Saturday, February 02, 2013

Triple D Number 5

One might think that a bike race of the same length, running through just about the same locale and held at just about the same time every year might become boring. But Triple D has somehow managed to do the opposite and have a distinctly different feel every year it's been run. My fifth attempt at it was no exception.

This year featured a new venue, a substantial variation in the route, no snow and lots of ice. The field grew again, from maybe 70-some last year to around 100 this year. Part of the increase was the lack of snow tipping a number of skiers over to the bike event. Still, the growth of fat biking and winter cycling must also have had an effect.

We had had major snow events back in December, including a blizzard that left much of northeastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin with almost two feet of snow, but most of that had melted by race day. The temperature the day before hit 47˚F, and a pre-ride of the course was very spongy, with open water on the creek crossings. The night before the race, a front blew in out of the northwest on gusts of up to 50mph, and the temperature dropped into the single digits.

The missus and I drove from Madison to Dubuque the day before the race and set up camp at the Best Western Plus.
Went to dinner with a friend from Madison at the Star Brewery that night (pretty good, really), prepped the bike and turned in early. Got up early the next morning and had a hearty breakfast, went to the pre-race and saddled up right about 10 o'clock.
We rolled out on about a mile of pavement and to the starting point in a cul de sac at the bottom of a hill. A bit of a bottleneck on the narrow trails, and then on to the first creek crossing.

(photo courtesy of Troy Pearce)

The first creek we crossed was frozen, and the mad rush was on through some pretty rough territory.
(photo courtesy of Troy Pearce)

Then there was some industrial park, a bit of pavement at about mile 3 to mile 4.5 and then back into the rough through a cattle range. It was here, coming off a snowmobile bridge like the one in this photo, that I miscalculated on the icy egress and biffed it to my left.
(photo courtesy of Troy Pearce)

Banged my left knee and elbow good on the frozen manure next to the trail, which, in addition to being very hard, has a very rough texture. Worse, I jammed the heck out of my left thumb. Knowing without looking that I was bleeding from a torn nail and scraped knee, I stood the bike up as Lance rode by, replied with an "I think so" to his asking whether I was okay, and threw my leg back over the bike. Quite painful at first, but remarkable what the endorphins will do for a guy.

More rough, the fairgrounds (with a new hook to the right and back over the railroad tracks) and then over Seippel Rd. and out into the farm fields.
(photo courtesy of Troy Pearce)

A lot of bare ground in the fields, and a lot of ice and crusty snow. I stuck to the snow as much as possible because it was faster. The leaders made a wrong turn not too far into this section, and it cost them a good ten minutes. I managed to stay on course and kept a pretty decent pace, somewhere in the top ten. As we climbed again before crossing Humke Rd., I got off and pushed a bit so I could eat and drink and was passed by Ben Oney. Then over Humke, through a few more fields and then down into a super-gnarly wooded section. Had this been a snowmobile trail with good snow cover, it would have been an unmitigated blast. But it was pretty icy and I gotta say that it required a steady hand on the tiller and a willingness to keep the speed in check. Came around a little corner to a huge patch of ice at the bottom and had to brake hard and pull left to avoid another biff. Lance skidded to a stop behind me and chose to ride around it in the rough. After a coupla more snowmobile bridges, we came to the foot of a quarter-mile, 600-foot climb.
(photos courtesy of Troy Pearce)

A couple of farm fields later (alfalfa this time, thankfully) and we came out onto Sundown Rd. There was maybe a mile of pavement here and we dropped back into the fields as we crossed Humke again. Another drop down into a wooded area, a confrontation with a downed tree across the trail, and soon after, a mad dash through a horse pasture with the leaders (some guy turned to me at one point as we were running over piles of horse apples and said "those ain't walnuts," as if I'd never seen a horse turd before!) Then a creek crossing and one more decent-sized climb before coming out onto Potter Hill Rd. I stopped here and used a CO2 to bring my tires up from 6psi to about 10. Jumped on with Frank and a coupla skinny riders as we dropped down the hill and picked up the Heritage trail just east of Graf.

Heritage is normally a snowmobile trail, but this year it was exposed limestone in the middle with icy margins and hardpacked snow at the edges. Sometimes bare all the way across, sometimes icy all the way across; sometimes ice with no snow at the edges, and even a few spots with snow all the way across. Here at mile 14 began the 15-mile odyssey to the halfway point in Dyersville.

Frank called on me to work with him to push the pace into the headwind, but I was a bit too spent to really hang on. He latched up with a skinny rider and they pulled away from me within a mile or two. There were two bridges under repair along this stretch, and one required that we negotiate about 30 yards of flowing water. Fortunately, there was a narrow bank to walk along while rolling the bike in the stream. One of the skinny riders with me at the time was not so lucky. He stumbled and got at least his left hand and forearm submerged in icy creek water. Shortly after this section, my rear wheel washed out when I tried to shift tracks on the trail and I went down a second time. Pretty minor, but my thumb definitely hurt. Another creek crossing, a bridge covered completely with 4 inches of glare ice, the tunnel under Holy Cross Rd. full of ice—all hazard, and all requiring full attention.

After the tunnel, I jumped on with two skinnies, and we conspired to buck the headwind into Dyersville. We caught Frank after a bit, and he told me, having had enough of the ice, that he was going to drop at the halfway point. I bid him good race and continued on, passing a defeated-looking Dennis Grelk and someone else I didn't know. We were pretty close to Dville this year by the time we passed AJ Turner and Drew Wilson coming the other way in the lead. Steve Wasmund and (I think) Alex were not far behind. Caught another skinny as we came into town, and signed in at Chad's at 1:03.

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