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2013 Strada Fango Gravel Ride - a video & pictoral review...

Strada Fango 2013:  Epic gravel, with the theme of the day being quad destroying climbs!  Photo Credit:  Kristin Velaski

The ride is done, everyone is accounted for, and 10,000+ calories have been consumed since finishing, and our legs hurt so good this morning after!  Yes, it was a great Strada Fango!  Special thanks to Noah & the Out There crew for putting on the event, and the support out on the course!

Thanks to Cyclova XC team members for sharing the photos featured in this post, but an extra special thanks to Dallas Wynne (who has a real knack for putting together awesome action videos) for putting together the video of the event as seen below.  This video will give you a real good idea what a early Spring hard core gravel event is all about.  Enjoy, and then check out the following photos...

Thanks to Dallas Wynne for putting together this great video on the Strada Fango!  

The front end of the "start line" at the 2013 Strada Fango.  Every turn along the course was marked with a wood stake painted orange, as Noah (ride organizer) is showing here.  Photo Credit:  Katie Misner
Gravel rides are all about fun, adventure, and being self sufficient.  Generally, there is no entry fee, no results, minimal (if any) course marking, and minimal aid out on the course.  You need to navigate on your own and take care of yourself.  The 2013 Strada Fango was a classic and very well executed gravel ride!  I'd estimate that about 60 people started the event, which was on a different course than planned (due the much of the original course still being covered in snow).  This year's course was out in the Blue Hills region, east of Rice Lake, WI.  The course was about 70% gravel, 20% pavement, and 5% snow/ice (yes, snow).  Much of the gravel was rather wet and soft, making for hard going and for an epic day in the saddle.

A mile or two into the ride, the lead pack pulls away with hot pace on a nice dry gravel road.  Photo Credit:  Katie Misner

At the front, the ride started with a hot pace, rolling at 22+ mph on the rolling gravel roads.  At about mile 12, we turned onto a snow/slush/water covered road that literally ripped the pack apart, and this is where I totally lost contact with the group.  I was relieved to be joined by fellow Cyclova XC'ers Mitch, Ben, and Adam.  We struggled through the snow, which consisted of walking, but also riding on top of irregular crusty ice (frequently breaking through & struggling to stay vertical) & riding through car tracks with literal rivers of snow melt water running through them.  Many people crashed in this section, which resulted in bloody legs from the abrasive snow/ice on the road surface.  In the end, these conditions were the ultimate test for the drive train of any bike.  I needed to loosen up my chain tension on my All City Nature Boy single speed that I was riding, while others had to make brake adjustments.

A 3.5 mile section of snow (most of it way more snow than this picture shows) made for a really tough 3.5 mile section, with most participants walking the majority of this section.  Photo Credit:  Ben Mullin

Frank & Mitch stop on the side of the road to make a few quick bike adjustments after 3.5 miles of snow, slush, running water, and sand - and to enjoy a refreshing Hamms.  Photo Credit:  Ben Mullin

After the 3.5 mile snow/ice covered section, we were relieved to find some nice gravel and pavement sections and made really good time for a while on nice rolling terrain.  The 75 degree heat felt great and I expect everyone really enjoyed the mid section of the ride. 

Finally, some good, clean gravel after the long section of snow.  Here Keith & Dallas roll it out!  Photo Credit:  Ben Mullin

A soft, long gravel climb with riders in the distance.  Photo Credit:  Ben Mullin

The sign says it all.  For much of the Strada Fango, you were all alone on beautiful lonely roads.  Photo Credit:  Mitch Bruns

Here's Ben at the "U-turn", a "memorable" place for those who rode to it.  Sigh...  Photo Credit:  Ben Mullin

Personally, I grossly underestimated the difficulty of this ride.  It took me 2 hours more to complete it than I expected, and I was under-prepared hydration wise and nutritionally.  I paid for this mistake and battled through 30 miles of severe cramping.  I found myself walking up most hills as my cramping legs couldn't push my single speed bike up the hills.  I found myself looking at the beautiful rushing streams we would cross, craving ice cold water.  I found myself craving a huge calorie bomb (Chef Boyardee Ravioli to be exact).  I found myself simply wanting to be done.  

