Man I love Wisconsin. Lot’s of beautiful trees, rolling hills, great cycling and New Glarus Cherry Ale. Last weekend Andy Lueck and I threw all of our racing junk into my car and made the trip to Platteville, WI to do this pretty cool race they call the Blockhouse Roll. The course is located on private land and doesn’t see a whole lot of traffic, but the trails always seem to be in pretty good shape, nicely groomed for the most part.
The last time that I had done this race was back in 2004 so I didn’t remember too much about the course, a couple of really steep climbs, lot’s of rocks, two water crossings and some pretty sweet singletrack. They had also mentioned in the race flyer that there was going to be a couple of miles of new singletrack… always an adventure!
We arrived at the course about two hours early and had planned to do a quick lap before the race. I asked one of the officials how many laps we were doing and was told that it would be a parade lap and two full laps. So rather than doing a full recon lap and risk getting back too late for the start we opted to do several parade laps as a warm up. Because we weren’t able to do a recon lap, my plan was to ensure that I was 2nd wheel going into the woods.
We lined up for the le mans style start, the gun went off and I charged down the hill towards my bike. I was kinda hangin’ on to the back of my jersey to make sure that all of my crap didn’t fall out of my pockets and was the 2nd person to get to my bike. I hopped on and jumped into 2nd place behind Carlos Haeckel, a regular top finisher in the WORS series. As we were motoring up the hill, some dude with a UW Platteville kit went by both of us like a madman and led the way on the parade lap.
At the end of the parade lap, Carlos passed the dude from UW. Shortly after that I also passed him and sat on Carlos’ wheel going into the woods. We hit some pretty fun, very technical sections of singletrack and though I was struggling a little on some of it, I was having a blast! My lack of familiarity of the course took its toll on some parts, I’d round a corner at full speed and immediately come upon a gnarly section that was anxiously awaiting the chance to devour me and my bike. In my surprised state, I’d be forced to make a clumsy dismount and run over / through whatever it was that activated my pucker mechanism.
Carlos and I worked pretty well together throughout, he’d lead through the technical sections and descents and I’d take the lead on some of the climbs and flats. He would actually leave me in the dust on the descents, he was scary fast going down some of the gnarly, rock laden descents. It was probably better that I couldn’t stay with him on some of the descents because he had a wake of rocks flying in every which direction as he went downhill. When the terrain flattened out or went upward, I’d reel him back in. He did the race last year and was a little more familiar with the course than I was, so I was quite happy to let him lead as much as he wanted.
About midway through the first lap we managed to gap the rest of the field off to the point where we couldn’t see anybody behind us. As we began the 2nd lap, another dude, Ryan Krayer, had managed to close the gap a little. He’d get kinda close, but then fall of the pace a little. This continued until we hit the 2nd water crossing. I chose to dismount because the crossing was wide enough and there were a lot of big rocks that I couldn’t see. Carlos tried to ride through it but stalled out midway through. We both got through it and Carlos was able to get back on his bike and rolling pretty quickly. I got back on my bike and had trouble clipping back in before the next rocky, slime covered technical section. I had to jump back off my bike and run up the hill a ways before I could remount. By this time, Ryan was able to close the gap to me. I gradually closed the gap to Carlos and the three of us rode together for a short while.
We hit the last long, steep climb and Ryan pulled out from behind me and drilled it up the hill. Carlos was also able to gap me a little. I tried to respond, but as soon as I hit the throttle, my legs would not comply with my request. I knew that if I persisted, they’d most likely seize up on me, I’d fall over and most likely roll back down to the bottom of the hill in a heap. As I topped the hill we had about a mile left and I was able to reel Carlos back in. I sat on his wheel for a short while and my legs made a pretty quick recovery from the hill. I passed Carlos and went after Ryan. As we began the approach to the short climb to the finish I locked the rear end out and pushed myself just short of going cross-eyed in attempt to catch Ryan. I was quickly closing the gap but ran out of real estate. He crossed the line with a time of 1:51:58. I came through in 2nd with a time of 1:52:06, 8 seconds back. Carlos came through in 3rd with a time of 1:52:50. What a race! A great job to all that finished and congrats to Ryan for repeating as race winner. It was a very tough, physically demanding course.
After I crossed the finish line, I went over to bs with Carlos and Ryan and then went out for a cool down ride. As I was heading back towards the start / finish area I saw Andy sitting on his bike next to the road. As I approached him he began to roll, so I rolled up to him and we started talking about the race. He sounded like he had a mouth full of food so I figured that he was eating something. Funny thing was, he still sounded like he had a mouth full of something five minutes later. Turns out, as he was flying down a hill during the race and had his tongue hangin’ out of his mouth. A kamikaze bee hit his tongue and stung him. He showed me his tongue and it looked like he had a big ole’ kosher dill hangin’ out of his mouth. I made fun of him.
Overall, I was very happy with the result. Of the top three finishers, I was the least familiar with the course and was at somewhat of a disadvantage in the regard. I also think that I might have done a little too much during the week leading up to the race because my legs still didn’t the snap that I was expecting for this time of the season. My average heart rate of 172 for the race confirmed that my legs were a little off the mark. Peaking is such a black art, I always try to do just enough in the way of workouts during my peak period such that I minimize loss of fitness while also trying to get enough recovery in so that I’m fresh for important races. It’s hard to find that optimal balance. Last year I was able to get it right, this year I’ve been a little off but I’ve still managed to pull of some great results.
Next up is my last race of the season, the WORS season finale up in Sheboygan, WI on October 7. There are always a lot of big guns there, a ton of pros and semi pros. It’ll be a great end of season test for me!
Thanks for reading,