Mid America TT Series

In the (Feed)Zone - Druber Returns to Bike Racing

By: Mark Swartzendruber
Posted: May 6, 2014

All about the time I cramped out of a low speed race

I haven’t competed in a formal mass start human powered bicycle event since I withdrew from the Prairie State Cycling Series road race in Sharon, WI.  That was on Wednesday July 17, 2013.  I’d made a hard counter attack when a group that was off the front had been gathered in by a strung out peloton about 30 miles into the race.  I was joined by a very strong Michael Seguin and we put some serious time between us and the main field.  About 42 miles into the race, I had to apologize to Mike and drop out of the break because #mywitheredleg had given up and became inoperable with severe stress induced cramping.

Since that time, I’ve engaged in rigorous strengthening and stability and #mywitheredleg is no longer 40% less strong than its partner.  I’ve been able to regain strength and size in #mywitheredleg to the point that I feel comfortable doing races that require acceleration – or races that are not time trials.

True story:  I got to the race venue plenty early and was leisurely doing my pre race prep, pinning on the numbers, putting the bike together when I heard the call for the 40+ wheel truck from the announcer down the road.  Not thinking much of it as I looked at my watch and noted that my race (50+ which followed the 40+) was not due to start for another hour and a half.  As I was milling about I overheard the guys parked next to me say that it was “11:00”.  Now, I panicked.  I quickly filled my water bottles, tossed my jersey on, put my race shoes on in about 45 seconds, left my spare wheels in the truck and pedaled to the line with my HR at 130 bpm.  I’d even forgotten to strap my timing chip to my ankle.  When I got to the line I saw the cat 5’s were staging.  It wasn’t until then that I recalled the guys talking next to me were from Kentucky and the Eastern Time zone!  I guess it really has been a long time since I’ve raced.  Such a rookie mistake.

I raced the 50+ race at Hillsboro on April 26, 2014.  Or I participated.  The race was the usual 50+ fare here in Illinois.  Negative.  Out of a field of 37 there were perhaps 5 willing to ride at the front at any given point in the race, the rest, content just to draft and go home satisfied with having finished the race.  HeadsMACK and McGeesMACK both rode the front for brief stints as did I, James Brown lived up to his moniker as the “Hardest Working Man” and took long turns at the front as did Matt Howley who is fully recovered from a broken hip 1 year ago and riding strongly and Dave Schrauth rode hard as well.  The Easter bunny took a flyer during the first lap and was off the front for about 10 miles.  He eventually paid for his effort and dropped out of the race at the end of the first lap of 29 miles. 

On lap two, the guys who had been riding at the front decided it was time for others to play and would slow way, way down but no one else was willing.  When it would slow to a crawl, eventual winner Gary Dyer would attack hard and we’d all chase and catch him and then, true to 50+ masters racing no one would counter attack.  Except me of course and they’d all chase and I’d get caught and no one would counter attack and we’d go 15 mph again. 

At exactly 42 miles #mywitheredleg which is no longer withered started cramping again.  Even though the race was slow, there were times in which serious effort was called for and I guess that riding for 7 days a month just doesn’t cut it for regaining endurance and race fitness and I ended up withdrawing and jumped into the following wheel truck while my leg was seizing up.  While in the truck the driver and the official noted how boring and silly the race was and that now with one of the animators of the race sitting in the back seat with a leg seizing up, the last 16 miles took about an hour to complete.  I noted that it was rather disheartening that I’d cramped out of a race that was barely averaging 20 mph.  The remainder of the race crept along without attack or aggression until the final hill about 1 mile from the finish line and then the strong guys rode away from the pack filler and Dyer edged out Schrauth for the win as I’d predicted from the truck behind the race.

I’ll share this advice in private as well.  If I were the race director I wouldn’t bracket the age groups for the masters 40-49 and 50+.  I would just go 40+ and 50+ and I’d make the 50+ race one lap, not two.  The old guys who want to race can then ride in the 40+ race and the old guys who want to ride 20mph or slower until the final mile won’t need 57 additional miles of garbage racing to settle the inevitable.  Food for thought.

I’m not without hope.  My lack of training is, definitely the culprit.  There’s just too much LIFE going on right now for me to be able to train properly.  The week of the Hillsboro race I rode 42.8 miles on Tuesday.  The week before that was a decent week with 13 and a half training hours but before that I was off the bike for 3 solid weeks.  Since Hillsboro I’ve been on the bike save for one day that I rode 18 miles to see if a new pair of Giro Prolight SLX 2 shoes fit properly. They do.  Giro shoes are wonderful products by the way.  You all should buy some immediately.

It doesn’t look like things are going to get any less hectic this summer.  TLK and I are purchasing a dump on a frozen lake in Central Wisconsin with the hope that the dump will at some point turn itself into a lovely log cabin home on a pristine lake.  Well, guess what kids, that isn’t going to happen by itself.  So, I would expect that there will be many a weekend that I will be ripping carpet smelling of old ladies and cats out of the dump and burning nasty old furniture and ceiling tiles and ugly wood paneling in a hole in the front yard of the dump instead of bike racing.

Our dump on a frozen lake.

I’m not making this part up.  The dump has a cat cemetery.  The old Bats that owned the place before we took it off their hands had hundreds of cats and as they died, they buried them behind the dump.  In as much as the dump was under two feet of snow when we looked at it, we didn’t know the cat cemetery existed when we made the offer to purchase the dump. Ah well.  I just hope Ti$za doesn’t decide to dig the graves up once she smells the moldering cat carcasses under the pine straw and dirt.



I can really no longer lay claim to the title of bike racer. But I can make a legit claim to the title of bike race director.  I’m very proud of the bike race that my team and I have built over the past 6 years.  The Urbana Grand Prix has become one of the top races in the Midwest.

Photo @ Eric Ponder

We’re attracting large, deep fields and racing in a great venue on a challenging course.  What more can bike racers ask for?  This is the type of race I used to love to do back when I was a real bike racer.  Look for us the first weekend of May.



Photo @ Eric Ponder

Did I mention how proud I am of the Scarlet Fire Racing p/b Matthews Bicycles women’s team?  Sierra Siebenlist (above) is legit.  Last weekend she won the Friday twighlight crit in Goshen, IN then won the Harrison’s Tomb road race in Ohio on Saturday then on Sunday she won the Urbana Grand Prix Women’s Open.  The weekend before that she was second at Hillsboro on Saturday then went to Holland, MI and won a big money crit on Sunday.  We’ve forgiven her second place at Hillsboro because, well, everyone has an off day now and again.  Sierra is backed up by a great cast of riders, all capable of winning races as well.  You can follow them at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/scarletfirematthewswomenscycling

Well, that’s a wrap.  I’m hoping to be able to start riding my bike again soon.  I plan on taking it up to the dump on the frozen lake and riding on the quiet rural roads in between bouts of deconstruction and burn piles.

Till next time…