40 mile mountain bike race in 40 words?

Six am and the single speed is on the start line. Good start considering the gear. Snapped the seatpost off. Fat ass. Rode it, thirty five miles standing all the while. Top seven hundred! I will be back next year.

Lookit that seat angle!

This wee lil’ photo is from the good folks at MarathonFoto

For those with more time:

I had never raced the Chequamegon 40 before. I had seen the spectacle once, in 1999. After finishing the AT some friends took me up to drink beer, mostly, but also to watch the race. I had been hearing stories of this race since the college days, Franz avoiding the preferred start hassle by hiding in an alley and jumping in after the start, Ralph crashing and yelling at the guy who took him out to, “Come back here and fight me!”, and who could forget the stories of meeting (and racing!) Greg LeMond. I somehow never made the trip. That first taste was where I first learned of the joys of single speed mountain biking. I had mine built a week after and all my knobby riding since has been on that trusty Bridgestone.

So I went to Chequamegon 40 this year, its 25th running, and I brought the Bridgestone, what else? The Eppens took me along, they have two top ten finishes on their tandem at this event and have the experience down. Where to eat the morning of, best coffee in town, pre-ride locations and durations. We spent two days up there riding the first 10 and last 12 miles of the course and obsessing over tire pressures and gear selections and the like. I opted for the easier gear (34X16) and was counting on my amazing spin to save me if the poop hit the propeller.

Race morning I had to get up early and get my bike to the start line to save a good starting place. At 6 am I got a spot in the seventeenth row! Jeesh. Add another 100+ preferred starts in front of that and I was starting in lots and lots of traffic but I was better off than the last row, wherever that was. It was really cold, frost on the grass.

The ten am start was prompt and exciting. My road racing instincts had me moving up through the neutral start miles until we were unleashed where my spin rest spin rest technique was tested against the ow this hurts, I will just put it in the eleven and drill it philosophy of the geared set. I did better than I had hoped and hit the first dirt at 3 miles in good company.

Rosies Field, as it is called, was good to me and I continued my steady march forward through the giant field. Into the woods and into the hills and still I was moving forward and feeling comfortable on the gear when I hit a bump and crack, my saddle was no longer under me. Huh? I stopped to investigate and saw that the seatpost had cracked clean off right at the bolt. Shit. No other word came to mind. The seat was still held on by my seat pack (not pro, eh Eppen? Ha-ha!) and I pulled it off and put it in my jersey pocket.

My head was swimming with glum thoughts as I reentered the never ending field of happily seated riders. Thirty five hilly miles lay ahead. My fellow racers seemed to be of three minds regarding my predicament. Many felt that, should I finish, I was entitled to a free beer. Others were sure I needed to stop and remove that seatpost before becoming impaled or worse… Most either did not notice or did not care and as I chugged along these self absorbed racers quickly became my favorites.

I had a plan, you see. I had done my preride and new that the first support stop was 4 miles up from the scene of my debacle. I would put safety first and gingerly ride to the stop where, I imagined, a large truck with any number of decals designed to suggest and inspire an active lifestyle would have a large selection of bicycle components available for immediate sale. I shrugged aside all other thoughts and soldiered on.

There was no shop truck at the stop but there was a Wisconsin tagged “Hunters Edition” pick-em-up truck with rust holes the size of bear ears and the flannel clad owner of said truck was only too happy to present me with the greatest fix-all known to humankind, duct tape. Don’t be shy with it, he advised so I wrapped a few pounds of the West Virginia chrome over the seat and around the post and even tried some advanced “cantilevering” of the saddle by wrapping long swaths of the stuff from the nose of the saddle to the top tube and the rear of the saddle to the seat stays. I knew it would not work for sitting but at least it would be sort-of safe now. Maybe. By my count at least 17 racers snuck by me while I labored but I may have missed a few (hundreds?).

I again rejoined the competition and was soon charging along as fast as I could stand. Funny eh? My repair work must have appeared discreet as I heard far fewer comments than before. Still many promises of free beer for finishing. It was a long way to go and I thought about quitting once or twice but the idea of it did not appeal to me much and I kept going and passed lots of folks. The traffic was intense at times and I climbed quite a few of the hills calling out “on your left” repeatedly as I rode the very edge of the trail.

Eating and drinking were quite difficult without being able to sit so I did not do much of either. I stopped at 00 (road) and had a ClifShot and drank some water and I was able to drink a couple of times when the route was flat and smooth but those areas were few and far between. Around 9 miles to go my right quads started to cramp, I had been standing on that leg most of the time as I coasted so I switched to the left leg which got me all the way to 5 to go before it too started to cramp. My hands were torched from leaning on them for so long and braking on the bumpy descents was torture. When I got to the last couple of miles I was feeling so good that I had pressed to finish that I found a little bit more energy to pass a few more people before the descent to the finish saw me dusted by the “freeride” crowd as they caught air on the berms and whooped it up, easily blowing by me.

I finished in three hours and two minutes, 697th place. Nobody gave me a beer. I hope and hope and hope I can get in to race again next year, I would love to be part of this again. Jesse Lalonde won the overall on his single speed, he is an amazing athlete and the Eppens (16th place overall on that tandem of theirs!) introduced me after. He commiserated even in his glorious moment. His story is here and it is really good. There are lots of pictures at the official race site here in the results section. I am waiting for a post race photo, for now I offer the aftermath photo.


The most glorious finish


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    tarik said,

    Sweeet, well done. 40 miles standing is serious biz. Congrats and givem hell next year.

  2. 2

    JEN said,

    Holy crap, you’re a bad ass! (no pun intended) 40 miles with NO SEAT? C-razy awesome.

  3. 3

    […] excited to get in through the lottery two years in a row and I am hoping for some redemption after the incident last year.  That looks like a pretty good season to me, drop in a few local races and it looks […]

  4. 4

    […] feeling like I might be able to put in a good ride at Chequamegon in three weeks.  As long as no important pieces fall off my bike this […]

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