At one point, following my trusty que sheet, I took a right hand turn and noticed that the next turn was labeled a u-turn.  I assumed this meant a sharp turn onto another road.  So, I walked up one of the biggest hills of the entire race (probably took 10 minutes to walk up it), started descending the other side, and bumped into a grinning Mitch who was shaking his head saying "it really is a u-turn".  I immediately turned around a couple hundred yards shy of the turn (saving myself a bit of walking back up the steep back side of the hill).  The below image was taken at the top of the u-turn hill that I walked up, with another even bigger climb looming in the distance, which we also climbed.  Ouch!

This was the view after the u-turn, after getting back up to the top.  Nothing like back to back categorized climbs...  Photo Credit:  Kristin Velaski

2013 Strada Fango is Sunday, April 28th

The crazy spring weather has had the Strada Fango organizers a bit on the fence about whether or not they'd be able to hold an event--but as of right now it looks like a go!

I know quite a few CyclovaXCers are thinking of heading down and doing this, so we hope to see you there. A couple of us did this last year and had a blast!

All the information you need can be found on the Strada Fango Facebook page here. We'll see you at the starting line!

2013 Birkie Wave Seeding Released

Hey Folks,

I came home today to find my copy of Birch Scroll jammed into my mailbox, which prompted that "spring" (that's in quotes because it's probably going to snow again) ritual of sitting down and underlining everyone's times. There were one or two of the Cyclova guys who had calculated that they were on the bubble between one wave or another--and I was psyched to see they'd made the faster wave. Mullin in particular made the jump from wave 7 to wave 2, which is a tremendous achievement. 

The Birkie is a whole different race in the first waves. Thousands of little feet tend to cut up that trail pretty good making it much, much slower.

It looks like the magical time for the 1st wave continues to linger around 3 hours. I was under the impression that it had gotten a lot more competitive in recent years, but I think 2011 was just an aberration caused by a really fast course. Still, if your ambition is the 1st wave it's safer to aim for 2:50. I know from experience that it's miserable to miss off on a wave cut-off by a handful of seconds.

This pretty much concludes our coverage of the 2012-2013 ski season. It has been a blast, and I'm looking forward to bigger and better things in 2013-2014. Last year we had a couple races get rained out, but sooner or later we'll be seeing some regular competitions and heavy, early season snow (if this March/April is any indication, great things must be coming). Keep your eyes open for a series of free 10k events similar to the Sasquatch Dash in December or so!

To send things off, here's an awesome picture of Tommy that I got from Barb Lundberg (check out her blog and tell her thanks). It's from the 2012 Birkie Finish. Tommy always gets the best pictures:

The Team Gear Re-Order is IN!

Hey Folks!

For those of you who ordered team gear, the treasured box from Mt. Borah has arrived! So swing by anytime to pick up your goods.

By the way, the above picture isn't from the current order, I believe that's the original box of "Olive" and "Lime" ski suits that we got from our very first team order.  Blast from the past eh?

See you soon!

Oh, and for those of you who are upset about the fact that we still are getting 10 inches of snow every night, here's a little message from Arnold:

Quit Whining and Get a Snow Bike!

Today, April 19th, I awakened to ANOTHER new blanket of snow. As my wife and I lay in bed watching the TV for local school closings, I felt a sense of imminent dread over the explosion of outrage that I could expect to see on Facebook.

We've already had to cancel (or at least postpone) the Mammoth Gravel Classic due to the fact that the trail is buried, and I know that morale is low because many people think mother nature is preventing them from riding.

Look folks, you have to get that out of your head right now. Mother nature isn't stopping you from riding, YOU are stopping you from riding!

The technology does exist for riding in weather like this! It's called a Salsa Mukluk, and if you've been on the fence about whether you should pull the trigger and get one...well, you need no more evidence than this spring. This has been a Mukluk spring if there ever was one.

Now, you might be thinking "well, this spring has been an aberration, we're not likely to have another spring like this."

