Yankee TT- Spin to WIN!


Someone once said that in cycling it doesn’t matter how experienced or fit you are, it always hurts the same. The difference is how fast you go and how long you suffer. So to everyone who raced out at Yankee last weekend, I raise a pint glass and say, “We all suffered. We deserve this!”.

So how do you make all that suffering translate into going faster? One thing you can do is get the best machine for the job. What made the race especially fun for me this year was getting to break in my new Marin carbon hardtail from Gap30 Cycles (gap30cycles.com). I love it! However, you still need to make it go and the more I ride, the more I realize that mountain biking is like that painfully honest friend who literally cannot tell a lie and almost relishes every opportunity to point out your weaknesses. Sure, everyone has the occasional bad day even if you’re in great shape, but you can’t pull one over on these gods. Fluke accidents and mechanicals notwithstanding, it’s a 1:1 sport. You pretty much get out of it what you put in. The challenging part about the Yankee TT, besides the trail itself, is that it’s the first mountain bike race of the year. I always tend to treat Iceman as the kickoff to the off-season, but dragging myself out of that funk is a textbook exercise in procrastination and before I know it, the snow is gone and I’m in the starting block on a cold Spring morning at Deep Lake. So this year, I attempted to silence my “painfully honest friend” by trying something different. Spin class. Yup, I never thought I’d admit it, but it’s the best way to train in the off-season. I’ve dabbled in spin classes before but never really committed to it enough to get great results. I signed up for endurance class (2 hours of spin purgatory!) at the THE SHiFT (theshiftgr.com) and a couple one-hour downward-spiral-straight-to-hell classes on top of it. Heidi and Jeremy made it so much fun, it was like I wasn’t even working! Just kidding. It sucks. It hurts. You don’t ever look forward to it. You want to make every excuse to skip, like say, “I really should get started on my taxes.” I’m sure spin isn’t for everyone, and I know all the fatbikers out there are shaking their heads right now. That’s fine. Keep freezing your ass off out there in the dark and buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of winter gear. I’ll be putting that money toward more spin classes next year. But now for something completely different…

This year’s race was put into perspective for me as a friend and co-worker, Ryan Geister, was on a training ride a couple weeks before the race, went over the bars and was seriously injured. Feeling from his limbs was immediately lost and it took a couple hours for the paramedics to get him safely out of the trail. He was temporarily paralyzed, but expects a full recovery with time and a whole lot of work. He spent two weeks at Mary Free Bed and was finally able to leave in a wheelchair the weekend of the race. I’ve had my own injuries, one which required surgery and nine months of rehab, but this is way beyond anything I’ve endured. We participate in a sport that is fun most of the time, painful (in a good way) a lot of the time, and rewarding every single time you get back to your car in the parking lot. Consider those moments as victories.

After my injury, people would ask me if I was going to quit mountain biking and I would reply as if the answer was rhetorical. (Of course not! Would you stop driving after getting in an accident? NO!) I’m sure Ryan will be on the bike as soon as he can too.

The point is, whether you’re in this sport for fitness, fame, or fun, enjoy the moment no matter your race result. Be happy you’re out doing what you love to do. Ask yourself, “How many times did I think about work when I was on the trail?” We get to enjoy some of the best trails and races in Michigan and Yankee is a prime example. Many hours of hard labor go into maintaining our trails and making them ride/race-worthy. We have a great community of expert trail builders and racers. I love anticipating every race because I know what to expect: a good work out, good trails, good competition, good friends, good beer, and not necessarily good weather.

Place Name Sponsor Lap 1 Lap2 Time
4 Earl Hillaker Founders Racing 45:38:00 45:58:00 31:36.0
6 Marnie Tencate Founders Racing 54:58:00 57:36:00 52:33.9
2 Jeremy Karel Founders Racing 46:14:00 47:29:00 33:42.8
6 Jeff Jacobi Founders Racing 48:17:00 50:23:00 38:39.0
13 Tom Stolz Founders Racing 52:01:00 54:10:00 46:10.5
20 Joshua Hogeterp Founders Racing 51:20:00 54:58:00 46:17.2
23 Shawn Crowley Founders Racing 54:12:00 57:07:00 51:19.1
1 Matt Remelts Founders Racing 46:46:00 47:53:00 34:38.4
18 Scott Tencate Founders Racing 49:01:00 52:04:00 41:04.2
23 Paul Popielarz Founders Racing 55:35:00 59:53:00 55:28.9
15 Rob Meendering Founders Racing 59:54.2


