heavier boots.

Verdict: if you’re a late fall cyclocross racer, if you MTB or Snowbike year round.  These are shoes that you can easy use thru mid December & again by Feb for 2hr plus rides.  1hr or less in the 20’s & they should be perfectly find too.  They’ll probably be alittle too toasty for only the warmest mid summer riding.  But they are lightweight and easily compete with the highest end custom fit Shimano M315 – at a fraction of the price as both models weight about the same.  (I put both pairs on a scale – there was no way the fit was better or grams less in the M315 to justify spending the money on them.  Maybe I’m just lucky to have an ideal fit, but certainly give the lower price Shimano MTB shoes a try before thinking you should have the M315.)

Oddly enough the XC50N’s  block the wind better than my Lake boots and let’s be perfectly honest.  If you had a choice does anyone really like biking in boots when cycling shoes are available?  As the saying goes… if the shoe fits……..



Next up: Tires pumps….

If you like your once & done C02 cartridges to get you out of a flat tire bind, you can ignore this.   Myself I make a habit of  riding & training with mini-pumps in case of an adverse tire situation occurs.  (Something about calling my wife on the cellphone to come pick me up 20 miles away when I get a flat just doesn’t seem to go over too well.)

First suggestion though?  Run tubeless tires whenever you can.  Use Stans or Caffe Latex sealant (in another post I’ll can offer my take on those products more specifically).  The fact if a tires gets a leak or puncture & self seals beats changing out the tube every single day of the week.  That’s not to say don’t carry an extra tube in case the sealant doesn’t do it’s job.  I’m just saying you won’t be pulling out that tube often if ever.

Anyways, mini pumps & MTB tires aren’t exactly synonymous with a good time.  Am I correct?  Now stroking something 60, 70, 80 or 100 times ain’t exactly all the fun it’s cracked up to be -- at least when it comes to inflating a MTB tire.  I’ve had my share of mini-pumps over the years – Trek & Bontrager products to Blackburns.  A few years ago I came across Leyzne, a company created by former Truvativ owner Micki Kozuschek.   After several “junk” floor pumps (sorry Planet bike, among others) I got a super solid dependable High Volume Floor pump from Lezyne – L-O-V-E it.  If you’ve been struggle with junk floor pumps, this year spend the money, you’ll be immensely glad you did. 

Since I liked their standard floor model so much, when my Blackburn mini-pump finally wore out (regardless of their lifetime warranty).  I decided to give their Micro Floor Drive HV pump a try & haven’t regretted it for a second. 


I strap it to the top tube or seat tube with  a two fish Bike block & strap.


The secure screw-on valve, the high volume capacity of the pump, along with foot peg to stand it on the ground makes the days of agonizingly & furiously pumping away….… like one would on the classic undersized mini pumps,  a long forgotten memory.  The size of the pump I’ve found to fit conveniently & easily mounted on the bike.

Ah, for what it’s worth do remember -- you’ll see in a lot of blogs & product reviews plugs for products & bikes --  all talk of how great they are (many of which are truly good) & how life was never so good prior to their existence.  A few of my good product sponsored friends tend to have obligations to their sponsors to say these nice things.  If advertising revenue comes from them or the nice bike stuff is discounted because of it, the glowing reviews usually lack the downsides. 

Fortunately in the case of these products?  No motive, no agenda, no endorsement deals for me,  just an honest assessment from a guy who happens to ride his bike probably too much and has over the years found some companies and products that work well & thought to to share it with the rest of the world in hopes it makes someone else’s ride a little better.

Drop a comment if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to respond.

Monday, March 11, 2013

$292 glass of beet juice….?

So, beets.  The latest greatest research driven, endurance athlete performance enhancing source of nutrition.

Does it work, does it not?  The human body is so complex to nail it down exclusively to certain nutritional substances -- in my book can be pretty tough.

Needless to say, why not give it try, right?  So, on & off, I’ll go through streaks of including it in my diet when I remember too.  I just use a masticating blender (be very careful how you read that), throw in a few apples, carrots, kale, you name it.  It doesn’t have to taste great, it just has to be good for you?

Well, in a sign of how my winter has been going… sickness, bike challenges…here’s how you spend $292 on a single 16oz glass of beet juice. 




…nothing like 6 stitches & a $292 Doctor bill.

2013-02-09 14.10.25

Thanks Doc Brang – you done good though!  If that doctoring thing doesn’t pan out… that needle point craft making stuff could be in your future.

Needless to say I was out biking the next day – not sure if the Nitric Oxide content in the beets made up for the blood loss however.   But I’m pretty sure I’ll never use an apple slicer on a beet ever again.

Hey, on the happy side, it’s already March, and bike racing can’t be far off even if the foot & half of snow & chronically never ending sub freezing, global warming defying, temps continue.

