[In a hurry? Then skip to the summary]
First of all if you are reading this (unless you are Doug Swanson, or maybe Kyia Anderson) chances are very very good that you are NOT gonna literally win the Chequamegon 40.
So in the interest of fair play, accountability, and transparency, the first thing you need to do in order to prepare for victory is to personally redefine what it means to “win.” Itz OKAY! Itz no big deal to redefine what it means to win, politicians do it all the time. In my little world, I will win if I can finish in the Top 50 overall. My race is not with guyz like Swanson, Hall, the Brothers Lalonde, or any number of top guyz (roadies and mountain bikers, as well as some ‘crossers and even a tandem team) that will beat me no matter how well I ride. So for little old me, I will be victorious if I can perhaps somehow muster the strength and luck to draw off the second and third tier guyz (in the evolving initial chase groups) to the extent that I can pull off a 50th place finish. Indeed, part of the appeal of this full fledged fall “classic” is the depth of competition. While I can’t remember off hand how many times I have raced it, I am sure that the number is over ten (maybe as high as twelve) and even way back in 1986; the first year I raced it, the field was incredibly competitive (that year I believe Greg Lemond won it!!!). A main reason for the relatively high competitiveness of this race lies in the fact that the lay-of-the-land lends itself to favor fast and bold roadies and fast and bold mountain bikers. Especially in dry weather, the number of serious contenders for the literal win may easily number fifteen or even more! Thatz alot of serious "contenders", not to mention the hundreds of "pretenders." Note: Given the competitiveness, the speed, and the sheer numbers of racers at the Chequamegon, a top 50 finish represents a notable achievement for any and all riders except for a real minority of elite racers and if a really fast guy gets a flat or drops a chain, he/she too usually is out of contention for there is no room nor time for playing catch-up as the pace is just too fast. The author has only managed to finish up that high three times…but who knows, maybe this is my year!
The second most important consideration in achieving personal victory pertains to the proper management of the initial twenty minutes or so of the race and thus involves a concerted effort at energy conservation. Specifically, the second most important thing involves ones approach to adequately dealing with the tenuous balancing act of not starting out too fast (and thus burning out too soon and therefore getting dropped from a chase group) and yet starting fast enough to allow for proper positioning once the perspective chase groups start to form after leaving Rosie’s Field and the initial Birkie rollers. On those rare occasions where I have enjoyed a top 50 finish, I have been able to resist the compelling urge to blast out of the gate once the front group leaves Hayward and yet I have also been able to be in position to jump onto the end of a fast chase group leaving the field and to hold on long enough until the inevitable slow-down-to-gather-and-refocus occurs within the group. It has been four or five years since I pulled off a good effort at the Chequamegon, but if my memory serves me correctly I played it smart by holding back and riding with a big group well past the halfway point. From experience, I know I am in good shape for a top 50 spot usually if I can get to the halfway point in somewhere around 60th place provided that I am in a good chase group (riding alone in this race is a big NO NO, this is a pack ride, think wolf pack).
Another big factor in achieving your victory is staying on your bike as much as possible. I have never rode a clean Chequamegon (but I rarely get on my bike w/o crashing) and I am sure that I will probably crash at least once in the one coming up on Saturday, but the key is to not crash at a pivotal moment in the race. Intuitively, one would think that since the course is relatively straightforward crashes would be comparatively rare, but given the speeds, the excitement, the twitchy/neurotic roadies, the hung-over MTBers, the sketchy gravel, the slippery grass, and the vast numbers of racers; crashes are an integral part of the experience. Several years ago I took part in an outrageous crash that occurred about three-quarters way through Rosie’s Field. Feeling good, I was flying along in a perfect spot and yet for some dumb reason I was looking around when suddenly with full force I hit an unforeseen grassy ditch causing me to take a full-on header over the handlebars. I hit Mother Earth hard, curled up, and braced myself for the expected throngs of bodies and bikes to hit me and I was not disappointed. It was carnage on a massive scale. The big crash probably involved at least ten racers with one poor guy puncturing his lung and thus having to be evacuated by helicopter. I was unhurt, but also decidedly quite unpopular among my peers and both of my super expensive Mavic CrossMax wheels were wrecked beyond repair. While I was able to slamm’em into good enough shape to complete the race, upon finishing I did not stick around to celebrate!
So there you have it…the secret to victory.
Here are the nuts and bolts of what I am trying to convey above: How to win the Chequamegon 40:
1.) Redefine winning, but aim high…(No worries--politicians do it all the time...just think Iraq)
2.) Rein in the initial energy surge or “ride smart” at the start…
3.) Find a group and jump in and shamelessly draft and do not lead…
4.) Take risks (itz a race) but try not to crash especially at the beginning and on the super fast gravel road sections…
5.) Have Fun and remember no matter how fast you are there will always be someone faster…so relax!!!
6.) Remember to combine hydration, carbo-loading, and beer drinking the night before to build stamina and after the race to enhance recovery...