Do you really think that? Is it just me, or has the weather been totally bizarre and unpredictable for the last 5 years? Grab yourself a Mukluk or a Beargrease, get a pair of sweet 45NRTH boots, and BOOM! You're riding again. If we'd have had a big enough fleet of snow bike riders, we could have pulled the trigger on Mammoth without a second thought. We'd have just had to put a note like this: "Event still on, just bring your snow bike!"

Speaking of that, those of you who already do have snow bikes are welcome to come up and ride the trail. We won't be at the shop until regular opening hours, but if you're swinging through, say HI! Also take some pictures that show how much fun you're having on those sweet, fat tire rides!

Gosh...what a weird spring.

!POSTPONED! - 2013 MAMMOTH GRAVEL CLASSIC moved to a later date

Mother Nature threw everything she had at us today, so we're postponing the 2013 Mammoth Gravel Classic - date to be announced...

It is with a heavy heart that I'm sad to announce the postponement of all 2013 Mammoth Gravel Classic events.  We will announce a re-dux date in the near future.

Today in St. Croix Falls, we awoke to bare ground, after a night of rain, but the rain quickly turned to sleet and then changed to heavy snow (with 2 inches or so of slush covered by 4 inches of snow on the ground now).  There is another 4-8 inches of snow forecasted in the coming 24 hours.

The Mammoth Gravel Classic is a challenging event in good conditions, and with the conditions that will be present on the course Saturday morning, it would simply be dangerous.  We refuse to subject participants to hazardous - likely life threatening conditions. 

Additionally, by postponing the event we will be able to utilize our original courses, which participants will enjoy more than our contingency courses that we've announced in the past 24 hours. 

Stay tuned for a big announcement on a new date for the 2013 Mammoth Gravel Classic - we hope to see you then!

"Project Steve" by GNAT: Photo Premier This Weekend at Cyclova XC!

Sample image of GNAT's "Project Steve" exhibit, premiering at Cyclova XC this weekend.  Photo Credit to GNAT.

This will be an epic weekend for cyclists, adventurers, for the St. Croix Falls community, and for Cyclova XC!  We've now officially added something huge to the mix that's really going to enrich the weekend for everyone.

It's my pleasure to announce that "GNAT" will be premiering his photo exhibit known as "Project Steve" at Cyclova XC this weekend.  This is a one of a kind photo exhibit featuring mini characters posed with gravel / adventure biking situations.  It's amazing the stories that these images tell, not to mention how much fun it is to look at them!

Sample image of GNAT's "Project Steve" exhibit, premiering at Cyclova XC this weekend.  Photo Credit to GNAT.
Come to Cyclova XC this weekend to enjoy this photo exhibit, not to mention all of the events and festivities associated with the Mammoth Gravel Classic Gravel Cycling Festival!

As an added incentive to come, GNAT has very generously offered to sell his photography off of our walls for $50 each (frames & matted 11"x14" prints included), with $20 proceeds from each sale going to the Woolly Bicycle Club!  What a great way to support the IMBA Chapter that builds the trails in our region & puts on many of the great cycling events that we enjoy!  Photos purchased must remain on the wall until Cyclova XC closes on Saturday, April 20, so that all event attendees may enjoy them.

Check out what GNAT has to say about this weekend HERE

Sample image of GNAT's "Project Steve" exhibit, premiering at Cyclova XC this weekend.  Photo Credit to GNAT.

Compassion for Boston

I've been thinking of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon all day long, and I feel an obligation to write something about it, although words feel pretty inadequate. Acts like this simply don't make sense, and it's getting to the point where they seem to be almost a monthly occurrence. 

I think the one thing to remember in tough times is to spend your energy on compassion for the victims rather than hatred for the perpetrators. Those responsible will be brought to justice, but until an investigation has had time to get some results, there is nothing you can do about the bad guys--so don't even think about them. I'd prefer to forget bad guys and celebrate the innocent ones more often as a general rule anyway.

Boston is a long way from Wisconsin, but the marathon community is nationwide. Many of the people who you see running in the streets of your local town have probably done Boston, and I know a couple of my close friends were concerned about specific people they knew who were participants in the race this year.

