Chequamegon… the biggest mountain biking throw down in the nation. Located in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin, the Chequamegon 40 starts in Hayward and finishes at the Telemark Ski Resort just outside of Cable. 40 miles, point to point, mostly on the fabled Birkiebeiner Trail. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite races. The course is pretty much tailor made for my type of racing, lot’s of smokin’ fast flats, some rollers and some pretty insane, steep, long climbs and little to no singletrack. Despite the lack of singletrack, the race is still very technical in its own way. The speeds are so high, that the seemingly wide trail tightens up quite a bit in a lot of areas.
Goal: my only other Chequamegon experience was in ’03, 22nd overall, 4th in age, with a time just north of 2:22. I went in shooting for a top 20 overall and top 3 in my age.
I bunked up in a cabin that was about 5 blocks from the start with Padawan Gammell, John Newell, Jim and Sally Logan, Lang Wightman and Fishaus. Woke up to a morning low of 25, lookin’ out the window over the lake to watch the beautiful northern Wisconsin sunrise, the air looked crisp with clear skies on the horizon. The temps were sure to rise and was just about perfect by race time.
What I woke up to on race day.
The mass start... mass chaos.
Rolled up to the start about 10 minutes before the start and had a front row seat… then about five minutes before the start, Greg LeMond and his posse of what looked to be elderly folk slid in front. Once the dust settled I was in the 2nd row, still good enough for the 4+ mile rollout on pavement. Looking around, I could see that the field was stacked as expected. Lot’s of pros, Swanson, Tilford (former world masters champion), T Brown (former Olympian), Hall, the brothers Lalonde, Matter, Shouten, Phillips, Stolte, Hanson, Plews, Woodruff and a whole poop load of others.
The cannon went off and so did I. I tucked in behind the front row and caught the tow out of town. It seemed like about every 30 seconds I’d hear knobbies rubbing against knobbies. Cats were fighting for position all the way to Rosies. As we approached Rosies the aggression came to a head. The sound of rubber and metal scraping along pavement on the opposite side of the road caused me to move a little further to the left, exposing my nose to the wind. At this point I didn’t care if I was working a little harder than most of the others, I didn’t want to join the list of casualties.
As we hit Rosies, everybody hit the throttle and it was a mad dash to the front. Things became real sketchy real quick, I didn’t like what I saw so I backed it down a little to ensure safe passage into Rosies. When I arrived at the top of the hill I could see that I was a long way from the lead group and the second group. Not exactly what I had in mind but at least I was still upright. I upped the pace and eventually latched to what appeared to be a 3rd group as we hit the Birkie trailhead.
I worked my way to the front of the group and kept on rolling towards the 2nd group. At about mile ten, eventual race winner Jesse Lalonde rolled by me on his singlespeed. I grabbed his wheel knowing that he would pull me the rest of the way to the 2nd group. We caught the 2nd group, I sat in on the back of the group to recharge, Jesse continued towards the front and motored off the front towards the lead group.
The lead group with Mikey taking a pull.
As the race progressed our initial group of about 10-15 slowly shrank. As we approached mile 14, our group had caught up to a few stragglers that had fallen off from the lead group, including the Eppens. At checkpoint OO (mile 16), the lead group of 12 was about 20 seconds ahead of us. Our group was about 8 strong, the Eppens, Paul Hanson, Zack Vestal, Bjorn Selander and Dirk Rettig were some of the more familiar names.
Our group pretty much stayed together until we hit Fire Tower Hill, an endless, technical, three tiered climb that knocked me down to my 34x27. That’s when the shite hit the fan. We could see the remnants of the lead group about halfway up as we started the climb. Hanson drilled it all the way to the top, I crested the top about 15 seconds behind him. The rest of the group was quickly dropping out of sight. Once over the top I drilled it in pursuit of Hanson.
Workin' my way up Fire Tower Hill, it hurt real bad.
About a mile or two later I reeled him in and took control of the pace. He sat on my wheel the entire time and at one point had informed me that ‘I was killing him’. I said, ‘yeah, just don’t dog me at the finish’. We kept motoring along and eventually caught up to Evan Plews. He latched onto to Hanson’s wheel and I continued to pull the two along until we caught up to Bill Stolte at about 5 miles from the finish. Bill looked kinda like he had popped and wasn’t able to hang on.
Blockin' the wind for Hanson and some other dude.
With about two miles left, we started hitting some pretty steep rollers and my efforts were starting to catch up to me. Plews and Hanson rolled by me and I was dangling off the back. With about a mile and a half to go, the elastic had finally snapped and they rode away from me. Glad I was able to deliver Hanson to a nice finish… I can’t really fault him as there are no rules against sitting on another competitors wheel, I might have done the same thing if I would have been in his position. Had I not done all of the work that I did, we probably wouldn’t have caught up to Plews or Stolte, so it’s all good.
I ended up finishing the race in 13th with a time of 2:13:31, about 1:40 behind the winner. I crushed my best time by about 9 minutes and won my age group by close to 5 minutes. Mission accomplished… Simply put, I had the race of my life.
6th through 10th
10th through 15th, check it, I made the big screen.
Padawan Gammell checkin' out some chicks butt.
Newell brinin' home 5th in his age group.
Some techy data for all of you geeks out there. My average HR for the race was 173. When I’m on top of my game it’s usually around 179-180. So I wasn’t as fresh as I could have been. I still have 3 races left this season and didn’t want to taper too soon. Based on my experience, I can carry top fitness over about three weeks of tapering. Once I go beyond three weeks I can feel myself starting to slow down a little. My last race of the season will be the WORS season finale up in Sheboygan and I want to show up with all four cylinders firing.
Next up is the Sycamore TT, I heard that it’s going to be on the Hillside section of the SC this year due to all of the urban sprawl that has plagued the Sycamore Trail.
Thanks for reading,