Fyxation Crits at ToAD and Memories of Superweek and ToAD

This weekend, Mark and I are announcing Race # 2 in the Fyxation Fixed Gear Crit Series in Milwaukee. These races take place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We will be there for Friday to watch and hang out, and Saturday to announce, and we can't wait to bombard you with Wham!, schtick, and banter. But in the meantime, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Superweek/ToAD memories. 

Otto Grunski, Super Week, 1999-ish.

I think it was 1999, anyway. Maybe it was 98. It definitely wasn't 2000. Or, was it? I'm going to go back and make it "1999-ish."

There. Done.

In any case, this was my very first criterium (and road) race. Mark and Sean's Patented Criterium Bicycle Race Gap Rating System wasn't even a sparkle in my eye. Until that point, I had been just a mountain biker and WORs racer. But according to the Natural Progression of Things, I got a road bike for "training." And as is also according to the Natural Progression of Things, I signed up for a criterium because I'd been riding a road bike lots.

It's always a good idea to make your first foray into something new more challenging than it should be, so it only made sense to sign up for Otto Grunski. Those of you who remember this particular version of the Otto Grunski will remember that the course featured three turns, and turn three was a doozy: about a 150-degree hairpin after a long straightaway. The course looked benign to the casual observer, but that turn always had everyone's full attention. 

When my Cat. 4/5 compatriots and I toed the line that day, the sky was dark and ominous, and as we were getting our instructions from the official, the sky let out a streak of lighting and a ground-shaking thunderclap. All our heads turned upward and then back down to scan each other's faces. Then the rain came. A torrential downpour dropped bomblets of water from the heavens and I remember thinking there was no way we were going to race. But the show must go on, right? 

We stood there at the start line for what seemed like an hour as the rain and thunder began to subside. I remember looking down at my tires - Michelin Pro 3's - which, like many modern racing tires had no tread. Given my zero criterium experience, the rain, and the hairpin turn, these certainly wouldn't have been my first choice of tire, but what did I know? I know that I was thinking, "I'm going to die," and wondering if I got struck by lightning would my carbon bike insulate me from electrocution?

With the rain still coming down, though with less vigor, we actually began the race. I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I just concentrated on getting through turn three without running into anyone. You know, "holding my line," which is probably the most common/annoying piece of advice criterium riders will give to each other during a race. The other obstacle of note was the dip on the backside of the course. (Menasha's first mistery?). If you've raced this course, you remember the dip, and on this day it was full of about two inches of water. Not really a challenge, but also not something you normally see on a crit course. Though if I were a race promoter... 

Anyway, with X number of laps to go (was it five? Eight? I can't remember.) I found myself off the front. I was surprised because I didn't attack - I probably didn't even know what "attacking" was -  I just sort of rode normally and when I looked back there was a Sizeable gap. I though, now what do I do? Clearly the field was lolligagging, so I stopped thinking about my tires and holding my lines, and just rode hard. I remember the excitement of being in a solo breakaway. Getting out of the saddle to regain my momentum after each time through turn three. Putting my head down and pedalling as hard as I could on those long straightaways. Hearing my name on the PA as I passed through the Start/Finish. Seeing a group of friends cheering every time I passed through turn two. I remember wondering if I was going to win my first criterium in a solo breakaway. 

Ha ha hahaha ha ahaaha ahahahahaahahaa!!! (Eye-rolling emoji.)

Of course not! I got caught with one to go, as is often part of the Natural Progression of Things. But even though I was gassed I managed to rally for 14th place. Which, while not all that impressive a finish, it was in the money back in the glorious days of Super Week and I took home $25. Think about that. 14th place, Cat. 4/5. $25! My race fee was covered, and I was hooked.  

Tour of Holy Hill, Super Week, 2005

I should have saved this one for last because it is probably my favorite road race memory, period. But I've decided to go chronologically, and I'm sticking with that decision. 

In 2005 I was living in Washington State and I was fresh off a collegiate racing season with the Western Washington University Cycling Team in which I'd finished 7th overall in the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, and my team had qualified for Nationals for the first time in it's history. After racing in the Cascade Classic in Bend, OR, I decided to head home to visit my parents and do a few Super Week races. The crits I did were uneventful except for that two out of three of them ended in crashes, (I stayed upright, but they marred the finishes) and the Lake Shore race I did ended in mass confusion as the officials neutralized our race literally right before the finish so the Pro/1/2 field could pass us.  I mean, as we were lining up to sprint, the official on the moto told us to shut it down so they could pass. They had more racing to do! We were finishing! No one knew what was going on. It was chaos.

I'm still bitter about that one. But I digress. (Smiling emoji.)

The Tour of Holy Hill, though: that was the race I was most excited about. I'd never done any of the road stages at Super Week in the past and I was looking forward to this one. It was hot as Hades and super windy. The field featured some pretty great riders, including Cole House and Matt Busche. I have known Cole since he was 10 years old; we raced on the same mountain bike team way back when, and racing with him in the previous days I knew to keep an eye on him. But I had no idea who Matt Busche was at the time. Maybe nobody really did? Except for his Advantage Endeavor team mates. Back then he was still just a college kid transitioning from running to cycling. 