Hellkat Headwind

garmin for hellkatHaving missed Barry-Roubaix due to a work trip, the lower-key Hellkat Hundie would be my first event for 2015.  There is a 50 mile and a 100 mile version, but of course I had to do the 100 miler!  Mike Clark and Cathy ‘Kaat’ Tahy put together this fun, challenging event as a JDRF fundraiser.  The course was well marked.

Last year I rode it and completed the course in seven hours.  This year I hoped to better that time, but at the last minute opted for a second goal.  Teammate Marnie Tencate was riding the 100 in training for her debut at Lumberjack-100, so I decided to ride with her for  the 100 miles.   Scott Tencate was planning to hammer the 100 and teammate Matt Remelts was racing the 50-miler.
As we rolled out from Third Coast Cycles, we soon encountered a strong headwind.  When we went south we rode into a headwind and when we rode east we rode into a headwind.  Oh, and did I mention the headwind!?  Frankly it seemed every direction was into a headwind.
At one point we were climbing a long shallow grade- yes, into a headwind- and I recall saying “Okay, headwind or a climb. Can we have one or the other rather than both?!”
Marnie and I picked up a couple other riders.  Eric Sooy rode with us in the first 25 miles until he split off to complete the 50-mile event.
Shortly after the 50/100 course split, a rider from Novi (Ken) joined us.  Later, Chicago rider Paolo caught up and decided to ride with us as well.  He had an interesting bike with 50mm cross tires and said it was built specifically for races in the ultracross series. These two guys would ride with us pretty much into the finish line.
I felt pretty good and fairly strong this day and so I went to the front of our little pace line for most of the ride.  The gravel roads were hard packed most of the day though they did get a little bit tacky after Noon as the temperatures warmed up a few degrees.
Marnie and I discussed race and food strategies for Lumberjack.  At one point she couldn’t reach her Endurolytes so rather than stop, as I rode along side her I started pulling items out of her back jersey pockets until I could reach the Endurolyte bottle.   Le Domestique hahaha.
Not everyone can do the Hammer stuff on rides but I have gotten quite used to their products.  I had my standard fare all one me for the race:  one bottle of Perpetuem for fuel, two bottles of Heed for hydration, Endurolytes, and a flask of espresso Hammergel.  Other than filling one of the Heed bottles with water at the third checkpoint, these items would get me through the entire seven hour ride.  After numerous 100-milers I pretty much have my nutrition needs dialed in for the expected duration and distance of such events.
The most disconcerting aspect of the event was the darn dogs.  On a couple of occasions, the dogs were quite determined.  One chased us for over 100 yards.  Marnie had to put a foot out and kick at the last one as I and one other rider started to turn around to defend us from the charging canine.  The dog then dropped off as we rode onward.
The Hellkat route is unique in that it can seem like it goes forever at times.   Left turn, right turn, left turn, left turn.  At some points you forget if you are going east or west or north or south until a familiar street sign at an intersection reminds you of your location and orientation.  And just when you think you are heading in to finish, the course takes another dodge left and seemingly away from Hudsonville, before turning again back to the finish.
Marnie ended up second on the podium for her women’s category!  I was surprised to find I was third for Master’s Men category though I had not been actually racing this day.  We got nice Sram ball caps as awards.  (First place finishers got a special pair of tightie-whitey Hundie Undies  hahahaha).
The roll-out started at 8:00am and we crossed the finish line at about 3:10pm.  Our moving time was 6:58 per my Garmin though the actual finish time was a bit over 7 hours when stops at the aid stations are taken into account.

Founders Barry-Roubaix 2015 – Hell of the Mitten

Hell of the Mitten
119 years ago a couple of textile manufacturers named Teddy and Moe started a little race in France called the Paris-Roubaix.  Maybe you have heard of it.  It is referred to as the “Hell of the North”.  Not because of what the riders endure but because, after World War I, much of the route was left in a hellish state, bearing scars from years of shelling and trench warfare.   The air in many areas hung thick with the stench of rotting cattle and ruptured sewage systems.  The blackened earth in every direction was churned up creating a flat, baron and muddy landscape.  Sounds like a real blasty blast huh?!