I think the worst thing about a tragedy like this is that you feel so helpless afterwards. But the truth is you're not helpless. Use this as a moment to reflect on the people important to you. If you were worried about friends who were at Boston, then take a further moment to reflect on how concerned you were that they might have been injured. Those people are important to you, maybe more than you ever realized. Tell them so when you see them again.

Above all, keep running. Whether you're signed up for the Eau Claire Marathon, or Grandma's or The Twin Cities, keep Boston in mind as you train and participate. I love events like this. They make me train hard, I feel safe doing them, and they make my life better. None of that is going to change.

Sasquatch Dash #1 Race Results

Hey Again,

I'm still excited about our first race yesterday! What a fun group of people! I'm thinking as the weather gets nicer we're going to have more and more participants, but 15 runners is an intimate little group. It was fun to finish the race yesterday and find all the participants waiting around at the overlook to cheer you in! I can't say I've ever had that experience at any kind of sporting event before. Then we all went out for coffee which was also fun!

Yesterday Ben crunched the numbers and sent me some files with yesterday's standings as well as the overall race standings. I told him it was awesome and that I'd post it in a couple weeks, but Ben said I had to put it up right away. So here it is:
I guess this list doesn't include the women's leaders, because so far we've only had one woman participant! She's jumped out to a commanding lead, however the women's series is still up for grabs because the last race counts for double points+only 5 out of the 6 possible results count!
And for those of you who are excited about the overall results here that is too.
Remember that pre-ordering the t-shirt got you a 10 point series bonus, but I'm sure that advantage is going to evaporate pretty quickly (especially for people like me).

Anyway, that's all for now, look for that second chart to get bigger and more incomprehensible as more races get done! Thanks again to all race volunteers and coordinators!

Sasquatch Dash #1 Is In The Books!

The first Sasquatch Dash was a resounding success, approximately 17 people (Ben ran off with the finish sheet to crunch the numbers so I don't have the exact count) participated in our 5.2 mile alternative course. Naturally it snowed over night because this has been the craziest spring in recent memory, but that didn't stop our intrepid Squatchers!

I believe a couple people were freaked out by the fact that our original course was flooded in parts, plus, I was concerned about the intense terrain that Dallas had mapped out (some of it was close to cliff ledges), but we decided to put off that course for a better day--and the alternate route through the Wert Preserve was tremendous. Dallas and Ben deserve a round of applause for putting together a great course!  Those of you who skipped the first event because you thought the route was crazy...don't worry, we'll take care of you!

I'm expecting this series is only going to get bigger and bigger as the days get longer and sunnier! Great to meet new people and enjoy coffee at the Dallas House afterwards (our guy Dallas doesn't own that place, so don't ask him).

See you on May 25th for 6-7 miles!

Sasquatch Dash is On for Sat. April 13!

Hey Folks,
Tomorrow (Saturday April 13th) is the first scheduled race in the 2013 Sasquatch Dash Trail Race Series. In the true spirit of Sasquatch, the race is going to be held no matter what the weather conditions are. However, we are currently working on an alternative route in case the trails we intended to compete on are buried under a yard of snow (it's been a nice winter this spring hasn't it?).

We'll make the final call tomorrow morning, but if the trails are impassible it's quite likely we might just run on roads through interstate park, and then go up the hill like we're doing a hill repeat (there's a big pile of snow on the top that would make a good turn around point.

Rest assured that this race is intended to honor Sasquatch...but we don't want to put anyone at unnecessary risk either.

Don't forget to come in early tomorrow and pick up your shirt!

They've Got ATV use on the Gandy Dancer on the Agenda Again

Sorry for the late notice on this folks, but I've just gotten word that a "discussion" about ATV use is on the County of Burnett Natural Resources Committee Agenda (See above image). Also note that this meeting is scheduled for April 11th at 9:30 AM.

It seems like ATV use on the Gandy becomes an issue every year, even though from my understanding there are provisions in place to make it virtually impossible. Still, I thought I'd throw this note out on our blog just in case any of our grand/loyal cyclists in the area are looking for something to do at 9:30 AM.  

