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Superweek...Of Mice and Men by Rich Pink
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 7/17/2002
Superweek...Of Mice and Men by Rich Pink

There's a three week race going on in France right now that's stealing all the cycling headlines, and rightly so. But there's a two week race right here in the Midwest that's claiming it's own pile of scalps, legs, and hearts that goes by the name of "Superweek," a pile of tough crits and road races. Funny. It's two weeks, yet they call it the singular "Superweek"...oh yeah, it's Wisconsin, makes sense now. Basically it's 14 straight days of racing all over the greater Milwaukee area. It has several nicknames, this mish mash of torture-fests: "Stupor week," "Stupid Week," "Super Wee" ('cos you overhydrate to stay available for 14 straight days of racing.) And it is certainly a hearty bunch that tries to compete in all 14 races. Of course the pros are here because the cash purses are pretty hefty. It has this year drawn the likes of Saturn, US Postal, Schroeder Iron, Nature Valley, and even some guys from the TdF snubbed Team Coast are present. Lots of older retired Euro pros abound to stake their claim of some of the plentiful cash.

And of course, in order to line the purse pockets, they open the race up to 3's and offer a 4/5 field as well, so we delusional urchins can show up and play "pretend-pro" during the week, help fill the cash purses with $30-per-race entry fees, and get a glimpse of what it feels like to race hard in a multi-day, semi-stage race. And you guessed it, yours truly showed up to try his luck on Tuesday, after successfully playing a splendid round of hooky from work on what was going to be a dreadful 92 degree day in the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin. I just had to see what it was all about so I joined my psychotic team mate Chris Vogel, who has hit some bad luck lately. He's quit his job, had girlfriend troubles, had crashed a bunch in his racing lately...all of this is a relatively short stretch of time. In talking to him last week on the phone, he was despondent and sounded ultimately morose, ready to sell his bike and go farm hermit crabs somewhere. I felt bad for him. However he must have had some form of monstrous epiphany, either that or he hemorrhaged, because next I talked to him, he had registered for all 14 races, dead set on doing them all, and doing well. I wish I had his resolve. What better way to combat life's curve balls than with a suffer fest? God bless him....

So Chris comes out to my pad after his first three races (Superweek runs from July 13 to July 28) looking a bit tired but none the worse for wear. He regales us with stories of his rough races so far, including the infamous "Alpine Valley Road Race," which is supposedly the hardest of the bunch. I know, I're saying to yourself, the word 'alpine' and Wisconsin should be about as far apart as jews and arabs, but it's named after the grounds upon which it is held - Alpine Valley Ski Resort - site of several of my sixth grade fumbling love affairs and numerous humiliations in the winter months while my school took us on skiing weekends in the winter. If those hills could talk......but seriously folks...the hills are significant, and I am certainly glad I kept my silly butt at work for that one. Riders tell stories of racing there with an almost Marine-like 3 mile stare in their eyes. Chris and I finish the night after a huge dinner by watching the ultimate cycling movie "Breaking Away" which was given to me as an inspirational gift to get me through my knee surgery rehab earlier this year. 

 We headed out under sunny morning skies, and crossed the state line into enemy territory searching for the small 'burb of Burlington, Wisconsin. This race was titled "Proving Grounds" and in my naivete I thought it had something to do with cycling. But all was revealed as we found the out-of-the-way course. It was a proving ground alright, as we pulled into the huge expansive lot, we read the sign "MGA Proving Ground and Crash Testing". No kidding. The assembly area was a monstrous (!) paved parking lot, littered  with countless skid marks from where they had pushed various automobiles to their breaking points in safety tests. I saw the irony right away and it took a little time for my mixture of laughter and disbelief to subside. Crash Test. Oh boy. The lot was I'd guess about as big as 10 football fields, and nary a speck of shade to be found. Cars lined the outer rim of the lot and riders warmed up doing long circles in the huge lot, trying to steer clear of where car tires had deposited considerable amounts of rubber, sometimes piling up to almost a half inch. The lot also had concrete ramps on the one side of the lot, presumably where they would jump station wagons into a grassy knoll, just to see what they could take, if ever given the chance to be airborne. And again (sorry folks) if you're a Wisconsin driver, your chances of becoming airborne are clinically proven to be 75% higher than that of the rest of the country. Quite honestly I considered breaking out one of my not-too-mean 32mph sprints and jumping one ramp, just to give the others a good laugh, and to nullify my chance of racing on that punishing course that day. I quashed that idea, and joined the lazy circle of riders warming up to a terrible, inhumane neo-muzak rendition of "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" pumping through the Velo Tech speakers.

