Saturday, October 20, 2007

For a good time call Paul Belknap...Northern Wisconsin CX racing complete with all the trimmings!!!

With only 66 miles from my house, Ashland’s BayCross 2007 was a CX prospect too sweet to pass up!!!! And once again a grand time was had by all; which only adds further to my conclusion that when it comes to bike racing, Wisconsin has it figured out!!!! The grassroots event is put on by a small, but growing group of local enthusiastic cyclists coupled with a contingency of committed recreational youth directors. Their inspirational leader is Paul Belknap, a youthful visionary endowed with a mound of most impressive curly hair that is hard to miss!!! It is such leadership and commitment that will enable this race to just keep getting bigger and better. After the races were completed, Paul was already getting fired up for next year, when he hopes to have a consummate weekend race series complete with two separate race venues…
Although the Northland has been inundated with rain the past three weeks, a shy reluctant sun even made a rare appearance as the races began… The promoters had promised a “wicked good time” and they did not disappoint! This course was exactly what one would expect from a “classic” cyclocross including lots of mud, triple barriers, a strong headwind as one pounded along the perimeter of a big field (featuring curious, even supportive horses on ones right, behind a pictureques old fence), a “sand-trap”, two short sections of dicey twisty single track, a little loose gravel, a quick run-up, and even a dramatic river crossing!

Apart from the writer, Mike Weispfenning and his lovely wife, and Shawn Gort and his whole entourage including two top-notch offspring and lovely wife, and another fellow and wife of whom I met for the first time- all represented Duluth in fine form. Note: It is the author’s sincere hope that next year more Duluthians will make the trip over to support this top notch race, Mike Haag was especially conspicuously missing-in-action :( ... In any event, Mike W’s wife in a fine effort, took second in the B race!!!! The A race was comprised of about 10 to maybe 15 racers? The obvious favorite was the multi-talented Scott Chapin of Hayward who has always been a strong cyclist (and skier & runner), but this has been a “break-out” year for him with most impressive finishes in many races this season. Therefore, the writer’s forlorn strategy was to attempt to shamelessly hug his wheel for as long as possible and hope that he would break a chain or get a flat. Accordingly, after the initial start (which required running to ones bike) I nestled in behind Scott’s wheel and steeled myself for 60 minutes of blatant opportunistic drafting. At my age, there is no such thing as pulling through!…Doing his duty, he pulled me and the rest of the group through the flat field (with the significant headwind) and as the group took the hard right onto the gravel railroad grade, I was still right where I needed to be. Then suddenly just before we were required to take a hard loose-gravel descending right onto some muddy-slick rutted terrain, big old Mike blasts out and takes off, Scott reacted in kind as I did, but I was too slow, so as we headed into the tricky river crossing it was Scott in the lead followed by Mike and then the rest of us including everybody’s buddy and all-around great guy, Aaron Swanson. Although deep and slippery, Scott cruised the crossing with no problem, but Mike of whom I was following closely, hit the water’s edge at a weird angle which sent him cavorting headfirst into a substantial tree. It looked like it hurt something awful (apparently he cracked his helmet he hit it so hard). The crash caused a complete halt to any forward progress. Standing in the river, I looked up and just caught a glimpse of Scott riding away. Mike went on to finish the race, although I’d give his crash a #4+ on the Scotty Johnson Scale of Narley Bike Crashes (SJNBC-see below for explanation of scale). After we all got out of the creek, the race was back on and while Mr. Chapin easily kept the rest of us at bay, increasing his solo lead with every lap, the other top spots were, at least for the next couple of laps, frequently changing hands making for exciting and fun racing. Plus there were lots of spectators cheering everybody on!!! Ultimately, it was a great time for all and at the conclusion the racers and family members were all treated to a plethora of sweet breads, life-giving coffees, brownies, even cheese dogs!!!! This is a wonderful local event!!!!
Note: the SJSNBC is a practical scale or "std. measure" used to offer context and relativity to a particular bicycle crash. A #1 being a hard fall to the floor resulting in abrasions. etc. A medium ranged score of a #5 or #6 usually involves full-on pain with broken appendages and bike parts...a #7 0r #8 usually requires the use of an ambulance. While the #9s and #10s involve cosmic pain, season-ending injury, and/or catastrophic bike destruction. Thankfully, the writer has never witnessed a full-on #10 but I did see a #9+ which was the infamous Scotty Johnson crash several years-ago (for whom the scale is honorably named). Letz just say that the crash involved a high-speed, high-impact collision with one's private-sensitive area and a top-tube followed quickly by another high-speed, high-impact to the same area by another biker. Scotty took the severe dual hits while well into the single-track and so then had to wait considerable time for the transport to the ambulance. He wiled away agony by eating the readily available soil and vegetation, removing his bloodied shorts, and by crawling and clawing partially naked into a shallow pit near the crash site...and well, it just gets uglier...but one gets the picture...a #9 is very very bad!


  1. Great narrative, though I thought you might add that Mike's crash (at least from my position) had a helicopter spin like quality to it - both him & the bike. I figured the waters would part like Moses and the Red Sea after see that happen. Great race Charlie, you just kept driving it and road away from the rest of us youngsters. Many thanks to you for coming over and racing this past weekend! Best of luck the remainder of the season -- I'll be anxiously awaiting your elequent blog entries.

  2. The hair on that dog on your post..... I think that's something that could actually be in Paul's league. Impressive!