Windy 500 2017 wrap-up


Yeah, that just happened. The Windy 500 just became the most spectacular thing ever. And you weren’t there.

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It was Sofa King awesome, that it may never eclipse itself. Like Leo Sayer singing with Barry Gibb AND Justin Timberlake. Or donut wrapped hot dogs. It was that good. We may as well all put on some Nikes, cover ourselves in purple sheets and drink some Kool-Aid now…

I usually get right to the point, but I honestly don’t even know where to start this year. This was by far, the best and the most challenging time I have ever spent on a bike. We have hundreds of pictures, and it’s hard not to include all of them…

For 7 years we’ve ridden. Iron Mountain, Michigan and 545 miles the first year. 45 extra miles because we were lost. A lot. 105 degrees. Rain. 4 riders. 162 miles on Day 1 at almost 20mph average speed. No sag. Epic. Me, McArdle, Lampe and Gary Johnson. A proper beat-down, the likes of which may never be duplicated. Upon arrival, just after dark, the hotel staff hands us a small box that we UPSed there. A new kit and disposable toothbrushes for everyone. Yay! McArdle and Lampe are the only 2 to have done this every year, and McArdle is the only one who’s matched me mile for mile for the past 3,574 miles. Last year our cumulative mileage surpassed “The Ultralineamentum” – the longest possible route across the US – my initial dream/goal in this stupid plan.

Year 2: 7 guys, we decided to go West. Winona. Hills, hills and more hills. 500-something miles and 17,000+ feet of climbing. Jeremy drove his own truck for sag. Holy crap, we could actually pack a bag this time. Jeremy (aka: TRJ , aka: The Real Jeremy – ask Balden) met up with us every 25 miles or so. He thought we were nuts.

Year 3: This was the Van Halen III year – great compared to sitting at a desk, but shitty compared to the original ride. 9 riders, southern route. “Southern” was Illinois to Indiana and back. Flat, urban, and full of debris. Ridiculous number of flats, a zero score for scenery and fairly forgettable.  Still, we spent 4 days riding 500+ miles, so it wasn’t all bad. Jeremy on sag again, this time rolling right behind us the whole route. Still thinking we were nuts, but now “bike-curious”.

4: Escanaba, MI. Fantastic Mexican food, awesome route and full blown sag support. Jeremy jumps on a bike this year and becomes a legit rider. DuWayne (TRJ Sr.) takes the helm as all-time sag driver. 18mph average on a fairly flat route for 496 miles. Veterans bank their rollover miles from previous years while rookies do laps in every gas station to ensure the 500+ mark. Escanaba is a glorified shithole, but the route is a success. This thing is taking on a life of its own…

5: Back to da U.P. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 21 riders now up to Escanaba. Beer, Mexican, etc. It has rained every year to this point, we expect it to continue doing so long  after we are all dead.

6: Escanaba again. 3rd year in a row. Bike practically rides itself along the route by now. It’s an awesome route for a big group, but becoming a bit vanilla. Biblical rain (again). Hail. Sun. Fun. Laughs. 27 guys. bc and McArdle have become co-Directeur Sportifs, and apparently from April through July they only work part-time at their real jobs. The “Windy” has reached legendary status. The world is divided into two halves; those who’ve done the Windy, and those who haven’t.

Fall, 2016: Windy 500 2017 Planning session: Lampe’s firepit. Talking about Escanaba v4.0. Longing for the excitement of the early years. Lampe calls bullshit on a 4th year to MI. We all agree. You know what would be awesome? Some soul-crushing climbs and 55mph descents. Really riding. Not another charity ride. It was undeniable. It could not be undone.