We lined up under Eddie Van Gijs' ramblings (Eddy played the mean, pump wielding Italian in 'Breaking Away' and does the announcing at a lot of the midwest races) and I saw about 45 other riders in the 4/5 field. Eddie has noticed Chris, with whom he had had conversations with apparently during the first few races. As we roll out, Eddie says over the loudspeaker "There goes a Vogel. Vogels go fast." apparently sharing my same adoration of his quest. I pat Chris on the back, as I truly admire his brave, albeit suicidal attempt to do the entire series, and I stifle the urge to do some silly characterization of Eddie's poor Italian accent that he slung in the movie. 

Now as far as I was concerned, I had little or no ambition to do anything really spectacular that day. I had  overtrained a little earlier in the month, and had taken some really light training regimens lately, and I skipped the weekend races. That, combined with he fact that is was a 4/5 field going for $700 (read: sandbaggers galore) and that I was once again within the confines of my arch enemy Wisconsin, had me feeling like I was here just to sit in for as long as I could. The race was scheduled or 40 miles of rolling hills. If there ever was a definition for rolling hills, this course is it. No were either going up, or going down, but none of the hills were threatening to shatter my testicles like Alpine Valley, or worse, Snake Alley. The nice thing about riding midpack in something like this is that you can let the pacesetters "pull" you over the hills. And it was working to perfection. By the time I had decided to take stock in where I was on the course, at the 25 mile mark, I was happy to see I was still in the lead group, and felt surprisingly good. And so was Chris, a little bit ahead of me in the group. The pace was my fastest in a race so far. And in being all hills it wasn't exactly steady, climbing or descending at all times, except when cornering. Like all races, after cornering is the time to be vigilant, and one has to leave the saddle to make sure they hook up to the main bunch. Lots of splits in the field happen around corners when those toward the rear cannot match the acceleration of those at the front. And lo and behold, around the last corner heading into the feed zone, an already high pace became higher, and the speed got ridiculous. I managed to close one gap I had allowed to open, dragging another four riders with me. We approach the feed zone really fast...which seemed odd, normally things kind of settle in the FZ and people relax a little. But there were apparently different strategies at work here. More gaps open up, and I'm caught behind another one. This time it seems much harder to close. I look up the road and see Chris coming rapidly back toward me, his head hanging down, his shoulder blades rising up like twin peaks out of his jersey, his legs slogging sloppily around the pedals. I whip by him and tell him to get on my wheel and he kind of laughs a little and tells me to go on, I think the first three races had taken a bit of a toll on my boy Chris, plus it was hot...really hot. I carry on, but in looking forward I see that this is going to be a tough gap to close. I am fueled by the encouragement I receive from the people in the feed zone, yelling at me to bridge up. I look back and see the other casualties from the split, and none of them look ready to help out, and as the next roller hits, the disparity between crossing them in the pack or out of the pack became painfully clear. I give everything...I'm going blind. My legs are filling with lactic acid and I swear a handful of nibbling termites. My breathing for the first time in the race becomes ultimately labored and the facts start to become clear. There will be no closing this gap this time. But in looking down at my computer, I see I am at the 31 mile mark, and the peloton isn't out of sight until 3 more miles. Although I am dropped, I am happy to have been in the mix for that long. And quite honestly, I was kind of glad to have a chance to sit up and take in the undeniable beauty of southern rural Wisconsin in mid summer. Lush green everywhere, old rustic barns, farmers tending fields. Finally some of the remnants who have decided to finish the race appear behind me and I wait for them, we form a survival group and press on to the finish line, avoiding the urge to slip in behind the occasional farmers combine and take advantage of the considerable draft they offer. The group I complete the course with crosses the line, all front tires across at the same time, no one sprinting or doing anything silly. We were all pretty blown, and out of the money, but as it turns out, we're only minutes behind the lead pack. 

During warmdown, I find Ken Toman of Schroeder Iron. Apparently, as our own CrazyJane has informed me, he had taken a bit of a laugh from my relentless drivel in the past. He warms up as I warm down, and he made clear something I had been thinking of for a little while now. He said, " you need to work on this" and rapped his knuckles on my brain bucket. He punctuated it with "the body can do amazing things." My failures of late are attributed to my head. It's all in my head. There's lots of things in my head. Scraps of newspaper, old Coke cans, some bong resin from college, and the thought that I can't win. It is that resident that I look forward to evicting in the coming weeks. Thanks Ken, for driving it home. (Ken's team is currently defending the GC yellow leader's jersey). And the effort and result, albeit dropped and out of the money, was reassuring to me. Had I done this race 2 weeks ago, I wouldn't have even finished it. 

So that was my Superweek experience. I may squeeze in one more this week before heading off to RAGBRAI. I'll certainly report on whatever happens next, and upon my return, it's the season ending super-hard criteriums around Chicago which, with my new found attitude, I look forward to tackling.

Thanks for reading, and as we say here 'round the Team Hotel Accomodations camp, "Seeya SUCKA!"

Rich Pink

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