The race started fast with lots of attacking. By the start of the second lap, a break of five riders had formed that included me and Matt. Halfway through the second lap it was just me and Matt as we had whittled away the other riders one by one. Initially I was looking forward to riding the rest of the race in a two-up break, but by the end of the second lap it became clear that I was no match for my breakaway partner. Every one of those short, punchy hills on the course became a struggle to hold Matt's wheel, and by the end of the second lap, he had ridden away from me. But I wasn't going to give up. By the time it all fell apart we had already created Formidable gap and I figured if I just put my head down and powered through I had a good chance of finishing in second place, and I just might catch Matt. 

Well, as you might have guessed, catching Matt was impossible for me, but I spent the rest of the race in No Man's Land and I actually loved every painful second of it. I eventually crossed the line in second place and Matt was there, waiting. In a lounge chair. Under an umbrella. Sipping a Corona. Doing a crossword...

Just kidding. Though I'm pretty sure he beat me by anywhere from four to fourteen minutes. They didn't keep time, just places, so that saved me the embarrassment of having everyone being able to see how severely he'd beaten me. We rode back to the parking lot together while the rest of the group finished racing for third, and chatted. He couldn't have been nicer, or more humble (as the fastest guys almost always are, I've noticed over the years) and he even apologized for not sticking with me in the break. I just laughed and told him I was sorry I couldn't keep up. 

After the trip, I went back to Washington, so I had no idea that Matt would go on to dominate Wisconsin cycling and then become pro. It wasn't until he won the National Championship in 2011 and I saw his face in Velo News that I started to put the whole story together. Gosh, he looks familiar, I thought, and began to scour the internet for Super Week results. I found them from 2005 and sure enough, there it was: Tour of Holy Hill, 1st Place: Matt Busche; 2nd Place: Sean Brandenburg (still no time gaps. Yes!) No wonder he crushed me! He's a Super Human! Still, In my mind, I beat the rest of the mere mortals and at least one other Super Human that day. 

Appleton, ToAD, 2010. 

This was my second criterium after taking a few years off. And by "off," I mean, "off." I hadn't even swung a leg over a top tube for about three years. I was a little nervous, but very excited since the race was in my hometown, and I'd be racing with a couple friends, including Marky. The course was big and rectangular and went right down College Avenue in downtown Appleton, a street I'd ridden a bike down hundreds of times.

I'd watched a couple of the other races earlier in the day, and I was certain the race would end in a sprint. (A Cat. 3 crit? End in a sprint?? I know, I'm a regular Amazing Kreskin.) My plan was simple: be watchful at the front, then be the first man through the last corner and hope either Marky or another team mate could get on my wheel. It worked almost to perfection. There were several attacks throughout the race, and many Paltry Gaps formed, but this group of racers was attentive so none of them were a threat to become Sizeable, or worse. As we came around for the Bell Lap, I waited patiently as we rounded corners one and two, then I made my move. 

Marky, third wheel, racing Appleton ToAD, 2010. Photo courtesy of Jeramy Werbelow.

Marky, third wheel, racing Appleton ToAD, 2010. Photo courtesy of Jeramy Werbelow.

I sprinted up the inside of the long, wide, backside straightaway and made it to the front in plenty of time to set up for the last two turns. The plan was working to perfection: Marky had grabbed onto my wheel as I raced past the pack. As I rounded turn three I saw a friend who was marshaling at corner four. He belted out a super-loud, super-long, "Yeeeaaaaahhhh Seeeaaann!" which actually made me laugh a little. I blasted through corner four, clicked up a couple gears and began sprinting. I knew I wouldn't make it to the line first because I'm not much of a sprinter, but I was certain I could hold onto a podium spot, and that I would see Marky come by me for the win.

Sean racing Appleton ToAD, 2010. Photo courtesy of Trove Photography

Sean racing Appleton ToAD, 2010. Photo courtesy of Trove Photography

He never did come by. What happened to him? After the race I learned that his chain had come off between corner three and four. He was Right There! But, that's bike racing, as they say. His mechanical didn't cause any crashes as we were single file and he simply widened out his turn to get out of the other racer's way. Such a Class Act. Two other riders did come past me as I faded but I was able to hold on to a podium spot.

Then there was that time during Super Week when I thought I road-rashed my...

Penis. There, I said it. Penis. I thought I road-rashed my penis. This was also back in 1999, and I know I said I was going to stick to chronological order but I've been debating this whole time whether or not I should mention this one. But hey, we're all friends here, right? And thinking about this story makes me laugh, and it's not often you can laugh about crashing.

I actually can't even remember which Super Week race this was, (Waukesha?) but it was after Otto Grunski, obviously, and maybe I was right to question the reliability of those Michelin Pro 3's. It was pretty early in the race and things were going swimmingly. I was getting the hang of racing crits, and riding and cornering in a big group. And then, just like that, I was on the ground. What the hell just happened? 

As we were going through one of the turns, I was positioned on the outside of the pack. I remember looking down and seeing a double yellow line (don't worry, we had the whole road, since it was a crit.) These particular yellow lines seemed to be raised up off the asphalt by a millimeter or two and to be made of some type of vinyl-esque-ish paint. My front tire rolled over one of the yellow lines and washed right out from under me. It was as though centripetal force shot me right out of the pack as they rounded the corner. Afterward, the whole non-drive side of my front tire was yellow from the paint. 