Windy 500, 2017, year 7 – Winona, Minnesota and back. 22, 23, 24, 22? riders. Picked up another rider on Saturday on his way home from 7 days of RAGBRAI, lost one the same day to Volmonia, a new communicable disease that is apparently contracted from staying in shithole hotels.  18,500+ feet of climbing this year. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I contacted Pabst before the ride, and they hooked us up with some sweet swag and enough PBR to keep Jeremy hydrated for 4 days…

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IMG_3927 IMG_10498 O’something a.m. Go time.  The mayor sends us off as usual. Reaches VO2 max on the first climb out of the subdivision and taps out. Maybe SPD Crocs for 2018?IMG_1713.JPG35 miles from my driveway to Alma’s again for the most spectacular breakfast on Earth. Riders may believe that this kind of stuff just happens, but bc and McArdle have toiled for weeks going over the finer points of logistics, including trial runs to Alma’s. Rookies are clueless.IMG_1706

From there we rolled, fatter and happier, to Reedsburg. 136 miles. 5,000 feet of climbing. World’s worst hotel, The Voyageur. Don’t Google it, you’ll get some kind of disease just from looking at it. I’m not kidding. Most riders have checked in post-ride with some form of malady. All part of the adventure. I guess.

You know it’s a classy hotel when you see wheelchairs and organs for sale in the lobby.IMG_1743So, who wants to ride to Winona, MN? Let’s roll.

123 miles, another 5,000 feet of climbing. Seemed a lot harder than yesterday. Dozens of world-famous Bloedow’s Donuts were waiting for us upon arrival, laughs and even a little rest that night. By the way, the most spectacular weather ever. Mid-80s, sun and (I swear this is true) a tailwind for 500 miles. It has rained at least one day of the ride for the past 6 years straight. Rookies Dino, Janisch, Walls and Lex think this is the best thing since sliced bread. They have no idea that every year prior we’ve had to assume the tornado position at some point during the ride. Pop Tarts.

IMG_4882Rolling into Winona, we were all just happy to be clear of the Mississippi, avoiding eye contact with Leach, fearing that he might kill again.

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Sunday morning church service at 6:30am, courtesy of Dr. Long. This is a secret portion of the Windy that I really look forward to every year. Steve is an ordained Methodist minister and Professor of Theology. He offers it up to anyone who wants to participate. About 8 of us shared a private service, and it left me energized and focused on the task at hand. It also reminded me of how awesome this slice in time with this caliber of men was.

Breakfast and some foreshadowing – the hills await. 6 monster climbs. Inclines as high as 17%. We all rolled out. A bit nervous, a bit excited. Road was flat, but we could see what was coming.

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No way to avoid it. The first “hill” punched us in the throat. And by throat I mean balls. It officially qualifies as a Category 3 climb. Al Krueger now has the 5th fastest ascent (all-time) on Strava with an average speed of 9.1mph. Soul crushingly steep and long. We also climbed 2 Category 4s that same day. While I was praying for a swift death, I was reminded that it would be considered a relatively flat day in the Tour de France. Really glad I took the last year off of cycling… not.

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By the end of the day, I think everyone was smoked. We rolled into Spring Green well-done and STARVING. It was the hardest day EVER on my bike, I would have cheerfully eaten any of the various roadkill we passed in the last 50 miles. 7pm. 8pm. 9pm.  FINALLY the pizza dude showed up. At that point – no one cared. We’d have eaten a dog turd or 10. Crap-ass pizza x 15. Thanks? I know that I ate (probably) an entire pizza in about 5 minutes. I hear that there were wings too, but they were set in front of Janisch and no one ever saw them again…

  I’m excited and exhausted simultaneously. bc takes the lead on getting the fire going, and we’re in the happiest place on Earth. Again.

For the record, Ronnie James Dio once stayed at this hotel. He wants you to pull his finger.

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Day 4: Rested, humbled, ready. Just 112 easy miles, only 3,000 feet uphill to go. No real climbs, just all rollers. I could go on and on, but honestly – you had to be there.

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M.I.A. – Dave Volmmmmonia

Did we have fun? We’ll never tell, but I’m guessing by the smiles that you already know the answer…

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I think Jeremy McKinney’s second cousin Cat Stevens sang it best:

And the cat’s in the river in the afternoon
Jumped off the bridge just past that pontoon
When’s it coming back, Leach?
I don’t know when
But we’ll be in Reedsburg then, yeah
You know we’ll catch pneumonia then
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
2018 – 8th annual – Back to Winona!
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Sprinting – Secrets from the Pros


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This is how you do it.

