Category Archives: Race stories

Weirdest Crash

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I’ve obviously crashed a bunch in my life.  I think that is a given if a person races bikes 11.5 months a year for decades upon decades.  I’ve gotten hurt some, but nothing like this last one. Breaking a bunch of bones isn’t really a worry, normally, knowing they will eventually heal.

The weirdest crash I can recollect is one that only a few people know about.  It is really a series of crashes.   I wrote about this a few years ago and stole most of this from that post.

It all started when I was riding for La Vie Claire with my Levis team mate Roy Knickman.  Paul Köchli had called and asked me to ride.  I was riding full-time for Wheaties – Schwinn, but we had too many riders and after I got a call from La Vie Claire, I bowed out of the Schwinn selection.  Those were the days.

The day before the race, I received a custom carbon Krestrel bike and new shoes. Krestrel was a new company and they made me a bike just for the race.  I wasn’t planning on wearing the shoes, I was just setting the cleats. Anyway, my mechanic was helping me with the cleats. He was tightening the bolts as I set the cleats while on the bike. He loosened the pedal tension to the easiest setting so my cleats wouldn’t twist when I clipped out.

So the next day, the stage was from Nevada City to Sacramento. Trinity Grade is around a 3 mile climb about 10 miles into the stage. It was a good climb for me. Pretty short and fairly steep. I never got over the top with the likes of Lemond or Andy (Hampsten), but usually got over it at the front of the 2nd group. The descent off the top is pretty tricky. The first right hand sweeper/switch back is decreasing radius.

Anyway, I went to the front of my group to lead the descent. I was in a group with Davis Phinney, who climbed incredibly that day. Coming to the right hand corner, I set up the corner on the outside, going hard into the corner, with all my weight on my outside, left pedal.

But, that wasn’t good, since there was virtually no pedal tension. My foot instantly came out of the pedal, which through all my weight to the left and I straightened out and rode straight off the edge of “the cliff” without braking at all.

It was pretty insane. I have a vivid memory of it still. I was flying through the air heading straight for a tree. I think I twisted a bit, but the outcome was that I hit a tree, maybe 15 ft. up. Actually, my bike hit the tree and stopped and I just kept going. I tumbled down the hill all the way to the ditch of the road below. I was pretty shocked. I didn’t move for a bit and then I look up and here is Davis and my group riding by. They’d ridden to the next switchback and when they came by I was just laying in the ditch, probably moaning.

So, I get back up and start back up the hill to get my bike. I was surprised to find out that I only had one shoe. My right shoe was still clipped into the pedal. So, I get my bike, but the final bit was too steep to walk. By then a support car, I’m not sure if it was my team car, had stopped and some guy helped me with my bike. I got back to the road and they were guys everywhere. Lots of riders had fallen on the corner. A guy slid out while I was sitting there putting my shoe on. I’m not sure if it was the cars screwing up the rider’s line or what, but it was carnage.

After I’m all good, I clip back in and get going. I still am at virtually the very top of the descent. I wasn’t in a rush, but still was going down the hill pretty quickly. Nearly at the bottom of the descent there is a blind, tight left hand corner. I don’t quite remember what was the setup, but the outcome was not good. In the apex of a corner  there was a European team car parked. I got hard on the brakes, but slid into the car sideways and launched over the hood and landed in the ditch.

I wasn’t good.  I had hit the ground pretty hard.  I had landed right next to my friend, Don Sutton.. He was laying there from the exact same crash scenario. I thought I was hurt, but he seemed worse. We weren’t in much of a rush to get moving. My bike was miraculously okay, so eventually we got moving. Eventually we got into the last grupetto. A bunch of Dutch TTT guys pulled the whole way to Sacramento, probably over 70 miles,  as we sat on. Don was complaining about his arm hurting.

When we got to Sacramento, Trudi was crazy worried. Davis had told her that I had fallen badly early and was unconscious in a ditch. I was okay, just battered up some. I still had to race the Old Sacramento Criterium that evening. When I got to the start of the criterium, Don came walking up with a cast on his arm. He had broken his wrist falling, and had rode the rest of the race with it that way. Pretty stoic ride.

