Just got back to Kansas from the Northwoods. It’s a 10 hour drive from Cable to Topeka. I have that drive down pat. Anyway, I had a good weekend. Not a good result though. I have been riding pretty iffy for quite a while, but felt better recently. I got up to Wisconsin last Tuesday, early and rode a couple of days on the course.
For those of you not familiar with the Chequamegon (SHA-WOM-E-GON) Race, it’s a 40 mile point to point MTB race from Hayward, Wisconsin to Telemark Resort, near Cable, Wis. It is about 25-30% on the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail and the rest on fire and logging roads in Sawyer and Bayfield counties. It has been going on for 26 years. Entry is done through a lottery with 2500 lucky riders able to start. It has been won by some pretty good riders. Most notable is Greg Lemond. I’ve been fortunate to win the race 3 times. And, been unfortunate enough to finish 2nd or 3rd more times than I want to tell.
Rumors from powers above whispered that Lance was going to come. But, he opted to race in Colorado. Jonathan Page did come and didn’t disappoint. I did a interview before the event and easily predicted the winner. But it didn’t play out like I’d thought.
As usual, the quads leading the 2500+ riders out of Hayward on the pavement made a mess of things. They motor paced the front of the field so fast that eventually there was only one rider, Cole House, who was on a ‘cross bike with big gears, off the front. It was 35 mph plus. Everyone was spun out with their MTB gearing. Cole hit the grass (Rosie’s Field) way ahead of a super gassed 20 rider group. I felt pretty good considering. Bjorn Selander, 2007 U23 National ‘Cross Champion, who was also riding a ‘cross bike, led across the field. I put in a few digs once we hit the Birkie trail a few minutes in. I was feeling pretty great. I can tell how I’m going to ride at Chequamegon during the first 2 miles once we hit the field. Anyway, a front group of something less than 10-15 guys eventually formed. I had to keep looking back to check on the status of the dwindling group.
I was most concerned with Jonathan. He didn’t know the course, but obviously came to win. And, had the credentials to do it. About 8 or so miles into the race, the course turns off the Birkie trail and onto a snow mobile trail. It has historically been a selection point of the race. It is right after a small steep climb. I was leading, planning to punch it over the top. T.J. Woodruff got a jump on us from behind. I caught him going into the turn and was attacking, but it was not to be. I felt the latex from my front tire spraying on my face. I let a few f— bombs go and knew it was pretty much over. The field is way too deep nowadays to flat early and expect to still win. But, I still was attempting to change my tire super fast. But, that was not to be either. The nut holding my valve stem onto my rim for the tubeless setup wouldn’t come off the last bit of threads. I screwed around with it for a couple of minutes. In a bit of a panic, I finally broke the valve stem off with my chain tool. It took forever.
I was way, way back. It was a sight to see. I had never been that far back in any event, especially one with so many riders. Riding again I was blowing by people like crazy. It was pretty fun. A lot of people knew me and gave me encouragement. Eventually I caught up with Catherine Walberg. I’d brought her bike up with me earlier in the week and she arrived late Friday. She was pretty far up in the field and riding great. A lot of people were telling her she was 3rd woman. I decided to ride with her the rest of the way. I’d pull on the open road sections and she climbed at her pace. Eventually we had a little group of guys that were riding together. I was usually at the front with Catherine behind and the other 3-4 guys were kind of protecting her from guys that were trying to get onto my wheel. It was kind of weird, but it worked anyway. She ended up finishing 3rd.
I pinched my back tire a couple miles out and rode in on a flat since I didn’t have another 29’r tube. Catherine and I had talked the night before and she said that she hope to finish 5-10th. She hadn’t ridden her MTB bike since Chequamegon the year before. (I had actually taken the number plate from the previous year off just a few days earlier.) Anyway, she had a good day and deserved her place.
Lea Davison, Trek, won the women’s race. In an incredible time. Only a little over 10 minutes behind Jonathan Paige. By far the best performance by a woman I’ve ever seen at the event. She finished in the top 40 overall, I think. She is a very good cyclist.
Anyway, back to the men’s race. As best as I can reconstruct – Jeff Hall attacked 15 or so miles out. T.J. pulled Jonathan behind him chasing for nearly the whole way. Eventually, Jonathan jumped T.J. and rode up to Jeff. Then, I guess, Jeff pulled Jonathan until the last mile, where Jonathan jumped him and won alone. Go figure. That’s bike racing for sure.
So, it isn’t a bad thing having Jonathan Page’s name on the trophy. It adds prestige for sure. This event is what MTB racing is all about. USA Cycling should check it out. Maybe it would help them figure out how not to jack up their events so badly.
OK. I had to come back to Kansas since my ‘cross frames didn’t make their way up to Wisconsin. So, this week is going to be pretty short. Hopefully I’m officially out of my funk and ‘cross season won’t be nearly as painful as the summer road season was. I guess I’ll find out pretty quickly.
Photo taken from Jeff Hall’s website of Jeff, Gary Crandall, MTB Hall of Fame Promoter, and me after the race.