So there goes my front wheel, and with it the whole bike, right out from under me. As my bike shot out from under me, I basically hit the pavement still in the riding position, and kind of belly-flopped and began a painful slide. While I was skidding I felt Little Sean grinding on the asphalt along with my hip bones and palms and even before I stopped I began to push myself up off the pavement. When I came to a complete stop, I bolted the rest of the way up and reached into my shorts in a panic... 

...

After a quick, but thorough examination, I was overcome with a great sense of relief as everything down there was still in tact. Both of my hip bones had some nice, deep road rash, and my palms were scraped up (a terribly annoying thing to have happen, and how I learned to always wear gloves when racing,) but most importantly, I did not road rash my penis. Nothing else really mattered at that point. I was happy. Bloody, but happy. No results or money to speak of on this day, but hey, I didn't road rash my penis either.

There are many types of victories...

So we'll see you this weekend, right? 

Again, we'll be in Milwaukee Friday night to watch the races, and Saturday to announce the Fyxation Fixed Gear Crit. And we need a place to stay. Should I have mentioned that at the beginning? 

Maybe. 

Thanks for reading, 

-Mark and Sean

 

 

 

Mark and Sean's Patented Criterium Bicycle Race Gap Rating System

Good day ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to take a moment to refresh the memories of those who were in attendance at the NorthEast Wisconsin Ommium bicycle races, and to enlighten those who weren't, in regards to Mark and Sean's Patented Gap Rating System (Patent pending). 

Sometimes when one is taking in the local bicycle races, as events unfold it is useful to know how much space is between a group of riders who are attempting to "break away" from the "field" in hopes of achieving the fame and glory that comes along with winning a local USCF bicycle race, and the field itself. This information is useful to spectators and racers alike as it helps viewers understand how the race is developing, and can help racers gauge their efforts. Read on to learn how to measure a gap and watching a criterium race will be way, way, WAY more exciting than it already is. 

The Paltry Gap

This is not too be confused with a Poultry Gap, which is... well, to be honest, I have no idea what it is. But don't confuse the two! Anyway, a Paltry Gap is a small - budding, if you will - gap of just a few meters, or so. Paltry Gaps can vary in danger to the rest of the field based on how close they are to the finish of a race. For example, a Paltry Gap is all one needs to win a criterium from the final turn. A Paltry Gap could even be held for an entire lap, if a rider were so determined and had the moxy to attempt such a feat. On the other hand, Paltry gaps can close almost as instantly as they form. But every now and again, a Paltry Gap opens during a race and stretches out to a distance that is worthy of the field's full attention.

Whether due to a group of attacking riders putting their heads down and really getting after it, or to that daydreamer in front of you refusing to shut it down, a Paltry Gap may stretch out so that the proverbial elastic snaps. It is at this point that the gap has reached Level Two: Sizeable. 

The Sizeable Gap

A rider stretches his gap to The Early SIzeable Phase at the NEWO Diablo Crit. Photo courtesy of Jason Thiel. 

A rider stretches his gap to The Early SIzeable Phase at the NEWO Diablo Crit. Photo courtesy of Jason Thiel. 

"Hey, ummm, should we do something about this?" is a question you may overhear one rider asking another during a bicycle race when a gap transitions from Paultry to Sizeable. A Sizeable Gap can be a dangerous gap, no matter how many riders are up the road. Conversely, a Sizeable Gap can quickly be closed down by one strong and attentive racer. Either way, it is likely that the gap has progressed to Sizeable due to inattentiveness of riders in the field; a particularly strong rider, or group of riders in the break-away; or perhaps the use of "team tactics". (This is unlikely except in races featuring riders holding a vast number of Experience Points.) This inattention is the friend of the rider(s) at the business end of the Sizeable Gap

Recall that the proverbial elastic has been snapped, dear friend. There is no more proverbial elastic! If the aforementioned strong and determined gap-closing rider stayed home this day, or if "team tactics" are in use by riders with a great many Experience Points, the Sizeable Gap can easily progress to the third stage of Mark and Sean's Patented Criterium Bicycle Race Gap Rating System: Formidable.

The Formidable Gap

If the Sizable Gap is dangerous, the Formidable Gap can be deadly. By the time a gap reaches this stage the field should either be in a panic while mounting a last ditch coordinated effort to close the gap, or surrendering to their fates as Pack Fodder. When a gap reaches the Formidable phase at least one of two things have happened: 1) The break has formed a temporary but powerful alliance and has been riding a synchronized, rhythmic, and methodical Team Time Trial toward the podium, or, 2) The field has been in a daze, lolligagging around the course as though they were on a Monday night group ride that starts and ends at a brewery. Probably, it has been some combination thereof. 

In any case, if the field has any hope of closing down the Formidable Gap and maintaining some semblance of dignity, they must awaken from their stupor, disregard their jersey colors, and work together as though they paid some sort of entry fee to ride their bikes fast for an hour. For if they don't, the gap will reach Stage Four: Insurmountable. 

The Insurmountable Gap

Carlos and Albertos of Intelligence Coffee extend their gap to the Insurmountable Phase at the NEWO Diablo Crit. They would eventually lap the field. Photo courtesy of Jason Thiel. 

