A New Bike, The HellKaat Hundie and The Yankee Springs Time Trial

The fourth weekend of April was a good one for me. The weather was fantastic, a new bike, two fun races, and I got to hang out with great people.

Friday – The New Bike

I’ve been riding gravel and cyclocross on my Crux since 2012. It’s been my favorite bike for years, but after this year’s Barry Roubaix it needed some TLC.  Before I even had the chance to start any work on it, we discovered that the front derailleur mount was broken and wouldn’t be safe to use. That was a game changer. So what should I do… fix it, buy a new bike?

I took the bike to the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company Fulton St. shop to see what they recommended. After discussing the options, we decided to convert it to a 1 x 10 setup. It was both a fun and affordable option. My new favorite mechanic Dan got the parts and worked late on a Friday afternoon to get it ready for me. I was riding the HellKaat Hundie the next day and Dan knew it, so he spent extra time making sure it was ready to go the distance. He wouldn’t let me take it until he was certain it was perfect.

Just a couple of weeks earlier I had invested in some new wheels for the Crux… a set of Velocity A23’s.  Probably the best wheels you can buy for gravel and cyclocross.  For the tires, I went with the 700 x 40 Panaracer GravelKing SK which I mounted tubeless. Wider tires and lower pressure seems to be the trend, so I thought I’d give it a shot. The only chance I had to ride with the wheels was in the Barry-Roubaix.  No issues with traction or control during the race, but it was not the best conditions to get a true feel for them.  So I was looking forward to getting to know them better.

OK, so technically I didn’t get a new bike. It doesn’t shine like a new bike nor does it have that new bike smell, but it felt new to me. And I couldn’t wait to hit the gravel with it!

Saturday – The HellKaat

It was an early start for a Saturday.  I was up and on the road by 6:15 AM to get to Dorr in time to pick up my HellKaat Hundie packet and get setup for the race. This was my 2nd year riding the HellKaat, which is both a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a race.  It’s still a relatively small event and it has a mellow vibe, which is one of the things I love about it. The location, packet pickup, the start… it all went smoothly but without any feeling of pressure.

I wish I could say the same for me. This was going to be my first gravel century and I was facing a long day in the saddle on a bike that I had just picked up the night before. I had also found out late Friday night that the friend who talked me into the Hundie had to cancel due to food poisoning.  I was a little amped up.  Fortunately, the other rider from our group, Jane Van Hof, arrived and we set off committed to sticking together and to getting it done.

This year the race start moved from Hudsonville to Dorr which required a new layout to the course.  It was a great change. Rolling hills, farms, and lots of iconic scenery. There was over 4000 feet of climbing, but there were no steep hills. The gravel had some rough spots, but overall it was in good shape. A breeze picked up a bit in the afternoon, but it didn’t feel that bad since there were frequent turns which also put it at your back at times. And it was well marked.

With the great conditions, the first 40 or so miles went by quickly. Jane and I rode with various groups doing a bit of socializing along the way. Eventually we ended up with a mixed group from Alger, Central District, Velocity, and Founders.  Everybody was in a good mood and helped share the work load as best they could.  We took a casual but steady pace. It went surprising well.  However, after 75 miles, reality set in for me and it started to get tough.  By mile 90 I had discovered that the hip flexor muscle could actually cramp up.  Some of the group dropped off along the way, but we ended with 5 of us crossing the finish together.  Roughly 6.5 hours in the saddle plus 20 minutes or so for breaks.  I’ll take it.

My bike was great.  I ran the GravelKing’s at about 30 psi, which softened the ride quite a bit making it much more comfortable for the distance. The 1 x 10 gearing was ideal for the course.  Everything about the bike was perfect.  You’d never guess that half of it was replaced less than 24 hours earlier.   A huge shout out to GRBC, Panaracer and Velocity for that.

One of my favorite memories of the day came around mile 20, while we were still in a large stream of riders. I looked over to a pasture next us and spotted a group of horses running full out.  They were gorgeous!  And you could tell they were excited to see us and wanted nothing more than to join us.  It was an inspiring sight; one I hope to see again next year. Yeah… I’m already planning on it for next year.

Sunday – The Time Trial

Ugh… I hate my alarm clock!  It was 6:00 AM, an early start for a Sunday, especially after getting up early and riding 100 miles of gravel the day before.  But it was time for the Yankee Springs Time Trial. This is the WMMBA’s biggest fundraiser of the year and it has a huge impact on the trails that I love to ride, so it’s important to me to help.