Sprinting – you either have it, or you don’t… right?  We’ve all watched the great ones with amazement and disbelief: Zabel, Cipollini, Cavendish, Kelly, etc.  They seem like they were born to sprint.  In the modern era, we watch the overhead HD helicopter feed as the high-speed bullet train lines them up to launch for the line.  We see them squeeze through gaps the human eye can barely detect at 40+ mph, violently rocking back and forth for what seems like an eternity as we hold our breath…  We hear Phil or Paul saying things like “…Renshaw is putting the missile in the tube…”.  And then it’s over. They cast a casual glance over their shoulder as they cross the line alone, having zipped their jersey before the effort in the ultimate pro move to show respect for the sponsors.  Or they cross it in a psychotic tangle of bodies, looking like a pack of rabid wolves chasing an injured rabbit, launching their bikes at the line at the exact millisecond needed to stake their claim.  Then they raise their arms to some point between a crucifixion and a salute, which is oddly enough, probably a metaphor for both how they feel AND the way to see if someone is having a stroke.

So… how does a Masters Cat 3 like me with very little sprint knowledge or experience get better?  You ask the Pros.  So I did.

Dirk Friel, World-renowned coach, author and founder of Peaksware, (perhaps you’ve heard of Training Peaks or The Cyclist’s  Training Bible??) took a few moments out of his day to give me this advice:

“I’m no expert when it comes to coaching for sprinting.  The main thing I can say is I’ve found efficiency of movement is very important. Moving pedals fast is the #1 focus then you need to add force behind the pedaling speed. 

From what I’ve found sprinting more in training does help. There aren’t many short cuts to improvement. The #1 way to improve sprinting in my book is to get on the track where you are forced to learn how to pedal fast.”

He then went on to reference Wiggin’s stage win on last year’s Tour of Romandie as a classic example of the guy with the track legs being able to crush asphalt when it mattered most.

I’ve been wanting to get down to the Washington Park Velodrome in Kenosha for a couple of years, but haven’t made it enough of a priority.  Here’s a guy who has personally been responsible for training millions of elite athletes telling me to make that my TOP priority.  What excuse could I possibly come up with to NOT go this year?

Moving on.  Next up, Frankie Andreu.

If you’ve read anything about Lance in the past 5 years, you’ve seen the name Frankie (or his wife Betsy) pop up.  What sometimes gets lost in the story is how incredible Frankie was, having competed in the TdF 9 times.

Perhaps referencing my own hopes, I started by asking him who was good at sprinting that shouldn’t be.  Frankie shared the following with me:

“There is no mold for a sprinter.  I think of skinny guys when it comes to not being a good sprinter.  But it’s all down to the fitness and training and muscle fibers.  Alberto Contador comes to mind as a great climber but also a rider with a fast finish.  Taylor Phinney is tall and lean and yet he is very fast and powerful.  He isn’t just a sprinter but can do everything.  Cycling in a way is a jumble of athletic misfits, riders of all different shapes and sizes can excel in different areas.”

So you’re saying there’s a chance?  A guy like me, built more for hockey than cycling, can – with the right training, fitness and muscle fibers – at least get invited to the party.

  • Right training – check.  Work with a coach, or at least structure your training around your goals.
  • Fitness – check.  Lay off the beer, work hard in the gym in the off-season, on the bike in pre-season.
  • Muscle fibers… uh.. aren’t you born with or without a certain type?  More on that later.

Next I asked for his thoughts about “controversial or unconventional sprinters” (are you sensing a theme?):

“Not sure on this one.  Controversial are the ones that are super aggressive and do whatever they want even if it means crashing.  Some call this just being aggressive and confident but there is a line that can be crossed in going too far.  I consider (that) you cross the line if you push and pull with your hands, sling riders, or hit with your shoulders or head. This just becomes dangerous. You have to keep your hands to yourself.   This is where the natural talent and muscle fibers take over. It’s special to find someone like Cavendish, Kittel, Sagan, that have that extra turbo of power to hold everyone off. It’s more about power then speed. “

Roger that.  Be confident, but don’t be a dick.  Got it.  And more about the damn muscle fibers??  Moving on.  Lots has been written about what you SHOULD do to become a better sprinter, but what about things you SHOULDN’T do?  What are some of the biggest mistakes or wastes of time?:

“One mistake is waiting too long to be in position.  It depends on the race but you can’t wait until the last lap to move up and sprint. You need to be in position a few laps before the end in a crit.  As the speed increases you save energy by already being in the front.  A common mistake in road races is being too close to the front when all the workers peel off you find yourself out front with too far to go to the finish.  It’s good to find other sprinters and sometimes follow them during the last kilometers.  The experienced guys know where to place themselves. It’s important in a finish to know where you want to start your sprint.  Pick that spot out ahead of time and when you reach that mark go no matter what.  If you wait a second you might get passed and then you’ll second guess that hesitation.  As you sprint you learn if you are good from a long way out or need to wait and do a shorter sprint.”

OK, maybe nothing too revolutionary here, but the one thing I keep re-reading is “…when you reach that mark go no matter what.”  There is absolutely nothing physical about that statement, it is 100% confidence, something I am sorely lacking when it comes to the sprint.  I am in sales and whenever a new sales rep starts there is inevitably a chicken and egg scenario:

Should I call on new customers on day 1 without knowing the new products/service, or should I wait until I have enough knowledge to feel comfortable setting the appointment?

Inevitably, the person with the most confidence makes the call on Day 1.  The other NEVER GAINS THE CONFIDENCE, no matter how long they study the products and services.  Confidence comes from within, and involves facing fear head-on. This much I know, but that doesn’t mean I always put it into action.  When I was younger, I was afraid of heights.  In order to overcome the fear, I jumped out of a plane… several times.  Fear conquered – confidence inspired.  So, it sounds like the cycling equivalent is to pick my spot in a couple of early season races and go for broke.

Last question, I pull back the curtain and go for broke.  “If you were to train me for 4 weeks for the Tour of America’s Dairyland and had a million dollars on the line, what would it look like?”:

“Motorpacing is great.  It’s super valuable and makes a huge difference in speed.  Sitting behind the motor and sprinting around it at 28mph will help your power and teaches your body to be able to turn the gear.

Accelerations.  Starting from a low-speed and then in the saddle accelerating up to a full spin in about ten seconds.  This teaches explosive power, leg speed, and recruits the fast twitch muscle fibers.

Power sprints in a large gear are great also.  Same as above.  Slow speed and in 53×11 jump out of the saddle for ten seconds and try to accelerate.

Another option is to find a medium hill.  Use the downhill to take you up to speed and at the bottom take off flat-out and hold until the speed starts to drop.  Once the speed drops then you shut down.  All of these exercises are like intervals but with full recovery in between.”

OK, cool stuff – but even MORE about muscle fibers.  Let’s see what all the hoopla is about.

Click here for the skinny according to Kelly Baggett.  If you’re like me you look at all that scientific mumbo-jumbo and close the link, so let me sum it up for you:

Which one is the sprinter...?

Which one is the sprinter…?

You’re either a born sprinter, or you can transform yourself into a sprinter.  I’m in the second category, so let’s explore that a bit more.  You’re born with a pre-determined body type and a pre-determined % of fast-twitch (sprinting) & slow twitch (strength and endurance) fibers.  André the Giant can’t transform into Djamolidine Abdoujaparov but you can transform into a leaner, meaner version of yourself.  How?  Quoting Baggett:

“In training you can accomplish this by focusing your training on strength, power, and speed dominant activities.  By doing so you train your nervous system and all your muscle fibers to behave in more of a fast twitch manner.”

Sounds simple, but painful.  In cycling this translates to things like squats, plyo-metrics, pushing a weight sled and anaerobic activities like (surprise) sprinting.  Check out another Baggett article called “How to Create a Speed Machine Using the Weight Room”.