Carlos and Albertos of Intelligence Coffee extend their gap to the Insurmountable Phase at the NEWO Diablo Crit. They would eventually lap the field. Photo courtesy of Jason Thiel. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but once the gap has reached the Insurmountable Phase, it's all over the but the shouting. The break can now put it on Cruise Control until someone decides they want to win the race, while the best the pack can hope for is to avoid the humiliation of having to explaining to their friends and family that they were lapped. For all intents and purposes, the race is over and all that remains to be decided is which of the breakaway riders will take home the victory and if there are any podium or payout spots left for the field. 

So there you have it: The Mark and Sean Patented Criterium Bicycle Race Gap Rating System (Patent denied. Dammit!) We know there's a lot to remember and that it can be a little confusing deciding when gaps transitions between phases, but surely we have made bicycle racing much less confusing for the layperson. Read this post as many times as it takes for you to burn the Gap Rating System into your mind, and if you know of a better way to measure or describe the distance between the breakaway riders and the field, we'd like to hear it. 

 

Mark and Sean and A/P Productions

 

A couple weeks ago, as some of you probably already know, Mark and I were at the Northeast Wisconsin Omnium, AKA, "NEWO" in the Fox Valley. You also may have seen a dude with a fancy camera and some lights and stuff. That was our friend Jed, who lives in the Twin Cities and recently started his own production company, A/P Productions.

Jed and I grew up in Appleton together and made lots of action movies that were, as you can imagine, awesome. We mostly did all our own stunts, but every now and then we'd have to construct a stunt dummy to throw off of things like silos, or to run over with cars. Jed and I would spend hours editing the footage by hooking a VHS video camera up to a VCR. We figured out how to cut up the video to make the action scenes look like our favorite Jean Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, or Steven Segal movies. Then we'd add music, somehow. How did we do that? I can't even remember but it was, as you can imagine, awesome. 

Anyway, Jed has always had an intense love for movies of all kinds, and of course for making his own movies. So a few months ago, he quit his job and started A/P Productions, so it made perfect sense for us to work together since Mark and I had been dabbling in video for a while. The footage from this video was captured over the course of the NEWO and edited together by A/P Productions and it is, as you will see, awesome.  

We really didn't have a plan for what we wanted in a video, but we thought it might be a good thing to have to show people who are interested in having us at a race. Luckily for us, Jed is very talented and has a great vision. For most of the event, we hardly even knew he was there as he captured video of the doings that transpired throughout the weekend. We sat down for an interview and tried our hardest not to look like dolts. (We failed...) And then we said goodbye Sunday morning, finished NEWO, and waited. 

We couldn't be happier with what Jed came up with. It's a little over the top, but then again, so are we. 

 

Thanks for reading, 

-Mark and Sean

It's An Omnium, Everybody, And We Plan on Losing Our Voices.

When Sean and I first discovered bike racing, Wisconsin Super Week was in it's prime. If you're not currently a Master's racer, you're not old enough to remember that Super Week was a two-week race series that consisted almost entirely of critetiums. Basically, it was a lot like Tour of America's Dairyland, but longer. Super Week was awesome. There was music; famous actor/announcer, Eddy Van Guyse; Italian Stallion and cat-hating Hacksaw Jim Duggan impersonator, Roberto Gaggioli; and an actual international racer presence in Wisconsin (I seem to remember lots of Dutch racers, for some reason). To a couple of 20-ish year-old kids, and to every bike racer in Wisconsin, it is what we looked forward to each year. 

Back then, both of us were shiftless bums trying to decide what to do in life. Some may say not much has change but, a few important things have. We each married ladies who do a great job of tolerating our shenanigans. Also, I, for one, would have never been caught publicly expressing my enthusiasm for Katy Perry's considerable talents. Mostly that's because she wasn't around back then, and I was still super into Shania Twain, though I never would have admitted it. I would have been way too self-conscious and I couldn't have faced the ridicule from Sean, who was super into Dave Matthews Band. But honestly, which is worse? Actually, you know what's worse? We had a room mate at the time who was really, really into the musical, Rent. That was the worst. It's no wonder we became such good friends; we both hated Rent! Anyway, back to now: I love Katy Perry, so go ahead, do your worst. My ability to feel shame has diminished with age. It's sort of like a super power, now.

Ok, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, back to the awesome days of Super Week. The overall experience we had during Super Week is much of the motivation behind helping create great race events, today.  

Our first time at the mics for the 2011 Diablo Criterium. 

Our first time at the mics for the 2011 Diablo Criterium. 

When people put the time into making races great for racers and spectators, we get behind that. And do you know who throws a great race? Do you? I'll tell ya: the Diablo's, that's who. This group of late 30-something business professionals/cycling enthusiasts has teamed up with Team Wheel and Sprocket to put on one huge weekend of good old-fashioned pedal-strokin', leg-rippin'-offin', bike racin'. It's a three-day omnium called, NEWO (North East Wisconsin Omnium). It's in our home town and if all goes well, songs from Katy Perry will fill the air and we'll lose our voices. 

NEWO Flyer.

NEWO Flyer.

Since the Diablos started putting on their annual race they have become known for having a great event. From the food to the primes, to the course and sponsors, they make it a great atmosphere for everyone who shows up. We know because we've been there from the start.