This year at the race I was handling the raffle. A Velocity wheelset and a Küat bike rack with all the proceeds going to our trails. I was fortunate enough to have my son join me. He is required to volunteer several hours per year for school, and he had such a good time with it last year that he was happy to join me again. I’m not going to lie; we were using every angle we could think of to sell those raffle tickets.  I think we came out pretty good by the end of the day.

The weather on Sunday was perfect. All the reports I heard from the racers were that the trail was in amazing shape and riding the fastest they could remember.  I so wished I had brought my bike.  Screw the tired legs, I could have managed a lap. That is my one regret for the weekend.

Founders Racing was well represented at the race this year.  We had 7 riders competing at the Expert/Elite level with Jeremy Karel and Mike Bernhard making it to the podium. We also had a large group volunteering, including Tim & Nancy Curtis as Race Directors, and Martin Hall, Terry & Denise Sensiba and myself helping on the committee. It’s a big race for the team.

In the end the YSTT had a record number of racers… 777.  It was the first year there was a beer corral and all the feedback was positive.  It was great to be a part of it and to know that I’ve done my part for our local trails.

Whew… a long, tiring, but fun weekend. What a great way to start the season.

Jeff S.


Dennis kicks off the season

I completed my first race of the year, traveling to Dahlonega Georgia for the Southern Cross 55 mile gravel road race on Saturday March 4th.

I had been to this area in 2012 for the Fool’s Gold-100 mountain bike race.  The event started and ended at the Montaluce Winery just outside of Dahlonega. It’s a beautiful area.  The 100-mile mountain bike race took place on some of the same gravel roads as this road race was expected to

use and I knew it was going to be a tough one simply due to the climbing.  For this event, however, I was going to use my cross bike with my 35mm Panaracer tires.

As in 2012, I drove part way on Thursday night so I wouldn’t have to power drive the whole 12 hours on Friday– the day before the race.  A near-issue developed halfway between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis on I-69. Police were out in force pulling over drivers for speeding so seeing some

flashers ahead wasn’t alarming. However, as I got closer, there were several flashers and I then noticed a north bound car in the median.  Then another as the highway became an overpass for a local road underneath.  Just then, the pickup truck in front of me fishtailed in the left lane! I moved to shut off my cruise control and as I did so my rear tires also spun and the car jinked. I steered to the right lane with the intention of steering onto the right side to ditch if necessary as that was the most clear but as soon as I did the ice was gone and my Subaru was grabbing the pavement.  Crisis averted.  I drove safely on to Batesville Indiana where I finally got a hotel room and a pizza and settled in for the night.

Friday drive got me to the Montaluce Winery first about 3pm where I picked up my race packet.  The race venue is located in a field a bit of a ways from the actual winery.  The entire property is made to look like an Italian valley complete with a small stand of houses looking like an Italian village and couple villas.  The winery has a high end dress-clothes restaurant but their store is right inside the entrance.  SO I parked and went inside to check out the wines and walked out with a dessert wine and a dolce for Joni and a Cabernet Frank for me.

On to my lodging.  I had stayed at the Hiker Hostel in 2012 and made reservation to do so for this trip.  The hostel is a large log cabin-like structure with two bedrooms upstairs each with bunk beds for a total of four guests per room.  The basement also has two bedrooms on each side of

a large common area. The bedroom I was in had two bunk beds and my three room mates were also there for the bike race.  The other bedroom has a queen size bed rather than bunks.  The basement also has a kitchen area for guests to prepare their own meals- though only lunch and dinner are needed for this as breakfast is part of the $18 per night lodging fee.  (Breakfast consists of pancakes or french toast, scrambled eggs, yogurt, grits, oatmeal, coffee and orange juice.  The eggs come from a pen outside with a dozen chickens).  The hostel was packed this trip and there were additional beds in the basement common area.  It is the start of the northbound Appalachian Trail hiking season. A large group ferried out Saturday morning and again new people were there Sunday as well to head out.

Saturday breakfast of french toast, coffee, juice and scrambled eggs at 730. The race started at 10am with a racer meeting at 930am.   Just after 930am Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Christian Vandevelde showed up in a large Suburban in their Mellow Jonnies jerseys to race the event.  (Lance ended up 4th place, Christian ended up 6th- both in Open category.  I heard Hincapie crashed out. He’s not on the finish list). The event was sold out at 350 racers, with only 321 showing up on the results.  29 racers didn’t finish.

I was satisfied with my finish time but I lost perhaps 20-30 minutes on the course for two reasons which I will explain later.  My intent is to go back and try too finish in under 4-1/2 hours.  The race has a drop bag option with one aid station for this but I just used two bottles of  Heed, Endurolytes and a flask of Espresso Hammerjel.  I did not intend to stop unless I needed to.