I also received the following poster. I hope this isn't a real threat, but you never know (if you go to this, please send a report to bj@cyclovaxc.com):

The Sasquatch Dash is Coming...T-Shirts Have Arrived!

Hey Folks,
Don't forget, April 13th marks the inaugural run of the Sasquatch Dash Trail series! We were kind of hoping that the trails would be cleared up by now, but we keep getting a foot of snow every other week!  Still, I think this is the way that Sasquatch would want it (however we do recommend you bring a cold weather trail running shoe if you have one).

If you pre-ordered a T-Shirt, they're now available at the shop. The price for the pre-orders was $15 so with tax you can make your check out for $15.83 (to CyclovaXC). You can pick up your shirt either before or after the event on Saturday.

See you on the trails!

Wednesday Night Road Rides at Cyclova XC Starting for the season: Wed. April 1, 2015

Wednesday night road rides at Cyclova XC are both fun and challenging - and for all levels of road riders!

That's right folks, the Wednesday rides are back on starting tomorrow (April 10th), and continuing until further notice. Please join us at the shop at 6 PM for a fantastic workout!

Here's the original post for more details:

We've been doing road bike sprint rides for decades - and when done right, we've realized that they can be both fun and challenging for all levels of road riders - from seasoned elites through beginners!  This is our goal with the Cyclova XC Wednesday night sprint ride!

The Cyclova XC Group Sprint Road Ride is a carefully engineered affair - with the goal of being INCLUSIVE to all road riders.  Following are the basics of the ride:
  • We have a great 28.9 mile generally undulating course. Click HERE for an interactive map & details.  Click HERE for a nice printable map and que sheet.
  • There is a beautiful 9 mile warm up along the beautiful River Road.  Then, we have 6 sprints in the same location every week (again see the map for the locations).  These sprints vary from high speed flat sprints to challenging climbs throughout the final 17 miles of the ride.
  • This is a casual group ride until we are within 1 mile of each sprint line.  If we are within 1 mile of the sprint, anything goes.  Feel like going for it early - break away style?  Great!   Feel like playing cat & mouse, looking at everyone else until 50 meters before the line?  Great!  Each sprint is a race simulation, and racing is unpredictable - as is the case with this sprint ride.
  • After each sprint line, EVERYONE slows down until everyone re-groups and recovers.  We ride together easily until we are within 1 mile of the next sprint where the games start all over again!
Click on the above map to view the interactive map file, or to download the GPX file to your GPS device.

These Wednesday night sprint rides are meant for all levels of road riders.  Whether you're a seasoned racer or curious about doing group road rides - this ride is for you!  Come join us and be a part of it!  Road bikes are strongly recommended. 

Bacon Ride #1 Recap

The Bacon Riders
On a cold, wet April morning, leaving from the bosom of St. Croix Falls, 8 intrepid souls mounted their aluminum chariots and embarked on an epic quest for exercise, camaraderie, and Bacon (actually, it was pretty much all for the Bacon). Overcoming obstacles such as dirty roads, treacherous snow piles (that turned out to be not as soft and fluffy as they looked) and a general lack of fitness due to a steadfast refusal to cross-country ski in the winter (amazingly there are a still hold-outs to Cyclova influence--but we're working on them), they made their way to the mythical Bacon hotspot of the Traprock Inn in Dresser, WI.

It was a day of triumph...

It was a day of freezing rain...

It was a day of a jerk in a white pick-up truck who insisted on staying in the right lane on a two lane road even though he was making a left turn, and darn near obliterated two of our riders...

But most of all...it was a day of Bacon
Bacon Achievement UNLOCKED!
Memorable quotes of the day:

"I know you've posted a route, but there's this other route that's like a billion times more hilly and difficult that we can take."--Dean Franklin

"CENSORED that"--W. Rhein

"I don't always eat bacon, but when I do I CENSORED   CENSORED   CENSORED."--Stu 86

"One side order of bacon."--Dallas at Traprock to the server


"This is good bacon."--Also Dallas

Bacon ride achieved. Once again CyclovaXC sets the awesomeness bar at a new level. Other bike/ski shops of the world...your move.