Anyway, that was my worst descent ever. Not that either of the crashes were really my fault. Well, the first one might have been. I should have noticed the lack of tension on the pedal when I clipped in at the start, but obviously didn’t. It’s the only time I can remember falling descending.

This is what it like a week after smashing my head into the ground at 30 mph.

This is what it like a week after smashing my head into the ground at 30 mph.

Or this.

Or this.

Greg Lemond trying to buy me Hockey Skates

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Back when Greg was winning the Tour, after his gun shot episode, I used to ski with him some in the winter.  Not downhill, but nordic.  I think maybe the 5th or 6th time I had skied, I did the Double Birkie with Greg and his gang of bike racers that skied..  That was Tom Schuler, Jeff Bradley, Mike King and such.

The Double Birkie is normally the Saturday after Christmas and goes from Fish Hatchery up to Telemark and back.  It is around 90 km.  I could only V1 back then, still pretty much all I can do, but I had endurance.  It took all day and at the end I was good.

Flash forward a year and I am skiing better, by my standards.  I’d been skiing all the Christmas holiday season, up in Cable, and was looking for a race to do.  There was one in Minneapolis, on a golf course, the first week of January.  So we loaded up and went.  It is about 3 hours to Minneapolis from Cable, so we had to leave pretty early.

I was late, so barely got there in time to register, change cloths and get to the start line.  At the line, there was Greg, which surprised the shit out of me.  I had seen him the week before and he didn’t say anything about racing.

The race started and everyone was crazy, as usual.  Really close to the start, like just after a couple hundred meters or so, someone stepped on one of my skies and I fell forward.  I had some pretty expensive carbon fiber poles and I broke one as I fell.  But that wasn’t the worse part.

Some guy next to me, lost his balance and planted his pole directly into the side of my face and poked a hole in my cheek.  Like threw my cheek.  I just stayed on the ground as the race went by.  I got up, grabbed the broken end of my pole and skied off the course.

After a bit, I went into the clubhouse to change my clothes.  I was kind of in shell shock, not thinking the day was going to go like that.  And then Greg walks in and sees me.  He didn’t know I was at the race and he was super animated, as often he is.

He didn’t say a thing about the hole in my face.  He really wanted to  know if I was interested in staying around and playing ice hockey with him that night.

I wasn’t too happy and told him I was going to head back to Kansas.  He was persistent.   I told him that I didn’t have any hockey skates.  He instantly replied, “No problem, I’ll buy you some.”  He said something about it being a late Christmas present.  I told him that was super nice, but I had to head home, which I really didn’t have to.

Anyway, we talked a little and then I took off.  I don’t have that many regrets in my life.  And this barely qualifies for one, but if I had it to do again, I would stay and play ice hockey.  It would have been a life memory, which is what we’re all trying to collect.   Instead, I just get Greg wanting to buy me skates, which is fine too.

I thought of this story because Joe brought this to beer night last night. I guess he brought a signed Greg Lemond poster to the Christmas gift exchange and had this left over.

I thought of this story because Joe brought this to beer night last night. I guess he brought a signed Greg Lemond poster to the Christmas gift exchange and had this left over.

 

Taking Baths

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I’ve always liked taking baths.  I liked it when I was a little kid and I still like it now.  Maybe it was because when I was small, we didn’t have a shower, I don’t know.  All I know is that a hot bath is sometimes is the difference between getting by and suffering.

I’m been taking a bunch of baths since I crashed.  I am having a little trouble controlling my thermostat.  I’ve been getting really cold, even if I’m dressed right, so the only way I can figure out how to get back warm is to take a hot bath.  The first couple weeks I was taking maybe 10 a day.  I know that sounds weird, and it is, but it worked.  Now it is down to a couple.

I’ve had a few odd bathing situations over the years racing.  When I was first going to Europe, many times it was hard getting hot water.  Even when I was living in Switzerland, racing cross, my super nice apartment in Aigle had a small insulated water storage tank and every morning around 6, it would fill full of hot water.  That is the water I had for the day, which wasn’t really enough to wash dishes, clothes and shower.  I definitely needed to prioritize.