From their website:  For 2017, the main gravel road configuration of the course will remain the same. We are eliminating the cyclocross elements at the start of the race, in favor of a neutral rollout on the roads due to the bottleneck that typically forms at the first turn off the pavement. To keep it interesting, we are adding (given dry weather) approximately 5 miles to the course, including the Jones Creek Dam Trail. This section is very ride-able on cross bikes, though possibly challenging due to some steeper grades, and riders should be spaced out before encountering this section to minimize congestion. The return route to the Winery will be on Hightower Church Road (same road you came in on) and not Wahsega Road as in the past. Upon returning to the Montaluce Winery, riders will be greeted with some traditional Cyclocross obstacles, however, expect a more direct return to the finish from previous years, so that you can start the post-race celebration a little bit quicker.

Total course distance is just under 55 miles and total elevation gain is approximately 6400′.

I debate if I should wear my jacket or not but decided not- it was a good choice.  My attire was jersey, windbreaker, with arm-warmers and Legwarmers and full finger cross gloves.

There was climbing right from the start but the real climb began about 15 miles in with a long 5-mile steeper climb.  I was riding well and passing people- mostly those on mountain bikes.  (It is a decision to be made- cross bike or mountain bike- for this event. More on that later).

I was even passing racers on the climb who had the better mountain bike gearing which made me feel pretty good.  But as rode the longer steeper first climb between miles 15 & 20 my gut really started bothering me.  I had been uncomfortable for some time and had not been drinking much Heed. I thought I might eventually get a bit dehydrated but couldn’t drink.  Finally the discomfort became unbearable and I had to do something I have never had to do before at a biking or running race. To be tactful, I had to go into the woods and decide which article of clothing to sacrifice.  Fortunately it wasn’t a glove or a sock, but the Chaco neck-pullover given to the team by Tom and Merrell (sorry Tom).  This whole delay cost me probably 15 minutes and I saw many riders above me on the road go by whom I had earlier passed.

Now that my discomfort was abated, I got back on the bike. It took a mile or so for my legs to feel good and then I rode fairly well.

The Southern Cross (like the Gravel Grovel in Indiana) includes a 3-4 mile fairly serious mountain bike segment!  Imagine racing Barry Roubaix and riding 3 miles of the back section of the Yankee Springs mountain bike trail before jumping back onto the road and you will have an idea.  Rocky, rooted, up and down.  Frankly, however, I rocked it!  I rode this section so well that one mountain bike rider I passed even gave a kudos shout out to me!  THe only bobble I had was on a tight turn switchback to the left and my front tire rode up on the berm and cause me to put a foot down, so I ran the next 20 yards and got back on the bike.  There was one further section later so steep ALL riders around me were walking it and I did so as well.

Back on the road.  Other than the “mountain bike section” the only other reason to ride a mountain bike is the gravel road downhills.  They are super fast and almost 100% bumpy.  I rode the brakes constantly just to keep the bike under control at about 18-20 mph. But the descents were jarring as I did so because my palms were on the handlebars and fingers on the break interrupters.  (My cross bike is fitted with brake interrupters on the flats.  I prefer, in more technical sections, to ride on the flats and am not comfortable riding in the drops to hold the brakes.  So I really like my brake interrupters- it’s more like riding a mountain bike in technical areas.

One last fast downhill before the 50 mile mark was the next glitch.  I was coming around a sweeping left hand turn and was going 22-24mph and squeezing the brakes but realized I was NOT going to make the turn and tried to steer away from water capture ditch on the right side and the bike went down. I slid several feet on my left side as a pickup truck came toward me from the other direction.  Luckily I was wearing armwarmers and got a bit scraped up but not seriously.  As I got up to move my bike and get going, another rider on a mountain bike came roaring down the turn.  I tried to move right but it looked like he was going that way so I moved back the other way just as he too steered that way.  He didn’t shout out direction and he went right INTO the ditch and hit the wall!

OMG.  I jumped into the ditch and he just laid there against the stone moaning.  I thought for sure broken collarbone or rib or such.  The two young men in the truck moved both our bikes.  Another rider stopped and asked if they could take the downed rider to the winery if necessary (six miles away).  The downed rider eventually said he was okay and not injured-just had the wind knocked out of him.  Fortunately the wall he it at the end of the ditch was moss and grass covered,  providing some cushion.  As he and I prepared to get out of the ditch another rider came in fast and hot and endo’d onto the edge of the ditch as we put our hands up to catch him to keep him from falling in.  Treacherous corner!

