Yesterday Bill and I rode the complete Chequamegon course. The sections from Hayward to past Mosquito Brook were officially closed, but I figured that I was there on an official capacity, so the sign didn’t apply to us. It turns out that it is in way better shape than everyone around here has led me to believe. Chris Campbell and the trail guys have obviously spent a ton of time out there, by the amount of sawdust on the grass, and there really are only a couple trees across the trail that need to be removed by “real tree guys”.
There are also just a couple ponds on the course. Two that will be a problem. But when we got up to Telemark and gave Gary Crandall the trail report, he said they were going to be cutting alternate routes around the ponds.
The soil here does drain amazingly well. It is supposed to be raining the next two days, but I doubt that is going to be changing much out there. That is as long as they don’t get those crazy straight-line winds that caused the initial damage.
One thing to note is that the whole trail is significantly bumpier than in previous years. If you have a chance, you need to put on some tires that you can ride with low pressure. I’d suggest 20 psi or less for the average Chequamegon-ite. Bill has 2.25 Continentals on and was riding 18 psi. He rolled his rear tire over a couple times, but didn’t flat.
The 2nd half of the trail from OO to the finish is in good shape. They have been logging a fair amount from the top of the Firetower to the finish, so the roads have been graded a ton. I’m sure they will leave the roads in as best shape they can by Friday. Right now they have brought it a few truck loads of gravel to fill in the soft, muddy spots.
I’m totally up in the air about how I’m going to do. I can ride the race, but not sure about actually racing. We rode the course yesterday in about 2:40. It is a little different than in previous years. They cut a bit of the 2nd section of Birkie Trail out. A couple days ago, first day off-road, I rode up the Firetower climb in 3:04, which was 41 seconds off Brian Matter’s Strava KOM. My fastest time is 2:27. But yesterday, I rode up the hill in 2:32. That is just 5 seconds slower than the fastest I’ve ever climbed the hill, with a Garmin. And I wasn’t going full-on. That makes me feel much better about my ability. I know I won’t be able to ride with the leaders, but maybe better than I’d hoped. We’ll see.
Changing the subject, Jimmy Mac is getting inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame tonight, in Las Vegas, at Interbike. He asked me to introduce him, but I’ve been traveling way too much and couldn’t see going to Interbike. There is way too much walking in Las Vegas for a gimpy guy like me. If I could walk better, then, for sure, I would have went. Anyway, if you’re out at Interbike, you should go by the induction ceremony. It is at Ballroom L, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. There will be complementary beer and begins at 5:30pm. The induction ceremony will run from 6:15-7:30pm. Guess it’s been raining a ton there too.
Back to Northern Wisconsin. It is cold and rainy here today. Supposed to be that way until the weekend. The start temperature for the race is going to be cool/cold. I just passed 9000 miles for the year. That is missing pretty much all January and most of June and July. I’m starting to feel better riding. I think the weights I’ve been doing for my abductors are helping. I’ve been lake swimming the last couple days. Frog-kicking is good for my hip, I think. And the crawl stroke is good for my shoulder, so I guess I’m going to have to be swimming way more this fall. I’m not much into swimming, but that is just too bad.
Lots of people are showing up here soon. There are going to be at least 12 staying here, maybe more, you never know. Maybe it’s time we build another building here at Dennis’ compound.
Recent persistent rains and high winds have taken a toll on the courses of this weekend’s Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival presented by Trek. After review and consultation with responsible land managers and trail workers, it is agreed that a wet weather contingency plan will be implemented for the Chequamegon 40 race course from Hayward to the Telemark Resort in Cable.
That is the official word from here. But, don’t let it scare you off. They are mainly taking sections of the Birkie Ski Trail out of the race and rerouting the race on logging and fire roads. In theory, it is going to make the race flatter, thus easier, but you never know the conditions of Phipps Fire Lane and other reroutes that could be “heavy”.
Supposedly we’re all going to be receiving emails with a map of the new course. Here is a link to Chequamegon website that has another link to its Facebook page. Eventually all the new info will be there.
Lots of guys showing up today at Dennis’. A couple more from Kansas, Kent and Katie Eriksen showed up yesterday. Plus, a few others. Kind of chaotic right now. Everyone is heading out to ride now. Cool and damp here. Not even 50. Gonna be cold tomorrow morning. Below is the new route. They took the section of the Birkie Trail from Phipps to OO out. That should be interesting. That was a hard section. Okay, I’ve got a ton of stuff to do today.
It’s early and cold, somewhere in the 30’s. It is not supposed to really get all that warm. That is my biggest worry today, trying to stay warm before and after the race. The race will take care of itself. I’m not too worried today. I can’t stay with the leaders, which is my biggest disappointment with this whole injury deal. I hate to miss the fireworks towards the end of the race, even if I’m just one of the guys getting ejected. I’m always curious to actually see what the key move is to the win. I’m not going to be horrible, I’ll be fine. This is my first race back after breaking my hip just 13 weeks ago, so I am actually mildly thrilled I can even be here.
The race is just under 40 miles and takes just a tad over two hours, which is screaming fast for a MTB race. It will be faster this year because of more logging roads.
I’m picking Brian Matter and Gina Rinehart as the men and women’s winner. I’d like to pick Michael Olheiser to win the men’s race, but just think that Brian always has another gear once we hit Telemark property. Outsider, not really, but recently, Jeff Hall is my pick to fill the men’s podium.
Okay, have to go throw more warm clothes in my finish bag. It is so easy freezing after this race.
The Chequamegon 40 MTB Race has been a mainstay of the fall, for me, for the last 17 years or so. I’ve won the race a few times, been 2nd a few times, 3rd a few times, etc. This year, that wasn’t going to be the case. I am actually so lucky that I could even start the race. It wouldn’t have been possible even just 2 weeks ago.