The first time I went to Europe, we were racing a stage race that started in Rome and finished in San Marino.  The weather was sort of bad early in the race and I got dropped by myself.  It was raining pretty hard and I was worried I was going to miss a turn and get lost.  I was riding through a small Italian village, going up short steep climb, and this big man, without a shirt on, smoking a cigarette, is standing on the sideway yelling die (sp), which I was, but he was cheering.

When I came by, the guy, shirtless and barefoot, steps into the road and starts running behind me, pushing..  Man, that guy was talented.  He pushed me at least 50 meters up that hill and then promptly, stopped and fell on his stomach, laying in the road as water streamed down it.  I didn’t realized how passionate Italian cycling fans were until then.

Anyway, I could see the finish town and I was wondering if there was going to be hot water at the hotel, it was that sort of day. The previous hotels didn’t have hot water.  I was the last American to finish and made my way to the hotel.  When I got there, I was a mess.  Sort of bonked, soaked and covered in road grit.  It turned out we didn’t have a hotel, but an apartment.

The other guys were already clean.  I walked in and they said they had some good news, and bad.  The good news was there was hot water.  The bad was that there wasn’t much, so they had filled the tub and had all cleaned up.  I walked into the bathroom and the tub was full of, what looked, like muddy pond water.  I reached down and it was semi hot.  So I just took off my cycling shoes, left my shorts and jersey on, shut my eyes, and got into the tub.  I was so cold and it was great.  I thought about how much better muddy hot water is than cold clean water, in certain circumstances.  This was one of those circumstances.

A couple years later, I was racing the British Milk Race.  Phil Liggett was the promoter and there was a lot of riding in wet conditions.  I had a gotten a cold on the flight over and wasn’t feeling that great.  The first stage was hilly and I was dropped towards the end of the race again.  It was raining hard, windy and cold.  I finished, pretty blown again,  and was told to ride to the local gym to shower.  I rode over there and virtually the whole race was there.  Bikes stacked everywhere and when I went inside the whole peloton in the showers.  I was freezing and it was going to take forever for a shower to open up.

I wandered to another room, opened a door and in that room was an antique bathtub, free standing in the middle of the room.  This tub was huge, maybe 7 feet long and a couple feet deep.  It had a cutout on the back where you could put your neck and relax.

I turned on the water and it came out super hot. I was stoked.  I stripped down and got in.  It was heaven. And that was it.

A while later, the coaches were asking where I was.  They went to the gym and my bike was the only one there.  So a coach checked around and saw some water coming out from under a door.  He opened the door and there I was, floating in this huge tub, nude, with water running over the edges.  He thought I was dead.  He came over and shook me and I woke up.  It scared the shit out of me.  He was mad.  And I was embarrassed.

I had been there for over 30 minutes.  It was weird, but I felt pretty good, quite warm, so I can’t say that I regret it.  Just another bike race/life memory.  I’d like to have that tub.

This photo was on the front of the sports page of the Topeka Capital Journal when I was much younger.

This photo was on the front of the sports page of the Topeka Capital Journal when I was much younger.

Ned Cup

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I was talking to Pat Lemieux a couple days ago.  He was just calling to catch up.  From Spain.  Pat is super good at keeping in touch with friends.  He and his wife, Gwen Jorgensen are flying over to RIo just 5 days before the Olympic Triathlon , which is August 20th.   Here is  a nice article on both of them.    Anyway, Pat was saying that Gwen is now saying she is going to compete until the next Olympics in Japan.

That got me thinking about racing in Japan and how much fun it was.  The culture is so different that it makes the whole experience extraordinary.

I’ve raced in Japan 3 times, twice MTB and once on the road.  I did two Specialized Catus Cups, which were off-road mini stage races, plus I did the Shimano Cup, which was an international road race.  Japan is the only country where I’m an undefeated.  I won both Catus Cups overall and the Shimano race.   I’d better not got back there to race my bike.

