"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Brian's Dairyland

It was quite a bit shorter than the full 11 stages that began last Thursday in Shorewood and ended today in Waukesha. I also didn't get any chocolate milk or a spotted cow jersey, but my own tour of Wisconsin included plenty of cheese, Spotted Cow beer, and lots of fun racing.

After transferring all my gear from the I-Go Honda to the O'Hare rental and kissing Patty goodbye, I was on my way to Greenbush, Wisc. for the stage 8 road race in the Tour of America's Dairyland. Light traffic and a 7am departure netted me a great parking spot on the grass two full hours before race time.

Randy and Luke arrived as I spun and sweated on the trainer, even in the less humid, lower temperatures. It was going to be a perfect day for racing, in lots of sunshine, and I was very excited to be in the same 35+ Masters field as these experienced and wily vets. The only snag of the morning was finding a definite hole in my racing tubulars after hemming and hawing about a slow leak the night before. Oh well, SRAM was present for neutral support, just one more PRO aspect of an apparently very well run series.

Our 50ish-sized field rolled out on time, just behind the Pro/1/2 field, and neither Luke or I were familiar with the course, beyond what people had told us about from last year. But, even then, the 10-mile lap was reversed this year, so we'd just have to ride out and experience the first couple of laps and hope nothing got away before then.

The course profile went something like this, if memory serves:

A short uphill followed by a steep drop, then another up and down roller. Here, you had to be careful of the hot tar strips, very hard to see on the new blacktop. Very squishy, and your rear end fish tailed at the high speeds going downhill over them. Then a left turn and a false flat, followed by a quick drop, another fast left turn, a couple rollers, then downhill to a right hand hairpin turn. Here it got interesting with a series of uphill stairsteps which led to a fun downhill series of banking turns through thick forest (watch out for those potholes). This shot out onto rough chip and seal pavement through farm fields, which brought back the wind, and then turned left into it. The downhill speed quickly slowed and the pack bunched as riders looked to move up for the final series of downhill, banking turns, back through the trees and then into town.

Immediately riders were attacking but couldn't get away. The pack could chase too easily on the downhill, and there wasn't enough support that early on through the headwind. Much of the time the pace was downright comfortable and it seemed everybody was taking it pretty easy, saving energy for the hills or attacks later in the final laps.

Out on the chip and seal on the 4th lap, I was moving up when I heard Randy call me over. "Luke's off the front!" he semi-whispered. This caught me completely by surprise as I still thought he was behind me, but you all know how much I pay attention in races. Sure enough, there also must've been IS Corp in the break because they were up blocking and a dedicated chase was forming as soon as I moved to the front to do our part.

I sandbagged on two hard chase efforts, but coming through to start the final two laps, the break had slipped out of view, and the field's speed came down to almost leisurely for much of the next time around.

The final lap was a bit more competitive, especially up the rollers, where I really had to fight to keep my position and not to cramp. Through the twisty downhill section and out in the crosswind, Randy came by tapping my hip and we moved up to the front before the pack bunched up, where we held a great position. However, he was on the outside, while I remained up against the yellow, which was my undoing amidst the final argy-bargy of the last two miles. A lot of sketchy moves came past my left, squeezing me further and further and back.

If those guys really wanted to pull that shit for a 6th place $50 check, they could have it. I still had to go to work on Monday. Randy managed to hold his position and finish 7th in the field sprint, for 11th overall. I came in at the back for 37th, and heard Luke on the sideline giving me an encouraging yell.

4th place for him, out of a final five-man break. What a stellar result in such a talented and stacked field as an open Masters race! The man is crafty as hell, and can be counted on to find the one place on the course to make the move that counts. In this case, on those stair-step hills, and then leverage the wind and the blocking behind to get out of sight.

After saying our goodbyes over the requisite post-race Culver's, I was on my way to overnight in Milwaukee at my cousin Rick's place on the northwest side of the city. Friday I'd be headed back to Fon Du Lac, but tonight was dinner, beers, and visiting.