I got my bike going after getting the chain unstuck, rode as hard as I could to try to break five hours and passed a few riders.  But the ditch had cost me another 15 minutes. Had the other rider not crashed I would have just been riding onward after getting up but I wasn’t going leave him without ensuring he was not hurt.

In the end. my finish time   5:02, 48th of 66 racers 50-59.   243rd of 321 racers that finished.

To the debate: Mountain bike or cross bike?  Frankly, if you are NOT comfortable using a cross bike on mountain bike trails even for only 3-4 miles a mountain bike is probably necessary. I think a cross bike is faster overall and I will plan to use it again there, but if I went again I would do a couple things differently.

a) use better padded gloves

b) put some added padding under my cross bike bar tape

c) even perhap figure out how to put a slight suspension or shock absorbing mechanism on the cross bike.

The race was well marked and staffed with volunteers. The food was excellent and we also got to have two beers from Terrapin Brewery.  I had the Hopsecutioner IPA, which I liked so much I found a six pack at store Saturday evening and brought it home.

FYI I also had dinner at Shenanigan’s Irish Pub both evenings but they were very busy- make reservations if you go with a party.  I was solo and at the bar.

This would be a great event for several of a team to come to participate together.  I will plan to be there next year.  If no teammates come, I suggested my wife join me and Saturday after the race we can come back to the winery in our nicer clothes for dinner.

Relevant links below!  Photos at the Facebook link.








Dennis B Murphy

Barry-Roubaix Report

Better late than never…to tell you about my experience at this year’s Barry Roubaix.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, Barry Roubaix is this epic gravel road race that draws approximately 3,500 riders from all walks of like to the quaint little town of Hastings, Michigan.

This year was my first attempt at racing the “Killer” 62-mile course.

Leading up to race day, I was really nervous. As unpredictable as Michigan weather can be, you never really know what it’s going to be like until the day of. For instance, last year, it was 18 degrees outside with patchy ice. This year turned out to be in the 70’s and really dusty and dry.

As I rounded the corner to reach the first stretch of gravel I watched the really fast racers disappear into the plume of dust. That’s when I realized I would not be finishing the race with a group. I was disheartened at first but I felt good and was having fun so that’s all that mattered at that moment.

For the first 30 or so miles, I felt great and had a good pace.  Then, after a while, I slowed down, my legs started getting stiff and I was loosing steam. I cursed every hill. I also, blew past one of the aid stations without refilling my water. I had 1 bottle left and thought I’d be fine. I regretted that decision at around mile 55. There were a few times I wanted to quit. I had a dozen conversations with myself during that 62 miles, I am sure most of you reading know exactly what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me on the road…or behind me. I only saw a handful of them on the course. Each time I passed a woman, I felt a little better about the race. Then, she would pass me about 5 miles later. Darn it! It was a day of ups and downs like that. In the end, I finished in 3 hours 57 minutes…3 minutes faster than my personal goal but almost 49 minutes behind the fastest woman!

I’ll just have to come back next year stronger and more prepared with a new goal.


I’ll Never

image4I have to say that most of my life I really enjoyed the Winter season in Michigan. Well, except for when I was eight and had a paper route that had me trudging through snow up to my waist, while pulling a sled full of newspapers, in the dark, around the neighborhood….That sucked! I’ve always appreciated the activities that only those who live in the Northern portion of the country can experience and felt sorry for those who never see how beautiful and awesomely harsh Winter can be on any given day or hour. Over the years I avoided “hibernation” by staying active and embracing the change of season by cross country skiing, building snow forts and sledding with the kids at the local school hill. I enjoyed the break from the bike but in the same vein missed the bike, the ride and the social interaction with my cycling friends.

Three or four years ago I saw quite a few friends purchase fat bikes. I have to admit I was a critic of the Fat bike movement. I didn’t get it. Those big goofy tires looked like something from the Flintstones and those early years of the new sport seemed like I saw more people pushing their fat bike than actually riding them. I didn’t get it! ” I’ll never get one!” I said countless times to Marnie. We rented some fat bikes at Crystal mountain and rode for an hour. It was sloooow plowing through the powder. We laughed, we fell, we pushed our bikes…. ” what the hell? Everyone says “it’s the best!” I don’t get it, this is stupid!
Well, fast forward two years where Rick and I were presented an opportunity by our race sponsor partner, GRBC to work owning fat bikes into our sponsorship package. Rick sold me hard that we should do it and “I would love it!” What?!! I have 40 plus bikes in my house, I don’t need another one. Especially one that won’t be used, taking up space!!
Thankfully we / I took the offer! After a year of owning it, I now “get it” and truly love the winter fat biking experiences. You learn to go with the flow like we do with fluctuating Michigan winter conditions. I’ve had some amazing rides on the Lake Michigan beach, exploring area woods, groomed Marquette trails, Merrell Trail, The Burg…..and have been blown away by the uniqueness of those rides and the added adventure the fat bike provides.

