In the midwest all you need to say is the 40, and mountain bikers know what race that is. Of course almost every year a big name racer will come and see what the fuss is all about. In the past we have had a couple of Tour de France racers win it and a number of top national pro mt bikers have a go, so I wonder who might make the trip this year. Maybe Lance maybe someone else, we'll wait and see.
This year has been a way different season for me as I chose not to race much. Before the 40 I only did one race and it was a very short race at Buck Hill. My "training" this year has been riding to and from work, which is about 50 miles a day, but it is not the training I am used to. When I ride to work it is usually pretty hard and steady on a cross bike, so if there was a race that would fit that type of riding, the 40 would be it. The other thing against me is I am on my feet all day at work, so I was not sure if they would feel tired in a race. Well, anyways, I wanted to head up to Hayward to give it a shot.
Lots of rain fell over Wisconsin in the days leading up to race day, so I was really liking that. The course is never muddy for the front racers, but lots of big water holes make it interesting at 20-25 mph. You have a split second to decide to bomb the middle hoping it is not 2 feet deep or you must pick a side, some sides will slow you down so good luck choosing. I think the rain helped the usually dry, sandy trails become very fast and packed down, thus the faster times. I also love the mud and rain during a race so I was pumped.
I went up Friday afternoon with pops and my family to Melissa's aunts' "cabin" about a half hour from Hayward. Arrived about 7 and had a great supper and I got to sleep at a pretty good time. Woke up Saturday to gray skies but no rain yet. I ate, packed, and headed to the start. The nerves started to kick in a bit as I started to see all the fast guys, man what an atmosphere with 1800 bikers and a huge crowd waiting to wish us well on our adventure to Cable.
This year the road section was very fast with a group of about 25 of us breaking from the main pack before we hit the dirt. I think it made it safer for the 4 wheelers to stay close to us with high speeds to string out the pack. The legs felt great so I was happy with that and was looking to sit in for a bit and get warmed up. The pace was fast but nothing to worry about as guys would take shots on making a break but as we reached the trail head at 'OO', the pack was still 15 strong and I wasn't liking that. The pace always picks up a few miles after 'OO', which is about the half way point. As we hit Janet gravel Road a few more attacks were under way as one racer got a little gap. The next turn off the road is always a place for the riders feeling good to have a go. I must have felt good because I went and it stuck. Passing the other racer I built a gap and kept pushing it to try to get out of sight. It is a bit tricky in that section of the race as there is a long rocky down hill, big mud holes, and some short steep climbs. Once I got that gap I went into "ride to work mode", and road hard. I felt great but I had no idea what I would feel like in 15 miles so I tried not to kill myself. Now being by myself for the last 15 miles and only about 6 to go I thought "Could this really be happening?" Just then I heard the 4 wheeler coming and a lone rider, ah shit! Not knowing who it was I thought "just stay with him and see what happens in the end." He came fast so at first I thought he was going to leave me for the wolves, but I dug deep and hug on. The surge got me going as I felt pretty good and got back in front as he sat on me. The pace was still fast and I felt good so the plan was to take him in the woods with 2 to go. Push it, push it, damn who is this guy? Here we go-the last climb, there he goes-the winner-NO! Man who is this guy? I gave it all on the last climb, but could not get back on. Well, here comes the finish bowl with thousands of people screaming and second place on the day, not bad. Wow what a day! By the way it was the 2007 U.S. national champ and the 2nd place finisher at worlds for cyclo-cross, Jonathan Page. I will be back one year from now for another crack at the 40.