Tackled the 45km Fat Bike Birkie on Saturday.  Not the most stellar effort on my half.  Congrats to teammate Todd McFadden on a very nice ride for 3rd overall.  And very good to see a lot of bike racing folks I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Hollywood, Charlie Tri, Ron Williams, Bart Rodbert, Mike Weisphenning, Jon Wheeler, Evan from up in the U.P. Tom “always on fire” Gaier, Rick Cleary, thanks to Tom Meyer & Scottie Chapin for the encouragement & cheering out there too. – Yeah, it was really nice day otherwise too.  Great temps & conditions to ride the trails on the big Fatties

A big thanks all the sponsors & coordinators of the event.  To Seattle E bikes for their support of the event & the unique lineup of Fat bikes that they have to offer.   Really hard working guys there & a company you’ll want to keep an eye on.  They’ve got some good vision on both the traditional bikes as well as electric assist bikes.  Check them out sometime or call & ask to talk to Brian.

Hey, you skier folk, thanks for your kind accommodations in “sharing the trail” – support for one another leads to greater things for all.  Much appreciated.

Well, back to hunker out the rest of this winter, with tax returns & Roth IRA’s contributions to attend to.  Alas, the Strada Fango Spring Classic can’t get here soon enough… til then ride hard, keep the wheels down.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Midwest Regional Championship–Day 2 BadgerCross…..

With the first day of racing not having gone down as I would have liked.  It was with a lot of mixed feelings I had about racing the second day. 

My motivation for ‘cross racing later in the season just never hit high gear -- be it because of results, mechanicals or frustration with the entire points/call up system.  However I don’t give up on anything easily, even to my own detriment.   The appeal of racing the 2nd day was definitely the conditions….


  … living as far North as I do I’d been riding & training in snow cover for two weeks already.  It’s a different kind of handling that dry land, power racers will be challenged with.  It makes for a very interesting race.

What I didn’t count on, was the need for mud tires vs. all around tires and the fiasco Shimano SPD cleats & pedals are in mud.  Rumor has it Jonathan Page swears by them, but if so he’s definitely knows something a lot of the rest of us don’t.

Got to the start had a good warmup, ready & excited to have a good race.  A fun race.  I wasn’t so sure how well I’d do against the best guys today, but I liked my odds against most everyone else.   The call ups for the start were supposed to go by the previous days results, which would have put me in the 2nd row, however for some reason that wasn’t happening. Ugh.  (Sometimes you just have to roll your eyes).

The start was nothing short of going thru 100+ yards of a sprinkler system with water spray coming off everyone’s tires.  The slip & slide started once we hit the above pictures snow field.  I’m comfortably cruising along with others around me fighting the conditions when in an instant it changes, my wheel slips & I go down sliding into tape knocking down several poles.  Once again DFL.  Ugh.

Though that would do me no favors it wouldn’t be the first or last time of the day.  I had fun riding in the conditions and pushed it harder than the combination of tires I had for the day (Michelin Mud 2 & Challenge Grifo) allowed.

A race like this keeps things interesting & constantly back & forth, as one rider pulls ahead over certain sections, he’s pulled back over another.  Again a similar sized field I managed to get back after a couple laps close to the top ten and was riding stronger than other riders….however, I brought the proverbial knife to a gun fight.  Two hills in the race required me to get off & run because my tires would slip out while the others road the climbs.  Secondly, the aforementioned SPD style cleat/pedal setup got absolutely clogged with mud, requiring a person to bang the soles of the shoes against the pedals several times before the would clip in and one could get pedalling again.  So for every advantage I would take before the hills fell back after them.  All a guy could do is shrug & try harder the succeeding laps, but with that came the increasing frequency of wiping out.  I think I managed four pretty stellar wipeouts in the 6 or 7 laps. 

I finished losing out two spots in a spill near the end to get 15th for the second consecutive day. 

The guys at the front I’d see at the mid point in the race…a half lap away had some good back & forth racing though, congrats out to Neff & Stelljes, trading 1st & 2nd both days.  And a nod goes to Trevor Koss who  I’ve had some good battles with in the past for finishing  7th & 4th on the weekend.

Despite the excitement of slipping and sliding in the race it palled in comparison to my attempted drive home after the race.  A normal 5hr drive, soon turned into what would have been a 10 or 11hr drive if after fishtailing my car & doing a 180 degree spin in the road just barely ending up deep in a ditch.  By the time I’d gotten near Marshfield 4+hrs later I was ready to call it quits grab a hotel room & sit in a hot tub.  Which is exactly what I did & waited til the next morning to get home.

