By Luke Ramseth
A report on my trip to Madison, Wisc. for Collegiate Road Bike Nationals.
One word can sum up my weekend in the Midwest: Brutal.
I took a red-eye flight out of Arcata Wednesday evening, and didn’t get into Madison until mid-morning on Thursday. This was my first mistake. My legs and my body felt drained on Thursday after only a couple hours sleep on the plane, and I wandered like a zombie around Madison trying to find some good food and coffee to stuff myself with.
My friend Scot Ferguson of UNR picked me up bright and early Friday morning for the road race out at Blue Mounds State Park. It wasn’t raining, but it was damn chilly. By the time we got to the race it was dumping rain, and it wouldn’t let up for the rest of the day. The “oh shit, we have to ride four hours in this?” looks were in full-effect, from riders and officials alike as we rolled out neutral to start the race, wheel spray blasting our faces. I believe the correct term for this sort of race is a “slog.” A really cold slog.
First lap, I think I’m feelin’ good. I took off my jacket, even though it was still raining (second mistake) and rode near the front. Then the climb to finish the first of five laps comes around and my legs suddenly felt dead. Great, I think. But maybe they’ll come around. Second lap, I got shelled even harder on the same climb, and it took more out of me to chase back on the descent. By the fourth lap, I’m soaked to the bone and shivering. My legs are unfunctional, probably the same as the forty or so other riders who decided to call it a day. The fourth time up the climb, I got dropped HARD. I was going backwards, which rarely happens to me on a climb. My legs didn’t respond when I tried to chase. One other dropee and myself tried in vain to get back on the dwindling group ahead. I felt relegated to ride it in by myself, and then I spotted the small group just up the road give it one more go. Using up the last of my energy, I catch back up, only to get shelled on the next little rise in the road. Ouch. After shivering by myself for a few miles, I stop to put back on the jacket I should’ve been wearing the whole time. After the finish, I sat in Scot’s rental car with the heat cranked for probably 20 minutes, not able to stop shivering. I’ve never been so stoked “just to finish” a bike race in my life.
Saturday’s crit was went better. Blustery, but not rainy. The start was pumped, as riders got called up. Fans lined the half mile four-corner course around Wisconsin’s Capitol building. A slight uphill between corners three and four. Dave Towle says “and HERE WE GO! IT’S ABOUT TO DETONATE!” and we were off. There was lots of nervous energy in the bunch, as riders dodged large cracks on all four corners. Relentess attacks from the gun, and every time we went up the slight riser, the pack got strung way out.
I hung out in the bunch, and marked a couple of moves. Without teammates I figured it was smart to wait it out and gun it on the riser last lap. That’s pretty much how it played out, but the 70 other guys who hadn’t been dropped by the blistering pace had precisely the same idea. Mesa State had a killer lead-out train, and floored it for the last three laps or so. I hung mid-pack, but there was hardly any chances to move up, so that’s about where I sprinted from. The final kick was chaos, I never once let off the gas but still only ended up 18th. Mesa State played it perfectly and got one of their riders the win.
It’s on to some summer riding and racing in Humboldt. I’ve been hearing rumors that Mr. President Justin Graves wants to hold a collegiate MTB race in the Community Forest next semester! Ooooh boy, I’ll keep ya’ll posted. Ride it out.