I’d like to state here initially, I had a pretty good race. I might have been able to finish 2 places better, but I was jacked at the finish and was lucky to finish 16th.
I was completely unable to predict how I was going to ride. I hadn’t ridden hard for just about 3 months and my left leg is still over an inch smaller than my right.
The key to me being able to “compete” for a bit was due to 3 reasons. One, the weather change taking the section of Birkie Trail from Mosquito Brook to OO out, allowed me to ride with the front group. Two, I got a little lucky with my tactics, which was to go the front and pull for the first 20 minutes, just until we hit Phipps Fire Lane. And third, there was a new little singletrack section, to avoid some mud puddles, and that split our huge group down to 17 riders, which is just about where I finished.
The race started casually. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to stay with the leaders on the pavement before Rosie’s Field. But, it was pretty easy and I hit the field kind of far back for me, maybe 10-15th, but rode back up to the front in the next 100 meters of grass. Brian Matter was nice enough to let slot in front of him, in 2nd. When I hit the Birkie Trail, I had decided if I got there, I’d just go to the front and pull. I can’t really change speed with any positive result and knew if I was back in line on the hills, I would eventually be shelled because of the slinky effect.
So, these guys just let me pull, which I did all the way to Phipps Fire lane. When we got to Phipps, there might have initially been only about 20 riders. But, there were a lot of guys not very far back. Bill had fallen somewhere, avoiding a rider in a mud puddle and came back on with the Eppen tandem. Pretty soon, we weren’t really racing and a huge group of maybe 60 guys were cruising along Phipps. I talked to Kim Eppen a little, telling her that it would be to their advantage to go to the front and just drill it.
They did a couple big surges on the downhills, but there were so many riders, they really never could establish a gap. Coming off Phipps, we missed the next section of Birkie Trail too, and rode directly onto Janet Road. Bill took off with a group of 3, right before we turned off to Martell’s Pot Holes, where the new singletrack section is. I slotted in a little ways back, maybe 8th or so, and just rested. When we emerged from that section, there were only 17 guys left.
And in that group were me, Bill and Pat Lemieux, who is a good friend hanging with us at Dennis’. Pat has been travelling the world with his fiance, Gwen Jorgensen, so is in pitiful shape, for him. He was just about as thrilled as me still being in the mix.
So we had about 10 miles to where the “real race” begins, the Seely Firetower Climb. I tried my best to roll off the front multiple times. I was mildly amazed, and it was a compliment, the guys chasing me down. I was completely done at that point and knew I needed at least a 30 second led at the bottom to have a chance of being connected at the top of the climb.
It was all about survival, I wasn’t racing, just surviving. But, I didn’t survive. I led through a singletrack section, one climb before the Firetower Climb. But, I got shuffled back for the last little climb. We started up the climb and I was right behind Bill, maybe 8 riders back. Then the guy in front of Bill missed a line around a mud puddle and shot off the course with Bill. I had to grab a big handful of brake, so had to sprint back up to their wheel.
Then at the next puddle, Bill’s front wheel just went out from under him and he fell, for the 2nd time. I didn’t come close to hitting him, but had to come to a complete stop. That was all she wrote for me. One guy went by me and I was on the rivet trying to stay with him to the bottom of the Firetower. When we turned the corner, the tailend of the led group was just 30 meters ahead or so. My guy rode back up to the front, but, I was done.
I crawled up the climb, arms cramping, and when I got to the top, only Ian Stanford, a friend that won the Master’s National TT Championships a couple weeks ago, was there. Hollywood was at the top and handed me a micro coke, which I got half down between breaths. I knew if I could get past the last Birkie Trail section with Ian, he’d be a good guy to pull me to Telemark. We crawled the 2 miles of Birkie section. Ian was climbing, spinning, on his seat. I was riding 50 rpm’s, off my seat, arms still cramping. We got to the last road section, which is about 6 miles long. Ian and I switched off pulling, both not going too good. I asked Ian, right before Telemark, if he could see anyone behind us. He said it was all clear.
We had 2 miles to go, with 3 or 4 short climbs. I never looked back, which in hindsight, was an error. With two hills to go, I hear Ian say “shit”. Right then 4 guys blow by me. Another two in tow. I was thinking, great, there goes 5 places. I jumped, but I was done. I caught up with the front three and climbed the to the top of Telemark a few bike lengths back. I passed one guy and coasted pretty good down the descent. He passed me again and I caught back up through the sweeper. I beat him, going around the last corner doing about 4 mph/40 rpm’s. 16th. It was a harsh way to finish that race.
I was completely done. Bill rolled in a couple minutes back, in 24th and Pat finish 32nd. Not too back. Pat and I nearly maximized our abilities. Bill probably could have done better.
My hip was good most of the day. Actually, other than the muscle not really working, it didn’t bug me hardly at all. But, Saturday night, I was crippled, my hip throbbing. I think that had more to do with the wood splitting session than riding. I took 4 ibuprofen before I went to bed and woke up on Sunday feeling fine, which was a huge surprise.
I called Brian and Gina winning their respective races, pre-race. They both have this race down and there wasn’t anyone here that could have beaten them on Saturday. Congratulations to both.
We’ve been doing a ton of fun stuff the last two days. Lots of wood splitting, wood fired saunas, river plunges, singletrack riding. I feel pretty good about where I’m at in this hip recover, 13 weeks in. I need to do some more PT stuff, but this was a good weekend.
We’re picking Trudi up at the Duluth Airport later this afternoon. I’ve told Bromont it is going to be a special day for him. He might need a rest day, as I do too.