With National Championships about a month away,a frustrating season to date & an excitement for experimentation with my MTB training for next season.   It was looking more & more like this might be the end of the season for me.  Sometimes things pan out that way.  It’s said it’s better to take a break, enjoy your sport, hobby, passion or interest than to keep pushing on.  As it turns out the following week I’d end up with influenza & even if I wanted to race Nationals that put a end to it completely.  Getting sick from that can really knock the crap out of ya. 

So it’s been starting from square one since Xmas & looking forward to a fun & promising MTB season.  With 2013 now here, hopefully some time with free up to write up some recaps for the bests/worsts of 2012… stay tuned.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wisconsin & Midwest Championship ‘Cross races…Day one…

With the US National Cyclocross Championships, now only a weekend a way.  No better time than now to give the low down on last months BadgerCross weekend. 

The two day event sporting the titles of WI State Championship & Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championship.  Despite some inclement weather in the forecast & waning motivation, on went the pursuit of USA Cycling points for January’s US National Championships. 

If  a repeated theme comes through it’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of traveling longer distances for races & the 5hr drive there wasn’t the most appealing (the drive back home was another story…)  Fortunately, the race course at the Badger Cross events is very much a power course over a skills course.  There’s hills, descents, & some twists & hairpin turns but but not so much it gets borderline annoying like some courses I’ve raced.  

With a late afternoon start I was able to drive down the day of the Sat race & prep in adequate time (which for me is anything more than 15minutes).  After some failed communications back from the race director earlier in the week on race scoring,  it would cost me a better position in the starting line up.  Unlike last year they raced the Open Pro, Cat 1, Cat 2 race with the Masters (35+) of the same categories.  It was a person’s option of which to register under.  After getting 3rd overall in the master’s race last year I wasn’t there for placement awards.  I simply wanted to do whatever race afforded the best points possible, looking at the starting line ups & results of those racers it would be close but I opted for the Open race thinking my odds would be better.

The race went off in it’s normal super fast “track” start on the pavement that rolls out into an open field.  Last row start wasn’t affording any immediate passing opportunities without being very aggressive and again forgetting what I learned the previous week in the MN championships I failed  to bring that aspect to the start of the race.  In the first qtr mile things had strung out I was riding 4th from last & trying to be patient. 

Here’s where in only a few races every year you'll run into that moron the tends to annoy you at every step of the race, until you finally drop them.  I’ll pass on naming the kid, but there’s aggressive racing & then there’s stupid racing, he fit the later.   What transpired after the first hairpin turn with him left me off the back of the entire field in D.F.L.   It’s funny when being in last place early in a race isn’t something that normally happens -- what a crazy feeling it is.  You look behind & see no one.  For me it’s a mixture of laughing & saying “oh crap!”  

Even so, the course was hard & very fast, as temps stayed below freezing for the day.  And I was able to work up & pass riders on the successive laps.   There was some 25 riders in the open race & by the end I’d moved up to 15th.  Actually racing the final laps with 4 or 5 guys from lead group of the Master 35+ race (which had started some 30 seconds behind our race.)

The last two laps were pretty fun, as Chris Smith was railing it with a group including Jeff Melcher, William Pankonin, & Andy Hoenisch.  When they came by I knew they weren’t in my race & would have no bearing on the points, but it seemed like as good as opportunity to get some competitive riding it.  I was surprised that Chris wasn’t taking any breaks at the front the entire 2nd to last lap, thinking he’s in trouble for the last lap.  Though he was pushing it hard enough that eventually it would drop Andy. 

On last lap, I thought I had no reason to hold back & perhaps I could pay Smithers back, so I went hard the front & as I passed Chris I told him to get on.

It had been one of those seasons thus far where expectations, capabilities & outcomes hadn’t coincided.  So you look for small wins against or assistance with your competition as motivations.  For me, having lost out to Andy in a uncharacteristically poor race in Eau Claire to start the season, & seeking some redemption for not finishing off Jeff in an attack I put on him at BadgerCross last season was what I had.  Plus for Smithers with the work he was doing pushing the pace I only felt right he deserved a good lead out to finish off his race. 

So I just drilled it from that point, wanting the pace to be high enough guys dropped or couldn’t hold on.  Once or twice Jeff would try to go to the front.  I would counter.  Jeff charged hard to get past me leading into the final turns before the pavement finish.  It was enough to gap Chris & William initially or…. so I thought. 

We hit the pavement with Jeff at the front giving me pretty much all the position I would need to pass him.  I looked back & swore I didn’t see anyone within many bike lengths.  The finish being probably 150-200 yards away.  Instead of pushing it really hard I slowly worked the outside way around Jeff coming into the home stretch passing him just before the finish, only to have Chris catch back & swing by me in the final feet before the finish line.  Very nice job on Chris part to come out of nowhere.  Note to self, you can always learn something in a race or be reminded of it.…. do a better job of checking where guys are behind you.

The weather forecast for the next day wasn’t looking both good & bad.  Good in a sense that snowfall would make the course nice & technical, bad in that it meant a not so fun attempted drive home.