Even though I’ve been loving the winter fat biking and the addition of another sport to keep me fit and sane through the Winter, I said “I would never do a fat bike race.” Well, that all changed as teammate Jeremy called me over Christmas vacation and asked if I’d want to race the Farmhand fat bike race at Cannonsburg, in the two person team category. I couldn’t say no! The day before the race we received over a quarter inch of rain with warm temps turning to ice as temps dropped that night. Race morning, on a two minute phone call with Jeremy we set our race strategy (win) and laughed at the amount of preparation needed for a winter race; clothing, freezing hydration, tire pressure, equipment….
Jeremy started the race taking the first leg. I sat under the Founders tent in my winter coat, boots and snow pants trying to stay warm and going crazy wondering what type of trail conditions Jeremy was experiencing. Not really knowing if he’d come past the team pits gassed or injured, I knew I had to be ready. Here came the solo leaders of the first lap, so I stripped off all my winter clothes, grabbed my bike and ran to the pit start expecting a handoff to take lap two. Jeremy came around the last corner, fish tailing the back end and riding like a crazy person on fire. He blew past me….so I put my winter gear back on, sat at the team tent and had numerous offers for Hot Damn, Founders beer and whiskey. I declined feeling racing on some ice would be enough of a buzz. The other teams are switching riders every lap so I start to wonder if they know something we didn’t? Lap two, here come the leaders! Strip off the winter gear, grab the bike, stand at the fence ready for a tag. Jeremy blows by, big grin, decent lead on second place. What the hell?? I put all my crap back on and start to wonder if Jeremy’s going to do the entire race by himself. I conspire a strategy with teammate Martin. “If Jeremy doesn’t stop next lap I’ll start drinking or better yet you knock him off his bike and I’ll actually get to race. ” Third lap in Jeremy has a good lead on the competition and actually makes the tag! I’m racing! The course was actually fun despite a few icy spots and a few crashes. In the end we held on and won the team category placing 1st out of 41 teams. Congrats to teammates Terry on 2nd place and Adam for 6th. Along with Jane who had a great race despite bald tires. Also a great race by Marnie who just missed the podium in her first fat bike race. She says she’ll never do another one. “Too scary”. never say never!!
Thanks to Teammate Rob too for capturing some great moments/ photos on the course!!


photos by Rob Meendering



It Was A Very Good Year – atmo

It Was A Very Good Year – atmo

matt2014 was my last year in the 30-39 expert race category. I was a solid top 5 racer but at every single race, I’d get caught by the lead group of 40-somethings. I knew the bar would be set higher this year and was determined to be able to hang. After spending the off-season training hard at The Shift, and getting not only a new mountain bike, but also a Marin carbon cross bike (thank you Gap30!), I began the year with a 4th place at Barry Roubaix in a sprint finish. Good start! Two weeks later I followed that up with a first place at Yankee with a solid margin of a whopping 9 seconds. Fast forward to Iceman where I started in wave 1, and also knew my main competition in KLM garb. If John Osgood didn’t win every year, he was at least on the podium. The start left me chasing for the entire race but I rallied and was feeling good with 10k left (which NEVER happens). I hit the single track passing the group I’d been riding with, put a gap on them and came up to another group. What’s that ahead? KLM? Tight barricades with 1k to go and I manage to pass one racer through an opening in the brush and finish with John just out of reach to claim third place. I was a scant 6 seconds from him and only 20 seconds from a first place finish.
I began this year with a few goals. Make it to my 40th birthday, make it through my 40th birthday party, get a new mountain bike, and make this the best cycling year of my life. Throw in a new car to really give it the mid-life crisis effect. Only this was no crisis. It was a celebration. After eleven of my twelve races this year, I was privileged to climb the podium with some amazing racers from several teams (mainly Cross Country), but special thanks to Roy Kranz and Paul Dunn for keeping me motivated and showing me how to compete at a new level. No matter how much we beat each other up (and we did… typically it was us three breaking away), the finish line demarcated race tactics from good natured mutual respect and beer sipping.
It wasn’t a good year strictly for the race results, though. More than ever, I learned that I can’t train hard without playing hard to balance it out. That’s where Founders Racing really steps up! I’m so happy to be a part of this team! The great turnout from them and other good friends at my 40th birthday shindig was amazing and I can’t thank them enough for making it my favorite birthday ever! Drag racing Scott and Marnie with Jeremy on an old 70’s kickback tandem still makes me laugh! Casual rides through urban single track and downtown parking ramps led by Jeff Jacobi (usually with a beer stop somewhere) are what keep this sport dynamic and fun. Ride hard and just go out easy the next day to enjoy the scenery. Take your kids out for a “recovery ride”. Ride the Barry Roubaix course on a nice day without turning Strava on. Seriously, that just makes you try too hard.
I raise a pint of Centennial to everyone for a great 2015 with one final congratulations to Tom Stolz for making a huge comeback from his wheelie serious injury last year! Also to the additions to our team for 2016, welcome to Founders Racing! Can’t wait to ride, race, and party with all of you for another year!

