3rd-Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

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Everything works out for a reason. I was pretty bummed about having to read the results from Tour of Missouri on the internet every day this past week. But, I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed the 10 hour drive up to Northern Wisconsin and riding my MTB bike. I need to quit being in such a “road” rut and mix it up more to keep fresh. Plus, mountain bike riding uses a bunch of different muscles that probably need to used more often during the season.

I’d ridden my MTB exactly 3 days this year. That was an issue. Bill and I drove up on Wednesday and prerode the whole course from Fish Hatchery to Telemark. That was 37.5 miles of the 40 mile course. Only missing the road section at the start. It took us 2:19, which was faster than my finishing time last year, but I had a flat and a really embarrassingly slow fix. So, it was going to be fast. I’m not in the position to complain about anything that goes on at this race, since it’s such a successful weekend and so fun, but if I were to complain, I love to see a little technical riding somewhere on the course. A lot of the times, the weather makes some of the terrain challenging, but now, the whole course could be driven by a VW Beetle. So, it’s hard to break up the big groups of guys riding around.

I stay up at Dennis Kruse’s compound when I’m up in the Cable area. I’ve been coming up here for over 15 years. It is a compound. A main house with three bedroom’s and bike room/ski wax room and two “garages” with sleeping situations above. I’ve built and worked on a bunch of it, so it’s pretty familiar. (I’ll take some photos and post them later.) Kent Eriksen(click on website to the right) and his wife Katie were here. I haven’t seen them for a year, which was way too long. Plus, the normal guys from Kansas, Catherine Walberg (3X winner) and Bill Stolte. This is the favorite place on the planet for my dog, Bromont, so of course he’s along, since Trudi is working the Tour of Missouri with the BMC Team.

Race Day was way cold. The morning low here was 22. By the time the race was starting, it had warmed up alot. I was riding my rigid Kent Eriksen 29r with 2.2 Bontrager Tubeless(28 psi).

I started out pretty good on the road. 2500 riders rolling out of Hayward’s mainstreet is a sight to behold. I guess there was a big crash involving the Eppen’s on a tandem, but I didn’t even hear it. I hit the field in 2nd behind Doug Swanson. Cole House attacked instantly and I stayed behind Doug. I could tell almost immediately that he didn’t have it. It was kind of weird. I felt bad for him because I’ve been in that situation a couple times and you know it so early and there is nothing that you can do about it. Towards the end of Rosie’s Field I jumped around Doug and went up to Cole. I put a couple efforts in on the first couple hills and was surprised when I looked back there were still 15 or so guys back there. Doug and Tristan weren’t, but Bill was.

Then the race got a little boring. Most of the rest of the way, everyone kind of played the cat and mouse game. It didn’t seem like anyone really wanted to ride hard, or maybe they already were. I’m not sure. Jeff Hall went pretty hard a couple times before the lake, but that didn’t really split things up. I jumped a few times after descents and Bill “counter attacked”, but nothing seem to split it up. I was looking for a small group that wanted to work together.

I waited until the Seeley Fire Tower climb to put another attack in, but that didn’t go so well. I screwed up a couple times and then miss shifted on the last pitch, so I only had 10 seconds or so going over the top. I keep going pretty hard for the descent and when we got to the logging road at the bottom, there were only 6 of us left. But, by the time we hit the Birkie Trail again everyone was back. Travis Brown attacked first on , then Brian Matter went hard. I came by Brian and we got a small gap, but Jesse Lalonde on his single speed came back to us. Through the last feed station I think there were 5 of us or so, but the others caught back on the road.

My new plan was to go fast through the Telemark Trails, the last two miles and not stop until the finish. I could tell Jesse wanted to lead into the Telemark area, so I let him. He set a pretty hard pace right as he entered. I was getting screwed up because I’d never ridden behind a guy on a single speed and kept coming up on him at the top of the hills when he was over geared. Anyway, I figured that out, kind of, after a couple oxygen depleting episodes, and started backing off of him before the bottom of the hills so I could keep my momentum over the tops.

On the last steep pitch in the trails, I made a huge mistake. OK, a couple of huge mistakes. First, I looked back. Second, I didn’t look forward quick enough. Third I shifted wrong. That combination on one hill was enough to ruin any chances I had to win.

I looked back and was so surprised that no one was there, I keep looking back to see who was where. So, in the mean time I was going up the hill a lot faster than Jesse and was going to hit him. I had to brake and shift. Be since I’m so familiar with my MTB bike since I’ve ridden it so much, I shifted down into a 14 instead of up into a 24. So, Jesse is doing 60 rpms up this hill and I’m stationary doing none in a big gear. Over the top, I was completely gassed and I couldn’t see Jesse. Brian Matter closed the gap completely on that one hill and I let him by and encouraged him to catch Jesse.

I coasted down to the final open climb up to the top of Telemark and Jeff Hall and Jesse’s brother caught me climbing up the hill. I thought, this is stupid, I’m not even going to finish on the podium, so I dug deep and sprinted over the top and kept it in a big gear to the finish.

It was a disappointment for me to finish 3rd only 10 seconds back. But, I deserved the place I got. And, Jesse Lalonde deserved to win. He had a plan, the race developed into something that allowed him to be competitive and he was super, super strong. Those are winning combinations.

It is strange that the same hill on the Telemark trails has been an all important 15 meters in 3 of the Chequamegons I’ve ridden. And 2 out of 3 times on that hill it was bad. 3 years back, I was with Brian Matter and Jeff Hall leading and a stick got caught up in my rear wheel and started pulling my rear derailleur back. I had to dismount, stop and spin my wheel backwards to remove the stick. I got going and passed Jeff, but was blown when I caught Brian and he beat me. The same hill was where Dewey Dickie caught Jed Sneider and myself when we hadn’t seen him in miles. He took us so much by surprise that he was by us before we knew it. I chased him the last mile and caught him on the downhill. That year I won the sprint. But, now again. Strange.

Now, a couple days later, I’m OK with it all. I should know which way to shift. And, it’s much better to get 3rd and be riding well, than 3rd and not riding well. And, I learned a lot. It’s weird, I can’t think of a race I’ve been in, road or MTB or Cross that I haven’t learned something. I learned a lot about Singlespeed riders and their pace. It might not be enough yet, but it’s a start. I’m thinking of putting one together to mess around with now.

Photos-Climbing Firetower and podium shot.

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