Rick met me at his house and we went and got some pretty good Mexican food, fish tacos for me:

After which we each got a haircut at his regular place, where they offered us a glass of wine while we waited, and I also got some locally roasted organic coffee. The woman who cut my hair, Christinia, was a triathlete and we talked bikes the whole time.

The next morning after Rick left for work, I spent a few hours at Milwaukee's successful local coffee chain, Alterra, over some housemade granola and a pot of French-press:

Then I departed for Fon Du Lac, the site of the series' stage 9 criterium, and to meet former teammate and good friend Rick Dearworth for lunch before the race.

The Fon Du Lac Grand Prix has been around for many years in one series or another, and is famous for it's fast speeds, with the long home- and backstretches. Today's trip past the start-finish would be blazing as well, with the tailwind down Main Street.

I was the only XXX-er in the field, along with a few other solo riders, including a Wisc.-based Pegasus rider who'd had some success in the series, and the venerable Voytek Glinkowski, of WBD-Allvoi. Verizon and IS Corp had several riders each, so I'd be watching their moves in the headwind of the backstretch.

It was a very dynamic race. Attacks were constantly going off in the wind, and the field was either chasing, or giving out the hangman's rope, and then chasing. I managed to be in a couple of early attempts and bridges, but midway through the race I found myself at the back recovering when the real assaults came.

Rick and Jared Rogers (who'd raced earlier) screamed at me to move up, but the chase was committed and wicked fast between laps 15 to go though seven or eight to go. I could only hang on to the end and try for another chance when, and if, it slowed. The good thing was that it was completely single file the entire time, so there was no rubberband effect, even at the end.

No brakes, just breaks.

(photo by John Gray)

Coming up on six to go, the field slowed just enough with indecision that I was able to move up and hear the announcer say, "Field prime! Set of tires to the field, starting with Triple X rider number eight-sixty-nine!" I had no intention of contesting a prime while leading the start of the lap, and after turn two I got out of the saddle for a medium intense effort to keep the pace up for the chase. I was waiting for the jump, and when none came, I looked behind and saw a huge gap.

Talk about the right place at the right time. IS Corp was blocking, the field was tired, and I'd just ridden away. I took the prime with five to go and started thinking about my chances to bridge up. I could see them about a quarter lap up, and I couldn't let the pack catch me.

(photo by John Gray)

The break was shedding a few riders, which I then caught, worked with for a half-lap or so, and dropped in the head wind. Approaching one to go, I was with one final rider, who, from the depths of my pain cave I can't remember, either bridged to me or I caught him.

Either way, I pulled though turns 1 and 2, and into the wind, then shook him off my wheel and fought his gap effort to come though turn four in perfect position for a pounce. Which I of course botched. I waited too long, with me just behind him; we started sprinting at the same time, and that's how we ended up, 7th and 8th.

"Sorry for screwing you," he said. "That's racing, dude. Great sprint!" I replied. I was pretty happy, feeling the 100% effort and having salvaged a top ten in a bridge attempt after having missed the move, not to mention avoiding having to go shopping for tires for a while longer.

Rick and I enjoyed a Spotted Cow together and watched the Women's Pro race from the AC comfort of the corner bar along the course, and then said our goodbyes.

I was in the town my parents grew up in, Kenosha, two hours later, despite all the construction and Summerfest traffic, to greet my dad and stepmom, and my aunt and uncle at their house. We enjoyed a classic lakefront Friday fishfry and cocktails and spent the night catching up.

After a morning active recovery ride to the lakefront, checking out the Superweek criterium course and getting some espresso, the next day we attended the family picnic in Madison. This long-running reunion includes Baers, O'Keefes, and Scharches, in addition to the Morrisseys. It was my dad's first time attending in probably 40 years, and it's been going on for longer than that. It was complete with several rounds of bocci and one dude bringing a full martini set up. But since I was driving, I had to wait until I got home for that much needed beer to end a pretty long day.

It was a pricey weekend to be sure, but a chance like that to merge family and racing can't be missed. I probably won't be racing again until the very end of Superweek, in Kenosha at the end of July. The Tour of America's Dairyland was an excellent series for the small portion of it that I experienced, and I definitely will try to plan next year's visit around the family picnic again.

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