A preview…..


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

MN State Cross Championship recap….

Had for the longest time heard a lot of positives on how fun the MN State CylcoCross Championships were.  Figured a nice little drive down to Crystal MN & spend a few days racing some of the best ‘cross racers in the Midwest.   Alternatively, it required me to miss some of the best ‘cross racing to my East.  UPCross in Upper Michigan, as they had their State Championship races.

They had “category” racing day one, age group racing on day two. (Thank to Chris “Smithers” Smith for putting it together that way, Nice job Chris!)

The first day, I didn’t come mentally prepared & aggressively minded to race around & through people in some cases & was stuck in the mid teen’s til what had become a seasonal mechanical theme… a rolled tire. I went on to finish 26th.

Day two—if you’ve ever had a bad day of racing, you can go in the next day saying “gee, I suck” & have a repeat performance or go in with a balls to the wall attitude and nothing to lose.

I had a nice chat with Barry Tungseth before hand, a guy on any given day can ride with the best of them, on how the different racers excel at the different disciplines.  Someone like Brendan Moore, who dominates the MTB races in MN, no one really challenged him for a win this past year.  But in a ‘cross race, there’s gonna be guys that he’ll dust in a MTB race who’s wheel he won’t hold in the cross race.  Jesse R., CJ, Chris Fischer will all outlast him.  On the other side, take someone like Pat Lemieux, ‘cross races great, road races maybe even better.  MTB racing with single track?  Just different enough to make him struggle and the above named guys will probably outgun him.  The last top end guy to excel at all 3 disciplines, MTB, Road, Cross?  Very easily Doug Swanson, and sure there are others probably not to Doug’s extent to be able to win all three kinds of races in the same season.  Another extremely well rounded racer back in the day I’d even give a nod to is Hollywood Henderson.

So back to the race I chose the later approach. Despite a third row start, I got into the mid teens by the first sent of U turns & once it opened up it I wound up with another drive to get to the front group of 7.

Half a lap later, I was playing caboose of this fine company…



Hollywood Henderson, Chris Fischer, Josh Roeser, CJ Faulkner,Jessie Reints, and Belgium's very own Oliver Vrambout & finally Owen Thoele.

Here’s where I took a hard lesson in cycling strategy— most races have periods of hard effort followed by lessor effort. The key is to not get doubled up on doing two straight hard efforts. Having to catch up during the “lessor effort” I put in a hard effort, catching them just in time to, only to get put on the ropes by a second hard effort. Being out of sync like that it’s hard to recover & then stay with that group.

Hollywood was the first to drop, but considering how well that guy can still ride given the little time he has to train running his own bike shop it’s always admirable to see him out there pounding nails.

I followed MN ‘cross rider of the year Champ Josh Roeser, who looked like he was dogging it until he shot out of a cannon & took a flyer to the front of the group.

It wasn’t much later on lap 2 (of 7) through a monster long sand pit that being out of sync with the surging efforts to stay with the group I decided to back it off a notch to preserve a 7th place position & not risk blowing up letting a charging duo of Paul Krumrich & EZ Taylor run on past.

The next 3 laps were pretty uneventful, but the LONG Stair climb RUN UP was getting to be more than annoyingly difficult. Normally, I like running & it’s one of my strengths in ‘cross racing, but this run up was double in length & distance of any race I’d ever done. It one of the few times I’ve felt like a course was overwhelming me.

But backing off the lead group on those 3 laps offered just enough recover to put in a surge the final two laps to distance the chasers &  catch a fading Josh Roeser to grab 6th on the day. Finally a result closer to where I felt I was capable of racing.  But in the back of one’s mind comes the question of starting position, not having to fight out of the back row, how different does that race play out?

My contention throughout this all isn’t that ‘cross racing is inherently screwed up. Rather it’s a system with challenges due to the nature of the sport that make it difficult if not impossible for capable racers in large fields to get a fair go of things.

I don’t mean this just in a situation I’ve found myself in, but on a bigger scale there’s an example of it that will occur at the World Championships in Kentucky in the Elite Women’s field, an Olympic medalist, Georgia Gould, at this past summers games -- will end up starting behind racers she’s been way faster than all season – simply because she chose to stay state-side racing cyclo-cross rather than racing in Europe where other Americans raced. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution.

As Sunday’s race ended, CJ & Chris had a die hard sprint to the end with Chris edging it out for the win. Just like he’d said the day before after finishing 6th . “It’s always better the 2nd day!” Congrats to Chris, CJ & Jessie for rounding out the podium.

With at least one good race in the bag, the ‘cross season wasn’t feeling lost or a waste.  Traveling to Madison for the WI championships the following weekend would determine in large part how much longer I wanted to push on… more to come…