I'm a little sentimental when it comes to this race. Sean and I have ridden with both these clubs for a number of years and the race is in our hometown. It is totally fun to see a community come together for events and leave with excitement for the next year. For me, what makes it particularly exciting is how the date is right in the middle of the WCA calendar. If you haven't read our blog about how we got started as race commentatorsyou wouldn't know the first bicycle race we ever announced was the Diablo Criterium. 

Finally, just the other day, we ordered the PA sound system for the weekend. This time is different. This time, we bought it. I never thought we would be working with different events where the consideration of buying a PA was going to enter my mind. After all, we're just two dudes too out of shape to ride our bikes fast, who love watching our friends do it. And some times we make fun of them while they do it and their wives laugh out loud. Just show up this weekend and you'll see what we mean.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I can't wait for these three days. (Did I say it before? No matter. I can't wait!)

Thanks for reading. 

 

Guest Bloggy! Brew City Biker - Spectating: A Gateway into Racing and Fun

We want to use markandsean.com to tell stories and feature the friends we make along the way and who make cycling in Wisconsin awesome. So we're really excited to have our first Guest Post! Beth Pickhard, who we met last year at the Door County Century, has graciously agreed to share her cycling Origin Story and to write about what it’s like for a rider to take part in a bike race that we commentate. (We hope it's fun!) Beth writes about bikes and beer on her blog, Brew City Biker, so be sure to head over there and check out her work. 


Your author, Beth Pickhard. 

Your author, Beth Pickhard. 

Mud-caked riders streamed by, unclipping their muddy shoes from their pedals and jumping off their bikes, sloshing up a hill and over plywood barriers impeding their progress. I was spectating at my first cyclocross race in Verona, Wisconsin, which just so happened to be the 2012 USA Cyclocross National Championships.

The guys I was with were sooo into it. They were drinking beer and heckling the riders, shouting “up, up, up!” while the riders jumped over barriers with the gracefulness of a gazelle. I didn’t know how to react to the whole scene sprawled out before me. I had recently started riding a bike as an athletic endeavor while in college, putting on miles on weekends between house parties and homework. But these ladies didn’t look like me. You could tell they trained hard be elite -- a regiment of sprinting, eating kale and practicing carrying their bikes thrust over their shoulders, I assumed.

The whole racing scene can seem rather intimidating to young, female bikers (like me at the time), but also people who have never entered the bike “scene,” whatever their age, or are simply attending to support their cousin or daughter or whomever. Things like cookouts, beer and fun people make people want to attend things like criterium racing. If you had to Google “criterium,” you are probably one of the people that needs to be enticed to attend a bike race. We have all these silly bike words. Fortunately, we have people like Mark and Sean who can describe the scene and never make us feel dumb for not knowing the lingo.

They may not have known it at the time, but I saw Mark and Sean for the first time in 2014 at the Door County Century where they were commentating the Cross of the Century, a cyclocross race that takes place the day before the century ride. Most people do the race for fun, and many of them are riding 100 miles the next day. There were tiki torches out on the course and kids drenching the riders with squirt guns. Mark and Sean were doing a lot of heckling, dangling bacon and other consumables from fishing poles. They were making cyclocross seem really FUN. I kept thinking to myself, “Who are these dudes?!”

Sean and Eileen working the cowbells. Photo courtesy of Jon Ninmer.

Sean and Eileen working the cowbells. Photo courtesy of Jon Ninmer.

Fast forward to 2015. My group of lady friends and I finally got up the courage to say “Hi” to Mark and Sean at the Cross of the Century. Life has been more awesome ever since. We laughed a ton at the cross race and the next day we rode our 100 miles and did what I endearingly like to call “Closing the Door County Century.” (Basically we consumed a bunch of beer with the drink tickets that rained down upon us from Illinois people driving home that afternoon and were entrusted with leftover cherry pies. Soon after the pies came, we were promptly told to leave). I was glad that Mark and Sean were a part of that awesome day (although sadly they missed running into a freezing Lake Michigan and drinking more beer in a hot tub). Anyway, the story happily did not end at that day. We kept in touch and I ended up seeing them at two fat bike races this winter -- Broken Spoke’s Shelltrack and Wheel & Sprocket’s Hugh Jass in Appleton.

Shutting down the Door County Century afterparty. Photo courtesy of Tonieh Welland

Shutting down the Door County Century afterparty. Photo courtesy of Tonieh Welland

You know, I could tell you more about the lively shenanigans that take place at bike races when Mark and Sean are around, but that’s not the point. The best part is that Mark and Sean make people happy. The duo has a sense of humor and a way of speaking that makes racers and spectators alike feel special. They care about riders and want them to have fun. They care about spectators and want to entertain them. If you’re lucky enough to be friends with Mark and Sean, those feelings intensify at least 150%.

Now that I am obsessed with bikes, I can look back at that first cross race in Verona and tell you that if a commentator like Mark or Sean had been present, my perceptions of the sport would have changed instantly. Bikes are fun and racing is meant to be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. And it’s fantastic when you have Mark and Sean to remind you to enjoy every minute of the sport.

Fat Camp 2016 - Of donuts and beer. And fatbikes and weather.

So there we were...

It's Saturday, February 20th, 6:15am. Mark is standing in line behind a very questionable-looking couple at a Kwik Trip in Appleton with four 6-packs of glazers in one hand and a hot cup of joe in the other. 

