As a fan of the one-day classics on the European professional cycling calendar, in 2010 I created a metric century that incorporated virtually all of the unpaved roads I could find near my home in West Bend. I wanted to simulate the conditions that riders like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara face at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. I couldn’t find any cobblestones but my route traversed a surprising combination of asphalt, dirt and gravel in Washington and Ozaukee Counties. About 10 miles of the 64-mile route are unpaved.
On Sunday, April 28, Cheesehead Roubaix will return to southeastern Wisconsin’s most primitive roads for its fourth annual edition. My route will test your fitness with not just rough road surfaces but also a few sharp little hills and, I promise, nasty headwinds. If you have racing ambitions this spring, Cheesehead Roubaix will let you know whether your training plan is working.
Leaving from Firemen’s Park in Newburg at 9 a.m., you will enjoy a few miles of rolling farmland before you hit Lovers Lane near Boltonville, possibly the worst stretch of public road in the state. Grind your way to the top of the hill and you’ll see the chapel of St. John of God. It’s our own little Kapelmuur! You’ll get a breather as you work your way over to Belgium, then the unpaved sectors will come at you thick and fast. At Harrington Beach State Park you will make the turn for home … but it’s nearly all elevation gain to the finish line, with a few more unpaved sectors for good measure.
The ride has grown from just four people in 2010 to more than 30 last year. I’m expecting a record turnout this year, as good word-of-mouth reviews have led to a lot of interest on Facebook. People have completed Cheesehead Roubaix on road bikes, on 26-inch mountain bikes, on 29ers, on flatbar “fitness” bikes, and, of course, on cyclocross bikes. I use my ’cross bike because I like the more relaxed riding position and the wider road tires. Often the weather dictates the sort of gear you need at a gravel grinder like this.
Cheesehead Roubaix isn’t a race, but I want you to ride hard. It runs on open public roads, so I want you to ride responsibly. There’s no SAG vehicle, so I want you to be self-sufficient but also willing to help your fellow riders. And the event is free of charge. Let’s just have fun together and leave the licenses, waivers and checkbooks at home! Join me on April 28 … if you’ve got the stones.
A native of Pittsburgh PA, Dave Hanrahan is an information technology professional who lives in West Bend with his wife and two children. In 2003 he started riding a mountain bike around town for exercise, then quickly fell in love with the sport. Now he rides 5,000 miles per year and does a mix of road, mountain bike and cyclocross racing. Dave writes regularly at http://bikewashco.blogspot.com/