Mt. Borah Teamwear was on our entry into Coon Valley. Here are two videos that give an idea of the quality of cycling in the Driftless Region.
As a youth growing up in Dauphin I proudly explained to the Ukrainians and Scots of that community that I was of Mennonite heritage. The most common misconception was that Mennonites rejected such conveniences of modern life as electricity and automobiles. It was a challenge to explain to my 13 year-old friends the religious distinctions that made Mennonites, Old Mennonites, Hutterites, Haldemans and Amish different from one another. Having lived in Indiana however I knew that the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish were the ones that rejected that unnatural and pride inducing beast known as the automobile in favour of the lowly horse. I suppose that there is something humbling about sitting in the buggy up close to the ass of the horse that prevents pride from welling up in the breast of the owner.
Many Mennonites have moved so far from their roots that Menno Simons would be appalled that they still identify themselves with him. Most Mennonites have also quite readily accepted the material offerings of modern life making them indistinguishable from the non-Mennonites around. The Amish on the other hand cling to life as it was in the 1700’s and have left a unique cultural imprint on the landscape from Pennsylvania to Minnesota.
Vernon County Wisconsin is Amish country. The roads also make it cycling utopia. Combine the two and you have the perfect setting for a great cycling holiday. While the Mennonites in Tights are addicted to the Red Wing Diner and the Cat Sass, occasionally it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone and experience some new terrain. Three of the Mennonites in Tights and one wife made the trip to cycle and spitzier with the Amish.
Highlites: Cheap cheese curds and top notch Westby sharp cheddar, cheap hotel and some good talks with the owner (Louis from Serbia), cheap gas, classy Badger Crossing eatery next door to Bobby Johns in Cashton which gave us endless cups of coffee. A friendly lady from Chicago that gave the writer a ride to his hotel after he destroyed his derailleur, a fine bike shop called the Blue Dog whose owner provided his own Kona road bike so that the author could complete his riding vacation, bombing the downhills with Rocket Rob, surviving the near hairpin turn after going into a high speed wobble into Soldiers Grove, the descent into Chaseburg, strolling with my honey in Viroqua, shady lanes and big hardwoods, Amish farms.
Downers: Cheap family restaurant in Viroqua that gave us 5 ounce steaks for the price of a 10 ounce (after much cajoling they realized the error of their ways and turned 5 ounces into 15), Phil’s Soggy Bottom Supper Club not catering to the public, a trashed Campagnolo Super Record derailleur that was anything but cheap, chasing Jack Rabbit Rempel up the climbs, the 17% grade on the Apple Orchard road out of Gays Mills after consuming an enormous and delicious sub sandwich, Curt and I almost crashing on the last corner into Soldiers Grove, having to admit that Curt might be correct about the body adding fat when it is being slogged to death on the climbs (I weigh more than when I left!)
Final Impressions: Another great cycling vacation in Vernon County with excellent cycling companions, gorgeous scenery, endless route options, and the most fun on the downhills since riding in the Black Forest and the Alps.
Saturday MIT holds its first Jimmy Salmon N. Reunion Ride. It has been a while since Jimmy moved to the Big Fish, so if you are interested in hearing exciting tales from the west and hearing about the adventures of the Sir Ernest Shackleton West Broadview Debating Society, join us for Saturday’s ride. Due to it being graduation day and Merle H. having to get back in time to fulfill his parental duty and celebrate his daughter’s success at having made it through the public school system, the ride may start at 7:00. Check the schedule to see if the ride meister has o.k.ed the schedule change.
Remy’s dust up with the shoulder this last week reminded all of us of our own experiences with the nastier side of the sport. Over the last few days I have coincidentally come across a number of stories about pros who have rebounded from adversity. Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin) both had near career ending crashes. At the same time both were able to look at the benefits of having to face adversity. Taylor Phinney – “That accident helped me to broaden my horizons so much, I’m truly grateful for the experience. It’s given me a completely different outlook on what I’m doing in life. Chad Haga – “I hug everyone a bit tighter now. It can all end very quickly. I try not to think about it too much, or think that I shouldn’t ride again. I want to live my life the best way I know how, and God will decide.” Adversity comes in many forms. Velonews posted a story today about Evan Huffman (formerly of Astana) who, while not facing recovery from a crash, failed in his bid to find success racing in Europe. “I think from the outside it looks really bad, in a lot of ways, to go to a WorldTour team and then come back down. It seems like a failure. But I don’t really feel that way. I think that I learned a lot. Even now, this year, having been back for a year, I’m still drawing on those experiences and those lessons that I learned from Astana to be successful now. So I don’t have any regrets.”