Earth Arts Tour, May 4-5th, 2013

Here's another fun reason to head up to St. Croix falls. On the weekend of May 4-5, local artists will be displaying their work at various locations throughout the town. For more information you can check the web page here. We have brochures with what you can see and where available free at CyclovaXC.

Also, we'll be featuring the Women at the Birkebiner photo show at Cyclova for the next couple weeks, so come and check that out.

Obviously this is something that you can combine with a group ride because there's pretty much always somebody at the shop willing to jump on a bike and show you around! Cheers!

10% Off Croixathlon--Sprint Triathlon--Entry!

The folks at the Croixathlon sent me this nice little discount card for their event. Here's the web page with more details. Also, let me know if you're heading down there to do it. If all goes well, maybe I can provide some photo support! Again, my email is bj@cyclovaxc.com!

Come to the Birkebeiner Photo Show At CyclovaXC on Friday, April 5th!

Hey Folks,
Sorry for the short notice but we've got a great little event planned for tomorrow at CyclovaXC. The Women of the Valley project is coming to our shop Friday April 5th, at 5:30 PM to premier their photo exhibit on the 2013 American Birkiebeiner.  15 amazing photos from this year's Birkie will be featured throughout Cyclova XC's gallery type space, along with various Northwest Passage staff & artists.  This will be a great way to relive this year's Birkie and say goodbye to the 2012-2013 ski season! Hope to see you tomorrow.

Here's the official press release:

Women of the Birkebeiner is a chapter of the Women of the Valley project, a project that empowers the at-risk young women of Northwest Passage to discover self-worth and internal power by sharing the stories of women that have shaped the history and culture of the St. Croix River Valley. As a part of the Women of the Valley project, Northwest Passage III volunteered at the 40th Annual American Birkebeiner and told the stories of the racers through sports photography and creative writing. Their sports photography will be on display at Cyclova XC in St Croix Falls. Please join us in celebrating their outstanding artwork at the opening of the photography exhibit on Friday, April 5th. 

Quote from an artist regarding her Birkie experience:
“This race is not only 50 kilometers of skiing, but of personal growth and determination. As a spectator to such an epic event as this, I can hardly convey the adrenaline that rushes through to just the spectators alone. Riding in the wake of these world class athletes and world class humans was an experience greater than I can describe.”
- Laura

The photography exhibit opening will be held at Cyclova XC on Friday, April 5th. The reception will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with comments from instructors and artists at 6:00p.m. Refreshments and appetizers will be available at no charge.  Come and celebrate photography and written reflections from Women of the Birkebeiner!

Who is Interested in a CyclovaXC Cycling Skin Suit?

This is the approval form for our team vest, but this is approximately how a skinsuit would  look
Hello Folks,

I've had one or two people inquire over the years about the possibility of getting a CyclovaXC cycling skin Suit. It would be awesome to have some of our riders flying their Cyclova colors at local events this summer, so I thought I'd see how much interest there is.

In order to do an order with Mt. Borah, we have to do a minimum run of 6 pieces. I tried to get them to consider this part of a regular bike kit order, but they said it had to be a new order since it requires a different template.

Here is the web page with the skin suit that Mt. Borah offers. It looks as if the price is going to be around $140, but I'll see if I can work on that. Note, they also offer a "team" skin suit (as opposed to the pro) which is slightly cheaper. However, I've found our team members are mostly inclined to go with the "pro" when they have the option.

Please check out the specs on that page. I'm sure there will be other upgrades available such as a better chamois. If you're interested, please send me an email at bj@cyclovaxc.com informing me of your size as well as any upgrades you'd want. 

If I can get four or five people to commit to a skin suit, I'll make an order. I know of two people who are interested, so if you're at all on the fence, please let me know.

My guess is we could have these suits in May if we decide to go with it, just let me know! Also, I'm assuming you'd all want short sleeve suits, but let me know if I'm wrong there.

Cheers! Don't forget about the Bacon ride April 6th!

Another option is the Tri skin suit here (it's a little less expensive), so take a look at that as well and tell me what you think.