The first year I went, it was just me and Ned Overend racing the men’s race.  The course was at a ski resort somewhere outside Tokyo.  It was a pretty short cross country course for the day, maybe 3 miles around.

The cross country was called the Ned Cup and there were signs all around the course with arrows directing you that said Ned on them.  There were 1000’s of riders at the race, but Ned and I were the best, by far.

Ned wanted to win the race and I didn’t have any problem with that.  He was pretty much the reason that I was there, plus he was the star.  I had already won the downhill and fatboy, so was way ahead in the overall.

The day of the cross country, it had rained the night before and the course was pretty soupy. The course went straight uphill for a bit and then it was a technical descent, followed by another short climb, then down to the bottom and a access road back to the finish.

We started and only one guy stayed with us up the first climb. Over the top, I dropped Ned and the Japanese rider on the first muddy descent and then started the next climb.  Towards the top there was this super thick section, like mid-calf deep mud for about 50 meters.  But there was a line on the right that was about 8 feet above the mucky slog that was totally rideable at speed.

I took the upper line and coasted to the bottom and started climb back to finish the first lap.  I keep looking back and Ned wasn’t on the climb, which was a long ways and a lot of time.  I got up to Trudi, who was running the Specialized MTB at the time.  I asked her where Ned was and she said she didn’t know.

So I proceeded to start the next lap, riding super slow.  But it was hard going too slow because of the mud.  You had to keep a certain speed to stay on your bike climbing, then descending in mud, speed is your friend.  I finished the next lap and got to Trudi and she said that Ned was mad and I needed to wait.

I couldn’t believe that Ned was mad, I’d really never seen the guy too angry, but when Trudi told me that, I took it seriously.  So when I got to the top of the first climb, I got off my bike and pretended I was having a rear wheel problem.   There were so many spectators, I was having a hard time seeing down the hill to know when Ned was coming.

After a little bit, I could see Ned climbing up, so I put my rear wheel back into the frame and got going after he passed.

We did the next descent and got up the next climb to the bog at the top.  I was just catching up to him by the time we got to the mud bog.  I took the line to the right and there was Ned, slogging through 12 inches of super sticky mud,  I yelled down to him to ask him what he was doing.   He had missed the line and had been going through the bog each lap, which was probably a minute slower.

That pretty much explained the whole speed problem he was having.  Anyway, we rode another lap together and towards the bottom of the last descent, I asked Ned how he wanted the finish to play out.  We were riding side by side up the access road towards the finish and Ned is saying that we should just ride up together and then sprint.

All of a sudden, the dude takes off sprinting.  Like super hard.  We still had 500 meters of climbing to the finish, like close to a minute.  I stayed on him about 1/2 way up, then just bagged it.  I wasn’t going to win anyway, so didn’t see the reason to kill myself at the end.

When I got the finish, I was pissed.  I asked him WTF.  He said that he had looked back and the rider that was in 3rd was catching us and that he panicked and took off.   I said, wow.  I told him the guy he saw we had just lapped at the bottom of the hill.  And I really appreciated that he told me that we were getting caught and just took off, leaving me to fiend for myself.

It was all good though.  Ned was a god to all the fans.  I won a full XTR high-end Specialized MTB for overall, but for some reason, I’ll never understand, I had to give it to the spectators by playing a game of rock, paper, scissors.  It is famous in Japan.  After the race, we went to Mt. Fuji and hiked up to the top, which was really hard in October or November.

We stayed in Tokyo for the next week for the Japan Bike Show.  Neither of us could walk we were so sore from coming down.  It was a really fun race trip.

*Oh, I forgot the best part of the story.  I remember out riding this afternoon.  Trudi told me that she thought that Ned was mad because he said to her -“Tell Steve this is my race.”  But, after the race when I was taking to Trudi and Ned about it, Ned said she heard it wrong and what he really said was  – “Tell Steve this is my pace.”  Big difference there.

The Specialized team that year.

The Specialized team that year.

Here are some of the Catus Cup jerseys from the past.  I have a ton of them.Cactus_Cup_Jersey

specialized-cactus-cup-bicycle-jersey_1_b4bdd688d88c939ba02145ca817272e8

images

Ned and I at the top of Mt.Fuji.

