I don’t bike as much as I did in college—and it showed Tuesday morning.
My cycling these days includes the occasional 10 miles through town on the weekends, but I put my cycling skills to the test Tuesday and raced a lap around the Town Square Gran Prix course.
I didn’t race any of the more serious competitors. It wouldn’t have been fun to get left in the dust.
Instead, I took on some of my Gazette colleagues on the 0.8 mile-long course before the official competition began: fellow reporter Frank Schultz, Opinion Editor Andrew Broman and Sports Editor Eric Schmoldt. We dubbed the race “The Gazette Gran Prix.”
I rode my single-speed, faded yellow road bike. I realized quickly my apparatus was completely inefficient. My legs weren’t prepared.
Eric took a commanding lead at the start. Frank, the oldest of the four racers—but by far the most intrepid—quickly surged to second place.
“My first thought after I volunteered for this was an image from an old Western: A grizzled, old prospector on his burro trying to catch up to a group of dashing cowboys,” Frank said.
“That’s more or less what happened.”
Andrew, who eventually won with a lap time of 3 minutes, 7 seconds, started off at the back of the four-man pack. He effortlessly glided by us and took the lead near Jackson Street.
I passed Frank and Eric and held first place for a spell after flying west down Court Street. I settled into second all the way back up Court Street and onto Main Street.
Eric passed me a hair before the finish line on South Parker Drive and finished behind Andrew with a time of 3 minutes, 9 seconds. I was 0.19 seconds behind Eric.
Frank finished in 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
We were all miserably slow in comparison to the racers competing in the actual races. In one race Tuesday afternoon, most of the pack finished a lap in two minutes.
Andrew said he drew from his years of experience commuting by bike to The Gazette’s downtown offices. But Tuesday’s ride was far more pleasurable than his regular commute for one reason, he said: no potholes.
“I treated the race like my commute and kept a steady pace, shifting up and down as the conditions warranted,” he said. “The highlight was zooming down Court Street and making a hard left after the Court Street bridge before heading toward Main Street again.”
Eric enjoyed the downhill stretch from the courthouse but lamented that he used up too much of his energy at the start of the race.
“My legs were burning halfway through, which was compounded by the fact I hadn’t shifted gears on a bike in a year or two,” he said. “Andrew’s shifting experience helped make the course look like a walk in the park.”
I’d never biked a road course before, but it was exhilarating. The morning was crisp and sunny, and each turn was easy.
Frank, who wore his office attire (minus his tie) during the race, touted winning the race’s “over-60 division.”
“I’m glad none of the real racers got upset at us for what might seem like making a mockery of their sport,” he said.
“I’ll gladly return to my more leisurely tours of Janesville bike trails.”