2015 Iceman Recap

12063534_842344422550162_4948176539845747533_nAfter last year’s mud-suck fest, I really procrastinated signing up for this year’s Iceman. I had used last year’s prize money to replace bike parts and then Iceman decided to raise the entry fee to $100.00. ..I just wasn’t “feeling it”. But there is one thing that draws me to that race and it is the feeling I have when I get to hang out with my Founder’s Team Family! The wives all come up which makes for more girl power & we all just have such a great time together! It all starts on Friday evening with a group of us meeting at “the campsite” to pre-ride the end of the course. (& toss our after-race clothes in Kim & Ernie’s camper.) We HAVE to pre-ride because you never know what Iceman has up his sleeve, so it is a good thing to check it out.  Then we all head to the Packet Pick-up Zoo with a zillion people who all tend to make me nervous.  Where’s my Founder’s Family in this sea of people? No worries! We all head over to North Peak Brewing for a giant “Brady Bunch” style table.  Other teams are envious when they see the fun we have as a team…so we invite them to have a seat! Just being together makes the nerves roll away. Then it is time to TRY & get some sleep.

Race morning arrives and I am SO thankful it is not pouring rain! I feel ready as I line up with my team mate, Jane and a great friend from GRBC.  We all take off & when I say “WE” I mean “THEY”…for some reason, taking off in one big blob makes me super scared. My first Iceman I saw a horrible crash at the start of the race and I have never been able to erase that memory…until I hit the singletrack.  I can feel my shoulders relax as my wheels hit the dirt trail. Now I am ready! I settle into a groove and try to reach my goal times at each timing mat. Dockery 31:53, Williamsburg 1:13, Zebra 1:41 ALMOST THERE! I see the red race chute barriers & get so excited I am nearly done!! Then I watch a man 2 riders in front of me ring himself silly against a tree on the last stretch of single-track! He is laying on the trail and my heart gets a sucker-punch as people ride over him! No race is worth being a jerk so I stop and help him unwrap his bike from the tree and get his booty off the trail. I ask him if he’s okay and he doesn’t answer but gives me a thumbs up. I tell him to run the rest of the race because there isn’t far to go & he just sits there and waves me off. I cross the finish with a 2:06:04. A personal best which put me into 3rd place. (Ironically I had gotten on the podium the past 4 years as a FOUNDER’S TEAM racer but had not gotten a 3rd place…until today.)

But now the FUN begins!  The Founders Family knows how to celebrate. I am not just talking about the world’s best beer, I am talking about the world’s best team families! We all bring food…lots of food and eat like we had been racing for days! We dance, laugh, cheer other racers on and then take the party back to our condos where we all re-live the days events and hope that Scott Thenikl will pull out his Michael Jackson moves! Lucky for us…this was the year!  A great way to wrap up a 2015 season! I am the luckiest girl in the world to ride for such a cool team!


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.

Late Iceman report from a new Mom

Iceman Race Report-Postpartum Division
The rain came down in slush-drops. And there I was sitting in the front seat of our car breastfeeding my six-week-old next to a truck full of middle-aged men. This was my Iceman pregame. I work at the Gaslight Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, and for weeks up until Iceman I had to listen to people get psyched up about their training for the race. I kept fairly quiet, secretly holding my spot in the race, meanwhile struggling to get past my huge belly to pick up the hex wrench I had just dropped on the floor. I had found out I was pregnant in January, so I held back from mountain bike racing for the year. Iceman was my only chance to get in at least one race for the Founders team for the year.