Cycling has received a bad reputation as countless pros have betrayed the ethic of sport and have accepted that its ok to “win at all costs”. Doubt and skepticism accompany the achievements of all in the Peloton. By contrast, Huffman sports two tattoos; on one arm is “truth” and on the other “grace”. While these are testimonies to Huffman’s deeply held faith in God, they are also statements about a commitment to engage sport and life at another level. Here’s to three men that understand that a real win comes from a deep understanding of the importance of truth to self and others and in the grace to accept and grow through the difficult challenges in life.
MIT has a tradition of riding to Richer on the last Saturday of the Giro D’Italia and enjoying coffees, Provenchers and TV coverage of the inevitable battle up the penultimate climb of the race. Unlike the last day of the Tour de France with its easy parade into Paris, more often than not there is still a lot to play for on Stage 20. This year was no exception with the top four riders separated by only a couple of minutes at the end of yesterday’s stage. Unfortunately the race was not broadcast in Canada this year and MIT was left wanting. Alas, Cycling TV carried the entire three weeks “On Demand” for a very reasonable price of $20.00 and so on arriving home I settled in to see if Kruijswijk could come back after his crash yesterday or if Valverde or Nibali could take the Pink Jersey from Estaban Chaves. It turned out to be an epic battle with Nibali riding to the second Giro victory of his mercurial career. The top four riders were separated by a minute and fifty seconds. Nibali doesn’t smile much but there was no doubt for any viewer that he was one very happy Italian. Contemplating the race from my easy chair I thought back to thirty years ago when I first learned about the Giro and its status as the second greatest stage race.
When I was in my early twenties and living in Edmonton I discovered Velocity Cycling, a small bike shop started in 1978 by Hungarian immigrants Joe and Kathy Zombor. Joe had left Communist Hungary behind with a dream of owning his own bike shop. After working as a printer for several years Joe bought a small shop that he renamed Velocity Cycle.
Joe, a successful cat.1 racer in Hungary, focused on high end road bikes. I couldn’t have imagined that a bicycle could be worth two quid prior to seeing the rack of Bianchi, Gianna Motta and Gios bikes in the shop. Velocity Cycle did not do large volume sales, but it had a passionate and loyal clientele of young, mostly poor, racers. The shop was a place to be educated in the sport. Posters of Merckx, Moser, Hinault and Zootemelk climbing the magnificent cols of the Alps and Pyrenees were plastered on the walls. Racks of team jerseys of the era to make one look like the pros were available for sale. Several shelves of books about cycling legends and European races were there for the browsing. The shop carried Winning Magazine, a must purchase every month to keep up with the races in the 80’s. Midway through the summer Joe would order in professionally made VHS tapes of the Giro D’Italia, straight from an Italian supplier. These were much in demand and though I was definitely not at the top of the pecking order in the Velocity cycling club I eventually had my turn with the video. There was no English TV coverage of the race, everything was in Italian, but it was first rate. I recall being amazed at the time trials which were filmed from above via helicopter. The 1985 race saw the arrival of a young Andy Hampsten, son of English professors from Grand Forks, who won the final stage on a monster climb. I was inspired to buy a plane ticket and travel to Europe the summer of ’86 to cycle with a friend from Quebec.
Our plan was to ride through Provence, swing up through the Alps and into Italy, and then ride through Switzerland and back to Germany. We did everything except ride through Italy. Short of funds and time we got as far as an interesting ski town on the border of France and Italy called Isola 2000 before taking the train to Switzerland. Today, thirty years later, the Giro passed from France to Italy, crossing the border at none other than Isola. Shortly after this Nibali, led out by Scarponi, launched the attack that destroyed his rivals. Thirty years of riding and I still get excited by the scenery and the history and drama of the sport.
Perhaps it is time to complete the ride through Italy. Anyone free next summer?