Wow, people are racing again with mass starts and no masks! Thinking about the last year feels like one of those foggy morning memories of a disturbing dream the night before. You remember an overwhelming sense of dread, but nothing really made any sense. It feels so good to see the pandemic fading in the rearview mirror.
Like most race organizers last year, Tim Krueger from Terrene Tires postponed the 2020 Hungry Bear gravel race and the Chequamegon 100 mountain bike race due to the pandemic. Earlier this spring, he was able to pull off the Hungry Bear by asking participants to wear masks at bib pick-up, maintain social distances and replacing the mass start with staggered starts for individuals and small groups of friends.
With effective vaccinations now essentially available to anyone who wants them, Tim felt comfortable holding the Chequamegon 100 with group starts for each of the 100, 70 and 30-mile distances. This year everyone started from the CAMBA/Birkie OO Trailhead. The big parking long was a bonus, and it allowed the long course riders to start going south on Makwa toward Fish Hatchery and the shorter distance participants start going north on Seeley Pass.
While there was no big post-race party at the Rivers Eatery, people did get together there for registration and bib pick-up Friday afternoon and evening. I was particularly stoked to see Wolf Tooth Components donated a bunch of sample-size bottles of their new WT-1 synthetic chain lube. I have been meaning to try it, and the little bottle is perfect to take along on the Tour de Nicolet bikepacking trip I am going on next week.
And of course even without an official party, lots of racers ended up at The Rivers after the race anyway. I know I did. It felt so good to see friends and competitors line up to sign waivers and pick up their pipe cleaners and race plates. What a difference it makes to see their smiling faces, no longer hidden behind masks. It sure makes having a beer and eating pizza easier!
Tim, Odia, Todd and the rest of the volunteers for Terrene Events must have earned some good karma during the year off because the weather for Saturday’s race really could not have been better. There was a light breeze, mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the upper 60s.
At the start, I was thinking that my closing photos were going to be of exhausted racers laying scattered on the ground sandy parking lot at OO like Mayflies. But even the 100-mile racers finished with a smile. Nobody collapsed and had to be checked for heat exhaustion like some hot years.
Tim and Odia did have hot dogs, chips and soda waiting for the finishers. Pretty much everyone who stopped by for a post-race snack had the same big grin on their faces that I saw at the start. The vibe for these Terrene events is competitive, but a little more chill than most of the bigger races I have attended. It feels a bit like a everyone is part of a big, extended family and the race is just part of the annual reunion.
I can’t wait for next year.