Ned and I at the top of Mt.Fuji.

Tucker loves it out here at high altitude.

Tucker loves it out here at high altitude.

Tour of Kansas City – Cliff Drive

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I was riding with my brother and started thinking about early life bike racing and realized that this is the 40 year anniversary of riding the Tour of Kansas City for us.  I rode the race back in 1975 as an intermediate.  It was a huge event back then, an Olympic Developement Race and the field was stacked with National Team members, guys on the Olympic Team, etc.  Actually half the 1976 Olympic team with Wayne and Dale Stetina, plus local Mark Thompson.  Tom Schuler duked it out with Wayne Stetina one year, it might not have been in 1975.  It was a long time ago.

Anyway, the race has been going on for 52 years straight, some kind of record.  I haven’t done it 40 times, but I’ve raced it a lot.  And Cliff Drive is one of my favorite courses.  This year I thought it might not work out so well for me, being only 75 minutes.  We’ve done as many as 75 miles on the course, and it is normally over 50 miles.  Plus, the race has historically been in early August, so heat plays a huge roll.  This was going to be like a hard criterium.

The course has a couple climbs on about 3 miles.  It is  a super fun course to race, with a tight u-turn and then a sweeping 40 mph corner just after.  The finish hill is very hard by for a “criterium”.

Bill and I rode 40 miles yesterday morning, trying to get our legs feeling good.  Seemed to have worked.  We drove the hour over to KC and went to The Plaza, got some coffee on Main St., then rode the 10 miles over to the course.  It was super fun.  I love riding to races through places I haven’t seen before.  We ran into an old friend, Brian Duff, who was on a cruiser, and he escorted us over to Cliff Drive.  We rode through some pretty tough neighborhoods, lots of graffiti and boarded up houses.  But, the houses are beautiful, all rock and stone, could be worth a fortune in some other era of the future maybe.

We got to the race and realized the start time wasn’t 6:30 it was 7.  Anyway, the race started and I felt alright, which is good now.  I need so many more race miles to be riding up to my standards and that is what I’m doing, trying to get in race miles.

The first couple times up the finish hill I felt a flat.  But it got better.  I could tell, by the speeds, that after about 1/2 the race, guys were starting to just survive.  I was feeling better, but not super.  Eventually a little group got away with Janne Hamalainen, a super strong master from Tulsa, who just finished Killington Stage Race, plus Michael Allison from Olathe Subaru.  I know both this guys, Michael just won a 1/2 road stage at Joe Martin and Janne, like I said above, is a really good rider.  They started pulling away and maybe got up to 30 seconds max.  Michael finished 2nd in the time trial and had a bunch of team mates at the front of the field.

I wasn’t much into racing for 3rd.  So, on the back hill I jumped from pretty far back in the field and didn’t look back for a bit.  I was surprised that I didn’t really get a gap at all.  But, my jump is pitiful, I know just how pitiful now.  But, like I said I didn’t want to be racing for 3rd, so I kept pulling.  I cut the lead to less than half and then, as luck would have it, Michael flatted right before the finish climb.  He actually got to the top of the climb before the field and ended up riding my rear 11 speed Shimano wheel the rest of the race.

We caught Janne pretty quickly and then it was all back together.  There were about 35 guys left in the field then out of maybe 60 starters.  By then there were only 3 laps to go out of 11.  When Micheal flatted, his team mate, Garrick Valverde went pretty hard up the finish climb and I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to ride with him at that speed at the finish.  I know my uphill speed right now, trying to sprint, and it isn’t close to being able to win the race.  Normally, this would have been a super finish for me, but not now.  I hope to get that back into my arsenal soon.

So, I started thinking about the finish.  I was feeling pretty good I thought I could start the sprint at the very front of the field and probably hold on for somewhere between 4-10.  That was best case scenario.   That would be okay, but I like to race offensively and thought I’d rather just try to put myself in a chance to win.