Stop. Wait a minute. You've heard this story before, haven't you. But in case you're wondering, yes, we always hit a Kwik Trip on the way out of town, and yes, there's always a questionable-looking couple in line at 6:15am on a Saturday morning. 

Also, I know that you're probably expecting some Katy Perry at this point, so, here. We'll meet you back here in 3:30. 

We're feeling thankful, humbled.

Saturday was actually bittersweet for us as it brought to a close the 2016 Snow Crown Fat Bike Race Series. So before we get into how the day unfolded, we want to thank George, Sarah, and everyone at Broken Spoke Bicycle Studio for getting us involved in this event; and all the fat bikers who came out to race for just being frickin' awesome! We met so many amazing new friends that the whole thing has been sort of overwhelming. It's hard to overstate how much fun we had and how much we appreciate everyone involved.

Woohoo! Fatbikes!

Let's Go To Fat Camp!

Alright, as everyone knows, Mother Nature was not real cooperative with the fat bikers in Wisconsin this past weekend. Maybe she had other plans and decided to let that petulant child, El Niño (that's Spanish for, "The Niño") have the run of the place while she was gone. Whatever the case may have been, the insufferable springlike weather combined with the first-time running of a new race in the Snow Crown series left everyone with many questions in the days leading up to Fat Camp:

  • Would the putrid springlike weather make the course unrideable?
  • Would the unbearable springlike weather keep riders at home, playing basketball in the driveway? 
  • Would Shane Veldhuizen sign up for the men's race, or the women's?
  • Would Jake Glatt show up on time? 
  • Would Cole House win a pair of Bar Mitts?
  • Would Mark and Sean break a fat bike tandem? 

Ok, those last four are not weather related, but I'm pretty sure they were on everyones' minds. Anyhow, only Fat Camp and Father Time could reveal the answers we all so desperately sought. 

With the despicable springlike weather, Mark and I thought some riders may experience some mashed potato snow-induced rage out on the course, so we brought some props to lighten the mood a little bit: hula-hoops for hula-hooping, and fishing poles with donuts at the end of the line to troll the course and tempt the riders. Of course, series sponsor, Hinterland Brewery also pulled through and dropped off a keg for everyone, which is probably a more effective mood-lightener. But to our thinking, hula-hoops + fishing poles + donuts + beer - good snow would still equal fun times. Because in the end, it just doesn't matter as long as you had fun, and you'd better have fun because it just doesn't matter! 

Go ahead, take a minute to let that one soak in.

Hinterland beer and Kwik Trip glazers: fuel for health conscious fat bike racer. 

Hinterland beer and Kwik Trip glazers: fuel for health conscious fat bike racer. 

Murrayisms aside, by the end of the day, all our questions had been answered. 

The course was rideable, mostly. Or perhaps somewhat. I can't be certain because I didn't ride it. But given the conditions, I think it was as good as anyone could have hoped. We have a friend who puts together some pretty big events, and he always tells us that the event organizers only control 49% of the experience, Mother Nature controls the rest, and who knows what the heck she was up to last weekend. In any case, the Snow Crown crew definitely held up their end of the bargain, and then some. 

Some riders probably did stay home to play basketball in the driveway due to the nasty springlike weather, and those riders missed out on an awesome day at the fatbike races. I hope all their shots were off and their basketballs rolled into puddles. 

It turned out that Shane signed up for the men's race this week! Though there was an exciting moment when he and Leia Schneeburger (Broken Spoke/Door County Brewing) came through the start/finish to begin their final lap and were literally neck and neck. I believe their may have even been a stiff arm involved, which is technically only allowed in the short race. Of course, Leia was only there because she stopped to take me on in a hula hoop battle, otherwise she would have been much further up the trail. Still, at that moment I wished Shane had signed up for the women's race, because it would have been an epic battle for the top podium spot!

Side note: let the record show that Shane was nowhere near making the men's or women's podium because, a) he stopped after lap one to have a beer and a donut, and b) he also stopped several times on the course to help other riders who had tire issues, and still others who needed pep talks.

Actually, I'm not sure if the latter is true because I made it up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. The former was absolutely true, though, and that's why fat bike racing is awesome. And that's why Shane is always on the podium in our hearts and minds. It's all about having fun and from what we've seen throughout Snow Crown, not many folks are having more fun than Shane. Thanks for being such a good sport, Shane! And for taking our relentless ribbing for being accidentally listed in the women's race at Shell Track with a smile.

Shane, enjoying his lap beer and donut, and just being generally awesome.

Shane, enjoying his lap beer and donut, and just being generally awesome.

As for Jake, he did show up on time on Saturday and boy, let me tell you, the Big Diesel was ready to put that hammer down and give it hell! He finished in third place in the 26-49 Short Race and I attribute part of his course-smashing success to having proper tire pressure. A decision I'm assuming he made with the help of the Accugage he won two weeks prior at Koldwave in the "11 o'clock race". Great ride, Jake! Thanks for being awesome!

The men's short course 26-49 podium. 1st: Jim Rose, 2nd: Steve Toyne, 3rd: Jake Glatt, at right. Photo courtesy of Sarah Hardy. 

The men's short course 26-49 podium. 1st: Jim Rose, 2nd: Steve Toyne, 3rd: Jake Glatt, at right. Photo courtesy of Sarah Hardy. 