If you listen to those who know, and you want to find yourself on a podium at the end of your next race here’s the secret sauce :

  1. Get fit.  All of the rest of this revolves around the fact that you’ve done what you can to get as lean, mean and strong as you can before the race starts.
  2. Learn to pedal fast.  Well… duh.  I thought I had this one tackled until I started adding high RPM training rides into my pre-season work.  As someone who never used to shift into his small chainring (never) it’s been eye opening to try to sustain a 120+ RPM spin for more than 30 seconds, especially uphill.
  3. Actually, this is probably point #2.1 – ride the track.  You can’t go fast if you can’t go fast.  Not everyone has access to a track/track bike, so the lesson here is learn to churn butter for a long time.  And when it’s super- creamy, churn it some more.  Besides, who doesn’t love butter?
  4. Get stronger.  Not Hulk Hogan strong, but functionally strong. Learn to push beyond your comfort zone, and then beyond that.
  5. Get confident. It seems to me that sprinting is 90% mental.  Knowing you are going to win, knowing when to go, knowing how hard to go, never second guessing yourself.  I’ve seen all of those traits in the guys that win consistently. 
  6. And here’s one last one I’ll throw in – wise up.  Get smarter.  You can’t crush it at the line, if you’ve been crushing it the whole race.  Last year, 1 guy, riding by himself, won the entire Tour of America’s Dairyland series (in my Category) by riding smart.  He laid back during the race and let everyone else do the work.  With 2 laps to go, he put himself in position to win and on relatively fresh legs sprinted out the last hundred meters every day.  After a few days of this the entire peloton assumed each day would boil down to a sprint so no one ever pushed the tempo and made him work.  There were probably faster guys, and smarter guys and guys with a lot of confidence in the pack, but only one with the perfect blend of all 3.  Without saying a word, he dictated the series – just like you can this year.

Next month – Part 2 including an interview with another 7-11 rider (and local legend) Tom Schuler.

7 Ways to Become a Crappier Rider


Brothers and sisters, if you want to know how to do everything wrong – you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve done all the legwork for you, no need to break a sweat or crack open a book.  All the answers are right here.  I’ve been training this way for a long time, so I know it works!

  1. Ride hard – all the time!  Recovery is only for people who want to win races.  Riding hard all the time is what you should be doing on every group ride.  Go to the front and push the pace – don’t let up.  I know that some of the guys you’re riding with are on 12-speed Firenze mountain bikes they got free with a sofa and love-seat combo, but who cares?  When you get to the coffee shop afterwards you’ll be able to gloat about how you smoked everyone on that 9 mile ride through the park.  And hey, did I see you drop that Mom with the Burley going uphill?  That was EPIC dude!  KOM points for sure!!
  2. Water’s for fish.  I know it’s hot out, and you spent the whole night eating Saltines, but what’s more kick-ass than finishing a ride with a full water bottle?  Yeah Buddy!  Hydration is for houseplants.  Besides, drinking water makes you weigh more and we all know about the whole Watts to Body Weight thing, right?  I’m pretty sure Contador never drinks any liquids – that’s why he can fly up mountains so fast.
  3. “Diets” are for soccer Moms.  I eat whatever I want, and it doesn’t affect me at all.  Sure, I run a little low on energy sometimes, or feel a bit sluggish after that 7th piece of deep dish pizza, but cyclists need a lot of calories.  I’m sure that by race season I’ll have lost some weight…  If not, I’ll just blame my genes.
  4. Get 5 hours of sleep a night!  Yeah, I’ve heard that you should get 8, but what am I a newborn??  I have stuff to do!  Bonus – watch TV before you go to sleep.  Preferably something violent or disturbing.  Like Golden Girls.
  5. It’s all about the bike.  You cannot go fast without all of the latest, greatest equipment.  You’re still riding 2012 Dura Ace?? What a loser.  Haven’t you heard that the 2013 version is .05 grams lighter??  I mean, if we lived on the moon, that would be like 6 pounds!  If it’s not carbon, it’s crap.  You should really cut down on the actual riding you do in order to spend more time in online chats about the latest gear.  There’s no way you’re going to keep up or hope to go fast if all you do is ride.
  6. Your bikes all fit just fine.  Put the seat wherever it feels good, slap your cleats on and you’re ready to ROCK!  Don’t worry, everyone gets knee and back pain, numb feet and hands – it’s just the price you pay for riding a bike.
  7. Blueprints are for architects – not cyclists.  I just get up and do whatever suits me that day.  Training by feel – it worked in the 1800s, and it still works today.  Although having a PowerTap does make you look cool, don’t ask me what it’s for.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article: “Hipster Etiquette – How to peg your jeans”