So with a little over a lap to go, I jumped out of the field alone on a suicide-type move, and got a pretty good gap heading up the finish hill.  The hill is only about 35 seconds long, but steep at the top.  I looked back and had maybe 10 seconds, but right then Kent Woermann, another Olathe Subaru rider, came by.  He put a little gap on me over the top of the climb, heading out downhill for the last lap.

I had to jump again pretty hard to get back on, even though I think he waited a little, and he proceeded to take a huge pull, I mean huge pull.  We kept a pretty good gap to the back climb and by then I came by and pulled the climb.  I looked back with about half a lap to go and realized it was going to be close, maybe.

When we got to the bottom road, about a little over a mile to go, one other guy bridged up.  He took a pretty good pull, then Kent, but the field was flying.  We got caught maybe 300 meters from the bottom of the climb.  I punched in about 5 guys back, but soon realized I was going to be toast.  I already was.  I made a half effort starting up the first pitch and then shifted into my small ring and just rode to the finish.

I was close enough to get to watch the sprint.  Garrick Valverde held off Lee Bumgarner, then Flyover Series leader, Brandon Krawczyk, from Wisconsin was 3rd.  It’s nice that the guys I race with locally can still win when there are a bunch of out of state guys racing too.

I can’t be too disappointed with the effort.  I’ve finished top ten in races 100’s, if not 1000’s of times.  I race bikes trying to win bike races.  That is what I tried to do.  I got in a few pretty good efforts and felt descent enough, so it was a good day for me.

Today we race around the Sports complex, where the Chiefs and Royals play.  It’s a 4 corner criterium, a new course.  That is at 2.  When that is over, we’re driving back to Topeka, grabbing our MTB bikes and extra stuff and heading out to Vail for a week.  My friend Stacey, from Louisville, has rented a place out there.  Vincent, from Arvada is coming up too, so it should be fun.

I’m looking forward to getting out of the Kansas allergies for a little bit and see if I can get feeling better riding.  It is going to be a long day, considering it’s over 600 miles to Vail, with such a late start.  But, waking up tomorrow morning in the mountains will make today worth it.

A woman, from way back in the day, Janet Friedrich, brought me this picture to the race to sign.  It is of the Tour of Kansas City, probably form 1979.  In front of me is Jeff Pierce, stage winner of the Tour de France in 1987.

A woman, from way back in the day, Janet Friedrich, brought me this picture to the race to sign. It is of the Tour of Kansas City, probably form 1979. In front of me is Jeff Pierce, stage winner of the Tour de France in 1987.

Here is Janet with the photo.

Here is Janet with the photo.

At the start line with my good friend, Shadd Smith, KC local.  Shadd finished 4th.

At the start line with my good friend, Shadd Smith, KC local. Shadd finished 4th.

I met this guy, Cole, from Montana, that was warming up with some electrical stimulation.  It is from Hammer.  We talked about it for awhile.  Seems like it might work.

I met this guy, Cole, from Montana, that was warming up with some electrical stimulation. It is from Hammer. We talked about it for awhile. Seems like it might work.

Just riding along saying hi.

Just riding along saying hi.

Podium.  Garrick on top, the Lee and Brandon.  Shadd Smith on the left for 4th.

Podium. Garrick on top, the Lee and Brandon. Shadd Smith on the left for 4th.

 

We met up with a bunch of people at Freestate Brewery, in Lawrence.  Joseph Schmalz, who just finished Tour of California an Pro Nationals was there telling how those races went.  He is on the left, talking to Garrick Valverde, Cliff Drive winner.  (Bad boy Garrick, drinking beer during a stage race.)

We met up with a bunch of people at Freestate Brewery, in Lawrence. Joseph Schmalz, who just finished Tour of California an Pro Nationals was there telling how those races went. He is on the left, talking to Garrick Valverde, Cliff Drive winner. (Bad boy Garrick, drinking beer during a stage race.)

We didn't get back to Topeka until close to midnight and drove by the Keith and Catherine Walberg's new house to see if there were any lights on.  They flew in yesterday afternoon.  The light were on, so we stopped and said hi.  They have no furniture for a week, so we ended up in this little room for some reason.