Oh, and yes, Cole did in fact win some Bar Mitts. And we heard he got a haircut, too. Congratulations, Cole! 

If you need some Bar Mitts, talk to Cole. Photo courtesy of Cole House. 

If you need some Bar Mitts, talk to Cole. Photo courtesy of Cole House. 

And lastly, we did not break a fat bike tandem. They say sometimes that comedy is tragedy plus time. Well, I think we're almost able to joke about this one. Though it still stings a bit. Maybe we need a few more weeks... If you don't know what I'm talking about, good. If you do, I'll just say that sometimes we come up with ideas that are just too fun. 

Joel & Elise. It's not broken, they're just stopping for a beer. These two really know how to take adversity in stride and with a smile. Photo courtesy of Desiree Schmidt. 

Joel & Elise. It's not broken, they're just stopping for a beer. These two really know how to take adversity in stride and with a smile. Photo courtesy of Desiree Schmidt. 

Alright, enough nonsense. Let's get a results rundown!

Results Rundown!

Men's Races:

  • Most Beers and Donuts Consumed During the Race: Shane Veldhuizen (1 full donut at least, ??? beers)
  • Promptness Award: Jake Glatt
  • Most Bar Mitts Won in 2016: Cole House (Broken Spoke/Door County Brewing) (3 pairs, I think?)
  • Most snowballs in the earhole: George Kapitz
Snowballs for George as he comes around for the last lap at Fat Camp. Photo courtesy of Sarah Hardy.

Snowballs for George as he comes around for the last lap at Fat Camp. Photo courtesy of Sarah Hardy.

Women's Races:

  • Final Lap Hula Hoop Battle Winner: Leia Schneeburger (Broken Spoke/Door County Brewing)
  • Most Names that Start with the letters K, E, L: Kelsey Kellermann, or, "Kel-Kel".
  • Best Course Description: Kristina Navarro (I can't type it here. It was expletive-laden. But I think it was good. Yeah, it was good.)
  • Fastest names: Ones that begin with K.
Women's Short Race 26-49 Podium. 1st: Kelly Raber, 2nd: Katie Meyer, 3rd: Kelsey Kellermann.

Women's Short Race 26-49 Podium. 1st: Kelly Raber, 2nd: Katie Meyer, 3rd: Kelsey Kellermann.

Wait, that was all nonsense, too!

Well what did you expect? 

The real results can be found here, courtesy of Kevin and his tip chiming system. 

Woohoo! Fatbikes!

Thanks for reading,

-Mark & Sean

Snow Crown, Koldwave 2016

The Day Began with a Trip to the Kwik Trip.

(A brief, mostly true story by Sean from Mark's perspective.)

It's Saturday, February 6th, 6:15 am. I'm standing in line behind a very questionable-looking couple at a Kwik Trip in Appleton with a 6-pack of glazers in one hand and hot cup of joe in the other. When it's my turn at the checkout counter, I notice Sean is halfway out the door in an absentminded attempt at stealing his own cup of coffee. I chuckle to myself and consider waiting to see how far he gets, but the cashier is staring him down so I decide to ask him if he's going to pay for that. He snaps out of his morning fog and heads over to the register, giggling and shaking his head. 

He puts his coffee on the counter next to the glazers, leans over to me and says, "I almost made it." 

I can't tell if he's joking.

He pays for his coffee and jokes with the cashier about calling the cops. Now who's questionable-looking? We head outside and climb in the truck. Sean puts on his Ray-bans, takes a sip of coffee and says to me, "It's 82 miles to Sturgeon Bay. We've got a full tank of gas, a PA system, a six-pack of glazers, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."

"Hit it."

I know he's riffing on a line from The Blues Brothersso I jam the key in the ignition, fire up the beast, and make an attempt at peeling out.  There's an impressive low growl from the exhaustless motor, but this behemoth is too old and too loaded down to overcome the coefficient of friction between the tires and pavement.

Not even the faintest chirp. 

Nevertheless, we're off to Snowkraft to do the announcing for race number two in the Snow Crown fat bike series, Koldwave, and we're tired as all get out. We were so excited to be doing this neither of us slept a wink last night. Not. A. Wink!

This is where the coffee and glazers come in; sugar and caffeine are trusted associates of ours. Within a few minutes, we're northbound on US-41, discussing the considerable talents of Katy Perry between mouthfuls of donut while California Gurls blares on the radio.

The incomparable Katy Perry. 

The incomparable Katy Perry. 

Fun Times at the Koldwave!

(In other words, the rest of the day.)

We arrived at Snowkraft at around 8:00am, or thereabouts. Give or take. Whatever.

We met up with George, owner and proprietor extraordinaire of Broken Spoke Bicycle Studio, as well as the man behind the Snow Crown series, and he gave us the lay of the land. The beautiful, meticulously-groomed land. It turns out we would have to hike in our equipment about a quarter mile on freshly groomed skate ski track. Good thing we ate all the glazers and drank all the coffee on the way up. We flipped our banquet tables over and used them as gear sleds to get everything loaded in. We felt bad for for leaving footprints and table tracks in the fresh corduroy, but the fatbikers would do much worse to it while having way more fun. 

Walking in to the start/finish area at Koldwave.

