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  • Sat September 23 2006
  • Posted Sep 23, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006 Chequamegon - I can spell it - I can ride it Here’s my race report. It’s too long and a couple days late. Sorry. If you haven't seen the pics, scroll down below this post. The Chequamegon 40 took more out of me than I expected. The race was five days ago and I’m still tired. But, it is a great event, and if it isn’t on your calendar for next year, put it on. You have a choice of 16 or 40 miles. Either way, it is a fantastic rip through the northwoods on your mt bike. It was just a little after 9:00 a.m. when Lisa and I drove in to Hayward. I had almost an hour to kill before the race started. I took my time with my final preparations and while I was screwing around approximately 1,780 other riders were already staking-out their positions in the starting chute. I had forgotten that at Chequamegon you don’t just race to the finish line, but to the starting line as well. I tried to squeeze under the rope about halfway back from the front, but was told by an official that the chute was full and I'd have to go to the back - all the way back. The guy was pleasant and polite about it, and so was I - "Thanks, no problem." So, I started at the back ... waaaay back. Seriously, there were only about 20 people behind me. I'm not sure how long ago I did my last Chequamegon 40 - six or seven years - but my memory was of an aching back, and never-ending hills on the Birkie ski trail. I stopped doing this race because I had stopped having fun. My results were getting worse each year, and I was always suffering long before the finish line. This year, I hoped to finish in the top half and under three hours, but more than the time goal I wanted to have fun again. I wanted to leave Telemark with a smile on my face and wanting to come back. I intended to ride this thing hard, but not so hard that I couldn’t lift my head up occasionally to enjoy the beauty of the northwoods and share some cheer with my fellow riders. If I have to start all the way at the back, so be it. I was going to use the first few miles as my warm-up, anyway. A guy belted out the national anthem, the PA announcer shouted a count-down, the cannon fired, and then we just stood around for a while. It takes a long time for 1800 riders to get rolling. The race clock already read 2:24 by the time I crossed the start line. As I had planned, I used those first miles of pavement as my warm up. I just wanted to get some heat into my legs and stay out of trouble. These huge mass-start races, where you head out of town with spectators lining the streets are a blast, but they’re dangerous. We left the pavement for Rosie’s Field and I have to believe the riders at the front of the pack were a little smoother than those at the back. Riding down into the ditch and then up the hill into the field, people were flipping over their handlebars, running into and cutting each other off, trying to downshift while applying maximum pressure on the pedals, dropping their chains and falling over, getting off to walk and kicking the guy beside them in the process. It looked like the Keystone Cops. I don’t mean to imply that I am loaded with skill, either, but I generally know how to control my bike so that it works properly and I don’t hurt myself or anyone else. I didn’t start this race surrounded by pros. I started with the guys in gym shorts and football helmets who have one waterbottle filled with Red Bull and another with Captain Morgan. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t pretty. But, you know, it was a lot of fun. Rosie’s Field was not as bumpy and unpleasant as I remembered - maybe because the grass was pretty well beaten down by all the riders ahead or maybe because of my full suspension. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t that bad. Until the OO road crossing at mile 16, I continually felt boxed in. It was just so crowded. I would take my opportunities to move ahead, but then I’d round a bend and there would be a hill with 400 more people on it. The first snowmobile trail section was very sandy and we came to a dead stop while those ahead fought their way through. The guys up front probably rode right through it, but back where I was there were so many people trying to get through at the same time that it was gridlock. I sort-of wanted to be at OO at the 1 hour mark, but I mistakenly thought OO was at mile 13, not mile 16. My average speed was running a little slow, but not so slow that it was time to give up on a 3 hour finish, so shortly after OO when we turned onto Janet Rd I kicked it up a notch. Traffic was a little thinner and it was possible to do some serious passing and really improve my position. Things were going well until I grabbed a Cliff Shot from my pocket, and as I was passing a line of riders going uphill, steering with one hand and eating with the other and feeling pretty cocky about it, I ran into some deep sand and ground to an immediate stop. I saved a little self-respect by not falling completely over. I got going again and made up the lost positions, but time had passed and time was what I needed. The middle section of the race was good for me. I had no problem keeping the pace up, and continued to work my way through traffic. On the Birkie ski trail, I figured out how to get up the hills with a minimum of effort. In years past I have suffered on the ski trail - really let it beat me up and get me down. You can’t ride the Birkie like you’re tired. Each little climb needs to be attacked, and ideally that attack will start while still descending the previous downhill. I’ve always understood that gaining and using momentum is key on the rolling hills of this race, but I’ve never been able to make it work as well as I did this year. Mentally, I had divided the race into 3 sections - start to OO, OO to the fire tower hill, and fire tower to the end. I lost time in the first section, and gained some back in the second. After two hours of racing, I still had 16 miles to go, and was pretty sure that I wouldn’t make 3 hours. But then there were about three really fast dirt road miles and my hopes went up again. Alas, with about 5 to go, it was obvious that I wouldn’t make the time goal. With that realization, I did not wilt, I did not slow down, I did not quit. To the end, I was having fun and continuing to pass other riders. I finished in 3:10. The finish at Chequamegon is not a tear-jerker like Leadville, but it is a whole bunch of fun - tearing down the ski slope, while a thousand spectators watch and secretly hope that you lose it into the snow fence in the turn at the bottom. It was a great day. The rain that was forecast never materialized. The headcold that I’d had all week wasn’t really a factor. The bike threatened chain suck once or twice early, but then settled down and performed well. The dry conditions made for a pretty dirty ride. Dust covered my body, went up my nose and under my contact lenses. Hey, it’s a mountain bike race. If you don’t finish dirty or bloody, you’re not really trying. I am a better rider than the last time I did this race. Those years at Leadville exposed me to difficulties a whole order of magnitude beyond what Chequamegon has to offer. I’m not saying this race is easy, it’s not. I’m saying that I’ve learned a lot since the last time I was here, and am better able to deal with the challenges. The time goal of 3 hours, I missed by ten minutes. The goal to leave with a smile on my face, I nailed. I’ll be back next year, and I’ll see you at the finish line at 1:00 p.m. Chris C. # posted by Bike Tech Racing @ 11:27 AM 3 comments

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