Land of the frost-heaved pavement
It seems as if every road in Wisconsin has frost heaves every 5 feet. After 6 days of riding, my hands were sore. Even an easy spin after arriving on day 1 created a challenge to find a smooth section of road. The worst was the race in Racine. By the end of the race my triceps were fatigued from road shock.
But I was told: there is no such thing as bad pavement, only too-skinny tires.
Mmmm … Bacon
One evening I went to see a movie at the mall megaplex not far from the hotel. Since I was early, I wandered through the mall for a bit. As one would expect, the mall stores gave no indication that I was in Wisconsin. I could have been anywhere. Except for the bacon kiosk. In the middle of the mall was a rather large kiosk selling bacon and other assorted fat-laden meats. I considered getting some to take into the movie, so that I might fit in as a local. But I was afraid of puking it up at the next day’s race.
Stay to the Right
Criterium courses are closed to traffic, and race organizers do a pretty good job of keeping cars and pedestrians off the course. You might hear of an incident where a car gets on the course, but it’s pretty rare. But other bikes? In the Cedarburg race, I was in a breakaway with another rider. In the middle of the race, we made a right turn, taking the usual line of far left lane to far left lane. After the turn we looked up to see an old guy coming at us on his city bike waving and yelling at us to stay to the right. Luckily there were just the two of us, and not a field of 75 guys. I still can’t figure out whether the guys was mad there was a race going on, or whether he was a little “off”, or both.
Royal Cheese from Outer Space
It’s no secret that Wisconsinites are known as cheeseheads. But did you know there is a “cheese castle”? On the way to the race in Kenosha you pass by the Mars’ Cheese Castle. It’s not a castle made out of cheese, but a store where you can buy cheese, sausage, and other artery-clogging delicacies. I considered stopping and buy some, but it didn’t seem appealing as either pre- or post-race food.
Some People Like to Talk
Every one of the Superweek races requires a set of volunteers — to marshal the courses in particular. They always seem friendly. I talked to a mom and her daughter marshaling the Cedarburg race. When they found out I came all the way from Ohio, they decided to root for me during the race. This turned out to be the race I won, so I’m thinking I need to recruit someone at every race from now on.
In addition to the marshals some of the races have police at intersections. In Racine I was at one of the corners, watching the race prior to ours. The cop was trying to get someone to answer their walkie-talkie.
He turned to me and said, “it’s a damn cluster-f—“. He wasn’t talking about the race, or the racers, but the incompetence of the other guys he was working with. I guess it doesn’t matter what you do. You’re always surrounded by incompetence.
Does Anyone Stay in Illinois for the Weekend?
In 2001 I stayed until the last race on Sunday in Whitefish Bay. As I drove south out of Wisconsin along with half of the population Illinois, I swore I would never do that again. As it turns out, leaving Friday afternoon is no better. It appears that no one in Illinois stays there for the weekend. Half of them must go to Wisconsin, and the other half must go to Michigan. The roads were a clogged mess until hitting Gary, Indiana, where they magically opened up again.
The scary part is driving around Chicago. I’ve driven in Boston and New York City, navigated my car through Munich, Duesseldorf, and Stuttgart. But nothing compares to the drivers around Chicago. 70mph in a 45mph work zone is slow. It also appears to be customary to change lanes two lanes at a time, without signaling (passing on either the right or left).
I remember telling this to a colleague from our Milwaukee office.
“We have a term for them”, he told me. “FIBs”. “F—ing Illinois Bastards”. (yeah, you can even google it, and find this.)
Next year, I drive back either late at night or early morning.