I rode the complete Chequamegon 40 race course yesterday from Hayward to Telemark. The course is faster than fast right now. It is going to be a course record on Saturday for sure, even though I think that is meaningless since the course is never exactly the same and the roads are never close to the same consistency.
The first time I rode the Chequamegon 40 was 1997, I think. The race was just as well attended then, with a cap of 2500 riders as it is today. That year I had the pleasure to ride most of the event with my friend Dave Wiens.
I was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame the same year as Dave. That was truly an honor. Anyway, Ned was introducing me and Daryl Price was introducing Dave. About 20 minutes before the start of the ceremony, Kay or someone from the Hall came up and said that the guys introducing were supposed to talk for about 5 minutes and then the inductees around 10 minutes. All 4 of us had no clue that was the deal. Daryl immediately located a bottle of wine somewhere and we all shared it.
Anyway, Ned is always cool under pressure. I told the following story.
It was about riding the Chequamegon with Dave. The race starts on a state highway for the first couple miles and then turns into Rosie’s field, which is a hay field that is a few hundred meters long. It is a very harsh was to start an event, riding through newly cut hay/grass, with no line. Marty Jemison, USPS*, there riding for Trek, throttled it across the field and when we got to the Birkie trail, I was the sole survivor. Marty kept going for the next 20 minutes and I was way over the red line. Eventually, coming off the Birkie trail I popped. Badly.
I looked back and couldn’t see anyone. I rode slowly on a logging rode and right when I was getting back to the Birkie trial, Dave comes rolling up. He says something like, “Holy shit, is that guy fast or what?” I felt like I was done and it we were only 25% of the way into the event. Dave proceeded to go by and pull. And pull. And pull. I just sat, but wasn’t recovering much. I did manage to stay with Dave on the next section of the Birkie trail and made it to OO with him. Coming off the next section of the Birkie trial, on Janet rode, someone said that Marty was only 30 seconds ahead. I thought, that isn’t possible. I looked up and could see the dust coming off the quads and got motivated.
I managed to take a couple turns at the front and was stoked that we were most likely going to be racing for first again soon. Dave lead into the Martell’s pothole section and after a few mud puddles, there is a big sandy descent. Dave was leading down hill, full gas, and I was right on him when, before I could even come close to braking, his rear wheel was in my face as he went over the bars.
I hit Dave full speed and flipped over myself. I landed and rolled a good ways down the slope. I had a bunch of sand in my eyes and was sort of dazed. I looked up and Dave was sort of rolling around coughing. By the time I got back up to him, he was on his hands and knees kind of trying to get up. I told him to sit for a second and catch his breath. He just sat there and I went down and got my glasses and checked over our bikes. Everything seemed okay and Dave stood up. He didn’t seem in much of a hurry, so I asked him once again if he was okay and he said he was good and I took off. I told him I was just going to roll along and I’d wait for him.
So, I started riding. This was a year that had a huge water hole down by the lakes. I waded through the mid thigh deep water and started up the rocky climb after it. I looked back and didn’t see Dave. I was thinking, shit, I shouldn’t have left him alone. I was just about ready to turn around, not wanting to go back through the water, but when I looked back, I could see Dave coming. I was relieved.
Dave caught me pretty quickly and I asked him why it took him so long. He said he started off, but turned around because he wanted to go back and get a stick. It turns out that a big stick got flipped up into his front wheel and when it hit his fork, he flipped straight over the bars head first into the ground. He said he had some sort of “shrine” in his basement of important things to him from the sport. He decided the stick was important so, he went back and got it. It was sticking out of the middle pocket in his jersey.
I wasn’t feeling good at all. My side was jacked. Anyway, Dave just went to the front again and started pulling again. He sort of seemd to be slowing down some, but I didn’t have much interest in going any faster. I thought Dave would drop me going over the high point climb, but not even close. We got to the bottom and I was starting to feel badly that I was going to have to beat him after he had done nearly all the work. But, the last Birkie trial section was coming and I was was a little worried that a group was going to be coming up from behind since we sat there for so long.
We rode an mile or so on the last, hard Birkie section, when the bike gods decided the race for us. I flatted on the ski trial, which seems nearly impossible now. Anyway, I changed the tube, no one passed me, and I rolled in a couple minutes back in 3rd.
I felt fortunate being on the podium that year with all my issues. It turned out I broke a couple ribs
The next day, Sunday, there are a lot of different events held at Telemark. A dirt criterium, a orienteering event, log pull, hill climb, etc. I rode over there, just to spin my legs out, and Dave I saw Dave doing the orienteering. He’d been there all day doing everything.
I believe he flew directly from Chequamegon to Europe for the MTB World Championships. Dave was the best Ameican finisher, maybe 12th or so.
Anyway, I told the crowd at the Hall of Fame ceremonies that even though I’d been racing MTB bikes for a good 6 or 7 years by then, I was still an infant compared to Dave Wiens. He was a MTB racer through and through. He was into it for the life experiences and not for the results. He wanted that stick to remember. I hope he still does, because I’ll never forget.
Another short Dave Wiens story was when the World MTB Championships were in Itatly in the early 90’s. I had a horrible line up due to having to ride the qualifying race. I think I finished 14th, but it might have been 18th. I was looking over the results and saw that Dave finished something like 70th or so. Maybe better, but a horrible result for him. He was the current US National Champion and I don’t think I had beaten him more than once, in a race that year. I saw Dave the next day and asked him what happened. He said it was just a bad day. Normally, in MTB racing, when a good rider has day like that, they just quit. I asked Dave why he kept going and he said that he wasn’t sick or hurt, plus he’d been kicking all these guys asses all year, so he was not going to quit and deny these guys the chance to beat him. I agreed with him on the sick and/or hurt, but I never took the other guys into consideration. It is important and I agree with him.
*I’ve been reading Tyler’s book, The Secret Race, and when I got to page 56, there is a quote from Marty Jemison that said he started using EPO in June of 1997, so as far as I’m concerned, Dave Wiens won Chequamegon that year and Marty’s name should be removed from the winner’s list.