IMG_0683Needless to say there were a lot of stars that had to align in order to do Iceman. Here was my list of things that had to occur:

1. Baby must be born on time. Due date was September 28. Much later, and I would not have enough recovery time.
2. No C-Section. Again, not enough recovery time if this is what happened.
3. Recovery must go well. I kept running (a generous term for my brisk waddle) up to the last weeks of pregnancy in hopes this would help.
4. When baby is born, it must take a bottle.
5. My husband must be okay with it. I knew this was already okay, as Kyle has supported me through almost every race I’ve been in since we’ve been together.

I was extremely lucky, and our boy, Jules Escher, was born with no complications on September 20 at 3:26 in the morning. Recovery also went well. Two weeks later I was running. Three weeks later I was biking. Four weeks later I was doing single-track. I knew I was ready when a friend I biked with said, “You should do Iceman!” I said with confidence in my new nursing sports bra, “I am!”
The start of the race was miserable. Not only the feeding and pumping in the car, but the rain-snow mix, the Stan’s leaking out from my tires, the cog on the back of my single speed that I had last-minute put on, and the zombie-like feeling that comes from the lack of sleep newborns bring with them. Still, I headed to the start if the race with a plastered “this is X-TREME!” smile, in a wave that was much faster then what I deserved six-weeks postpartum.

-4We were off. As the start of Iceman is on pavement, it only took a few minutes for me to be at the back of the wave with the other guy on a single speed. Then the mud hit about 1 mile in. It was like oatmeal; a never-ending track filled with oatmeal. There was no break. And the slush-rain kept pouring down. It was only a few miles into the race and it started, the grinding of gravel-laden gears and the dropped derailleurs. The cassettes were no longer visible on people’s bikes. Jane, a teammate, said she was one of the many who ended up riding single speed because of the terrorizing mud. At this point, I realized my single speed wasn’t a half bad idea.
Shortly after the sounds of clanking gears the silence started too. People were already drenched, hypothermic and miserable. I saw many friends on the side of hills not even having enough energy to curse. They wouldn’t talk. Iceman generally is a positive race, with people saying “Great Job” and “Go get it!” This year it was a mix of grunts, sighs and spitting of dirt. At one point, the rain stopped for a minute and I exclaimed, “This is a nice change!” with as positive of a tone as I could. No reply, just pissed faces.

-3As I was approaching Williamsburg Road where my dad was going to be I kept thinking, “I’m a mom now. I have to do the responsible thing. Should I bail, or should I keep going?” But I kept thinking two things. A. This is your only race for the year and B. You just endured three days of labor, what’s three hours? So I went up the hill, gave my biggest smile and kept going.
My pants were now so soaked that I was getting comments from time to time that my pants were falling down. I kept going. I told myself, “Once you see that 10k remains you are golden. Just make it to 10k.” I made it to 10k. It wasn’t as good of a feeling as I hoped for, but I kept going. I had to get back to my baby. Coming into the last 3k the trail was pretty much unrideable, as it was single track they just put in for the race, so it did not fair well with the thousands of riders on it that day. I kept going. Finally the finish. The fans cheered and I saw Kyle with Jules tucked away in his carrier with his red hat peaking over the top.
I crossed the finish line. I had done it. I took a picture with my boys and realized I had just completed the Iceman with my slowest time ever. I think the rest of the team may be able to say the same (even though several took podium places). But I think we’d all say that with the shittier the race, the better the beer tastes in the end. Especially if you haven’t been able to drink for several months.

-5Danielle deJonge Shaver

Gravel Groveling

Friday after Thanksgiving found me in the car with Joni heading to a bike race. 

This was my third time participating in the Gravel Grovel in Norman Indiana.  I had only a modest goal to break the five hour mark.  In 2012, my time was 5:50 with three flat tires!  In 2013, I took a lot of time off the previous year, had no issues mechanically and finished 5:07.

The course winds through the southern Indiana country side and unlike the course at Barry-Roubaix for those familiar with that event, the Gravel Grovel includes two significant “mountain bike” segments in the Hoosier National Forest.  The 60-mile course also includes 3200 feet of climbing, some quite steep.

It was actually quite cold and felt colder than the temperature read from my car’s display.  I had started with the same gear I used at Iceman- baselayer, windbreaker, armwarmers and jersey.  But as I got my bike ready and the wind blew, it didn’t feel like enough.  I then swapped the windbreaker for the thermal jacket.    Seven miles into the race I had second thoughts and was getting a bit too warm.  That soon ended as the windchill dropped the temperatures and I was VERY glad to have the thermal jacket on.