Well over here in the good ole mitten state we have our own Teddy and Moe.  You may know them as Rick Plite and Scott Tencate, and they know how to put on one HELL of race…THE BARRY-ROUBAIX! Are there cobbles?  Well…no.  Is it 253.5 KM of beautiful northern France?  Not quite.  17th century farm houses?  Castles?  A Velodrome finish?  Nope, nope and nope.  But you know what it IS…miles of beautiful southwest Michigan gravel, challenging climbs, unpredictable weather, rabid dogs, a mile of 2 track which scares the living shit out of most roadies, some of the most well lived-in double-wide trailers, dozens of full sized Chevy trucks parked on the side of the road while their owners are off in the woods doing god knows what and the greatest post-race party on the friggin planet!  It may not be the “Hell of the North” but it surely will challenge you.  Oh, and you know what else?  IT IS THE LARGEST DAMN GRAVEL ROAD RACE…..IN THE WORLD (read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson).

Every year seems to be a new experience for me at the Barry-Roubaix.  This was my 6th go at it and I can honestly say that each year has brought different road conditions and different weather.  I have slogged through mud bogs and two tracks.  I have skated on my ass down ice covered gravel.  I have been chased by 3 legged dogs trained to kill all the weirdos in spandex.  Now, I wouldn’t compare these conditions to those of post WWI France, but mud, ice and 3 legged killer dogs are pretty frickin scary.  With the exception of testicle shrinking cold temps in the morning, the 2015 edition was the best yet.  Clear blue skies and some of the fastest gravel I have ever ridden awaited me and 3500 other racers.  Add to this an extremely well-orchestrated race start, a well-marked course and the greatest group of volunteers/corner marshals around and you have a race experience like no other.
At race start I felt really good.  For once, I had a decent amount of training leading up to the race.  Also, for the first time ever I was actually able to pace myself in anticipation of the first series of climbs, aka “The 3 sisters”.  As Tenner says “You never want to blow your wad before you get to the 3rd sister”. (Despite being raised in a duffel bag in the back seat of his uncle-daddy’s truck, that mop head Tenner is somewhat bright.)  The first two sisters came easy (get your mind out of the gutter) as they often do.  The real gauge to how the first half of your race will go is the 3rd sister.  She can be a real bitch from whom there is no quick recovery.  But this time I found myself cresting her with only a fair amount of effort.  Hell, my heart rate barely reached 210 bpm!  The highlight for me on this beautiful race day was the paved sections on both Gun Lake Rd and the Fat Lady on Broadway at the end of the race (think about it).  Fortune smiled down upon me as I was able to hang with a decent sized group averaging well over 20 mph.  I did more passing than getting passed and never let off the gas. (until another rider nearly took me out in the very last turn before the finish.  But I won’t get into that here.)
I ride my bike for several reasons.  Good friends and good beer are two of them and there was plenty of both awaiting me at the finish line.  The Barry-Roubaix after-party is unbelievable!  It is a huge gathering of bike-minded, beer-guzzling, bad-ass friends all celebrating the start of the nonfat season.  If you participated in this year’s race and did not leave with a huge smile on your face….well then you are doing something very wrong my friend.
Rob Meendering3


Gabe Niehof Founders Racing Grand Rapids MI 1:18:38

1:49:35    Matt Remelts                       40-42 Men 36M
1:58:10    Shawn Crowley                      35-37 Men 36M
2:09:57   Marnie Tencate                     46+ Women 36M
2:10:14   Rob Meendering                     35-37 Men 36M
2:13:00   Jane Van Hof                     40-45 Women 36M
2:15:25   Joshua Hogeterp                    35-37 Men 36M
2:26:04   Jeffrey Jacobi           Men SS & Fixed Gear 36M


Jeremy Karel Founders Racing Rockford MI 3:09:09
Earl Hillaker Founders Racing Grand Rapids MI 3:15:40