We didn’t get back to Topeka until close to midnight and drove by the Keith and Catherine Walberg’s new house to see if there were any lights on. They flew in yesterday afternoon. The lights were on, so we stopped and said hi. They have no furniture for a week, so we ended up in this little room for some reason.

Their new house is just a couple blocks from mine and seems pretty huge empty.

Their new house is just a couple blocks from mine and seems pretty huge empty.

My friend, Vincent Davis, also won yesterday.  A 50 mile MTB race in Colorado.  It might be hard keeping up with him there with little oxygen.

My friend, Vincent Davis, also won yesterday. A 50 mile MTB race in Colorado. It might be hard keeping up with him there with little oxygen.

Chequamegon 40 Race Report

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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.

Prelim Results.  Guess there was an extra guy in there somewhere.  Click to enlarge.

Prelim Results. Guess there was an extra guy in there somewhere. Click to enlarge.

There are lots of people riding this event.

There are lots of people riding this event.

Brian Matter, the winner, and me, at the start.

Brian Matter, the winner, and me, at the start.

The start is always fun.

The start is always fun.

The coffeshop was well stocked before the race.

The coffeshop was well stocked before the race.

This was how I rode pretty much I rode until I "dropped" myself.  You can see how stressed everyone else is, hardly.

This was how I rode pretty much I rode until I “dropped” myself. You can see how stressed everyone else is, hardly.

Brian Matter and T.J. Woodruff, 1st and 3rd, after the race.

Brian Matter and T.J. Woodruff, 1st and 3rd, after the race.

Micheal Olheiser, me and Kim Eppen at the finish.  It is pretty cool, the camaraderie at the end of a MTB race.

Micheal Olheiser, me and Kim Eppen at the finish. It is pretty cool, the camaraderie at the end of a MTB race.

Joe Martin Stage 3 – Hogeye Road Race

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I’m a little short of time, so I’ll probably just finish the whole Joe Martin thing tomorrow. Yesterday was a hard race for just about everyone. It was definitely really hard for the Jamis guys. The were put under a lot of stress by the constant attacks and especially a late move by the SmartStop Team. But, as usual, it all came back together in the last 10 km. By this time there were less than 50 guys left in the front. The field had split into two groups of 25, I was in the back group, but after a 1/2 a lap chase, it was back together.

It got a little dicey the last 5 km, with a hard sidewind. The Boneshaker guys, mainly Heath and Nick, went to the front and kept it strung out in the gutter. I finally got in front of Michael Sheehan, who is the fastest of us all, with less than a couple kms. to go. When the sprint started, Bradd Huff was leading out Jesse Anthony. I got into a little tussle with Travis McCabe. He has been riding too many criteriums with the UHC guys and was pretty rude to boot. But, he won the race by 1/2 a wheel anyway. Full results here. Michael was 6th, getting pinched off in the final corner. I rolled across in 19th.

Okay, it is supposed to be crazy weather this afternoon. Winds up to 80mph and golf ball size hail. That was what was forecast last night. Hopefully it holds off for today’s final stage, a technical criterium on a hill. Okay, I have to go.

deanwarenThis photo is by Dean Warren. He has lots of photos of all the races at his facebook page here.

I rode the 10 miles back to Fayetteville to loosen up my legs.  I went to Chipotle and got the biggest burrito ever.  So big they had to put it in a bowl.  I was surprised to see the 5 Hour Energy gus eating at Taco Bueno and then the Optum Pro Team getting burritos too.  Must be the food of choice for professional cyclists.

I rode the 10 miles back to Fayetteville to loosen up my legs. I went to Chipotle and got the biggest burrito ever. So big they had to put it in a bowl. I was surprised to see the 5 Hour Energy gus eating at Taco Bueno and then the Optum Pro Team getting burritos too. Must be the food of choice for professional cyclists.

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It was pretty hot all day. Bromont was hot here at the feed zone. I heard they took an Optum rider to the hospital for dehydration.

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Trudi got the van stuck here a couple years ago. A couple farmers spent two hours jacking her out. Pretty nice.