As with most events, I was back and forth with several other riders as different terrain appealed to different skills.  There was a six man team with Bertolli jerseys riding really strong.  They would often break up in the technical areas and regroup to ride together.  As a pace line they hammered and I was able to jump on their back wheel for a few miles at one point.  But their team was plagued by mechanical issues and flat tires and they’d pass many of us other riders, then we’d go by them as they repaired some issue.  

The course finishes with the ever familiar creek crossing.

But I just did NOT have the legs this year, finishing in 5:22.  I think I just had a busy, busy few days leading up to the event.  I have been running regularly with Joni.  Leading up to Gravel Grovel I had two 5K running races in which I placed 1st and 5th respectively with times of 22:08 and 21:49.  I had been running anywhere from three to six miles an evening.  My legs were simply tired.

The course was different also. It’s been slightly different each of the last three years and I think was more difficult this year than last.

I realized at the 30-mile mark I would not make my goal and almost wished I could DNF. But I rode on and after 40 miles I got a bit of a boost in energy.. or determination.  Mile 50, refill of a bottle, take a banana and Hammergel and motor on to FINALLY see the last downhill on the course to the finish.  WHEW!    

Anyway- that closes my cycling season for 2014.


For some reason, every time I see the acronym CPS, I think of that beloved after school routine I once had growing up watching two motorcycled policemen chase down goofy, horribly overacting, hoodlums in the sanitized and innocent made-for-TV version of the City of Angels. Keeping the groaningly horrible references to the show to a minimum, this is the story of how my season on ChiPS unfolded.
I have been participating in the series for a few years and had been admittedly complacent about really making a front page bust to solidify my standing on the force. I had my first brush with fame on the front page of the Local section (not really) in 2013 with a third place cowbell in expert class 30-39. I didn’t pay much attention to my standing and the top two spots were well out of reach. 2014 would be my last year in that age group and I wanted to make that glamorous swan song bust. I wanted more cowbell!
Getting a podium finish this year proved to be a lot tougher than chasing down a random speeder on a posh palm tree lined boulevard in Southern California, though. Halfway through the season, I found myself in first place by a speeding ticket’s worth of points. Most categories have a few top contenders, but I knew I was in for some serious battles when our top five were separated by a mere six points. So this is the point where you start playing the “what if’s” to no end and ultimately come to the conclusion that you just better buckle down and get your ass into shape. I had a 3rd place finish at Hanson Hills, bested by Josh Zelinski and the winner, Paul Nederveld from New Holland, who was now in the top three overall. I was lucky enough to get a first place finish at State Games to boost my confidence. My first 1st place race as an expert in 6 years. So things are good. Just stay the course, right? Nope. Stepping out of the inky shadows (RIP, Tom Magliozzi), a Freewheeler dark horse by the name of Eric Langley burst onto the scene with wins at Sweat Shaker and Maybury. Seven Mary Three, we got a 211 at ChiPS 30-39! At this point, Eric’s in first and I’m tied with Paul for second with Addison and Pando remaining to duke it out.
Addison was a great race. Four laps was the sentence and after the first two, I was running 2nd behind Eric. Paul surged on the third lap with sirens ablazing, but Eric was able to evade the arrest at the line. We finished 1-2-3 with Eric pretty much solidifying 1st place in the series. There was one race left with nothing but pride (and 2nd place) on the line. Pando has always been that anaerobically painful end of the season staple in the chest slug-fest of a race that makes the Founders Centennial at the finish transcend the literal category of fermented malt and grain. This year was again true to form. First place in the series was out of reach, but this was a race just like any other. When the clock ticks “GO!”, friends become targets and racers become obstacles, not to mention the bull’s eye on your own back. Starting somewhere around fourth or fifth in the first lap, I had passed my main ChiPs competitors by the midpoint of the race with only one perpetrator to catch, but this OJ got away. Chasing over hill and vale for the next three laps the gap was still about 100 yards and giving it one last push up the final climb, I finished 15 seconds behind the winner. It was a hard fought 2nd place effort. Special thanks to the hills of the West Side of GR for getting me in shape for that! Also my teammate, Josh Hogeterp, needs to be commended for a strong race that ended up being, through ChiPS mathematical magic, the reason I was able to take sole possession of 2nd place in the series. So I failed in my pre-season goal of taking home the gold by only a couple points, but I worked hard for it and came to the end of the season in the best shape I’ve ever been. That’s the beauty of competition.
unnamedWithout that heated competition, I never would’ve raced 9 of the 10 races in the series this season. Without my team, I never would’ve been in shape to compete at all. And without mountain biking, I’d still be an ex-college tennis player. A heartfelt thank you to all the race promoters of the series, my  teammates, and all my competitors. You make this sport more than about riding a bike, but a way of life.