Racers began to arrive as we were setting up the noise machines and we started to get even more jittery and excited about the day ahead of us. There were two events scheduled for the day, a short, one-lap, seven-mile race; and a long, three-lap, 21-mile race. The course consisted of more or less a 50/50 split of single and double track. All of it extremely well-groomed by Tom, the owner at Snowkraft. There was one section through an orchard that was brutally tough due to rolling hills and soft snow, but the rest of the double track was delightful, and the single track was spectacular. Flowy and twisty, and nicely packed down.

koldwavestart

As usual, our job for the day was to announce the race, give away prizes from sponsors Hinterland BrewingThe Bike BrewBroke Spoke Bike Studio, and Wisconsin Women Cycling, and generally create a fun atmosphere. With all the racers starting their events at the same time, it meant that pretty much everyone in attendance was out on the course for the first hour, so we basically just entertained ourselves, which is pretty easy to do. We just found a shiny object to stare at for an hour. 

Once people started crossing the finish line, the party started. There were more primes to give away, and there was beer from Hinterland, and food from Kick Coffee in Sturgeon Bay (made with love! Sorry, no love-free food available.) Surprisingly though, no one wanted to play Sean's game, "Is it Beer", in which contestants are challenged to taste a patch of yellow snow. If it's yellow from spilled beer, you win! If it's not, well... obviously, you lose. 

Anyway, Cole House (Door County Brewing/Broken Spoke) finished first overall in the long race, followed by Mike Budd (Wheel & Sprocket) and Ryan Rollins. In the women's long race, Leia Schneeburger (Door County Brewing/Broken Spoke) took home first, followed by Diane Mueller (WiWomensCycling.com) and Deb Newman (Broken Spoke).

The rest of the results can be found here, thanks to Kevin at Ade Timing.

After the day was done and we were all packed up, we asked Tom to join us for a lap around the course, but he declined. He was too tired because he had in fact already ridden the course one final time earlier that morning to make sure everything was as well-groomed as possible given the current conditions.

That was at 3:00am.

3:00am!

Who does that? Who turns down a ride with us?? 

Just kidding. (It's most people, actually.) That's some real dedication, and based on rider feedback, it paid off. Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves. 

This is why the single track at Snowkraft was so awesome.

Sidenote: it was our first time meeting Tom, but a few things were obvious: he's an extremely nice dude; he worked really, really,  hard to get the course ready; and he was genuinely concerned that everyone had a great ride.  

As I mentioned, after the race, we got out for a lap, and we highly recommend getting up to Snowkraft for some skiing or fatbiking. You'll have a blast, we promise. 

In two weeks we'll be in Suamico at the Reforestation Camp for the final race in the Snow Crown Series, Fat Camp. If you didn't make it to Koldwave, (and especially if you did!) we hope to see you at ReFo for the final race of the Snow Crown Series.

Thanks for reading!

--Mark & Sean

How it All Began

Back in 2011 our friends on the Diablo Cycling Team were putting on a race when at the 11th hour, their announcer cancelled. Sometime shortly after that, someone got the bright idea to have us do the announcing for the race. They asked and obviously we accepted without giving any thought as to whether we could do it. It may not seem warranted now, but back then there was skepticism abound. You see, friends, in the past (and present) we have been known to lack basic social filters in public settings. In other words, some people have found us to be loud, obnoxious, vulgar, and at various times, physically offensive. (Two words: pelvic, thrusting.) But that’s only half the story!

Actually, it's mostly all of it, but let's carry on anyway!

One or two people had faith in us, but there was nervous chatter among some Diablos -- who count among their ranks several of their own charmingly offensive characters -- that we would not be able to contain our, let’s call it, “enthusiasm”, with the mics in our hands. There were fears of vulgarities, both verbal and physical. There were fears that it would have to be the last Diablo race. There were fears of fines to pay. But it turns out, that we are quite capable of filtering! Who knew?? Certainly we didn’t, but then again not knowing whether we’re capable of doing something has never stopped us before.

In addition to miraculously finding our filters, it just so happened that we actually did a really good job announcing the bike race! We actually have years of experience racing and riding bikes, so we knew what was happening during the races. We provided commentary with something that sounded somewhat like actual bicycle racing knowledge! And we did it all with a voice and a rapport that has developed over 20 years of friendship and shenanigans.

Over those years, our shame sensors have eroded beyond repair and we've developed a certain level of obliviousness to our surroundings. This enables us to vigorously and humorously entertain the crowd during the boring parts of the race. And let’s face it, if you’re watching a crit, there are some pretty boring parts! Just kidding, everyone! We love crits! (But seriously, it can get boring sometimes.) We’ve found that one of the best ways to liven up a bike race is to tease Masters racers for being old. Keep pedaling, you guys! Father Time is hot on your trail!

Everybody loves that. 

So here we are, five years later, and this announcing bike races thing has opened a lot of doors for us and allowed us to meet some amazing people we otherwise wouldn’t have. We’ve made a lot of new friends, reconnected with old ones, and realized that Wisconsin is home to a lot of people who are doing a lot of awesome work to make Wisco’ a totally radical place to ride your bike.

We’ll have more super relevant material in this space as time goes on. (No, really! It’s going to be so cool, everybody. So. Dang. Cool!) In the meantime, we’ll see you at the races! Come say hi!