Old Men Win At My Worst Weather Calvin’s



New race organizers took over the 17th annual Calvin’s Challenge 12 hour bike race in Springfield successfully, but the weather did not cooperate.  Old race organizers John & Ann McKinley (who rode 121 miles on their tandem after spray painting orange CC arrows on the route two week earlier) passed the torch to new organizers Jeff & Julie Stephens and Larry & Christine Graham.  They pulled off a new rule which allowed riders to get credit for partial laps ridden on the 7 mile loop – thus making it closer to an actual 12 hour race instead of the old rule which only counted full laps – often leaving as much as 25-30 minutes left on the clock for some riders.  An official was positioned at each mile point on the 7 mile loop, and riders had to have their numbers punched at whichever mile post they could reach before time ran out.  They then had to ride back to the school arriving by 7:45pm (15 minutes after 12 hour finish).


In my 9 consecutive Calvin’s, this was by far the worst weather conditions I have seen, causing me to get my lowest mileage ever despite the new partial lap rule.  We started with a temperature of 62 degrees F in light rain with a South wind of 20-25 mph.  By mid morning, the rain had stopped and the roads started to dry up, but the wind still howled.  In the late morning, a heavy, nearly horizontal rain pounded us dropping the temperature to 57 degrees.  In the afternoon, the rain stopped, the roads dried up, the high temperature of 72 was reached, but the winds shifted (coming out of the West) and increased to 30 mph!  I am an experienced ultra rider, but I still did not feel very safe on my aerobars as the wind kept whipping me around all day.  You could not even talk to the rider next to you, and I had to be very careful which side of my bike I pissed off of. 


As we waited for the start in the rain, we had a moment of silence for Randy Van Zee and Robert Bachtel both in their 50’s when killed after being hit (while riding) by heavy steel boxes (cars).  Van Zee finished solo RAAM in 2004 and had his final ride last month.  Bachtel’s last ride was during the 2004 Calvin’s cancelled after I had ridden 111 miles.  


3 out of 4 riders from last years record (267 miles) setting lead group were back along with 52 year old Wesley Wilmer (of Troutville, VA) who set the old course record of 264 miles with me in 2001 (this record held until last year).  Only one mile into the race, 51 year old Bacchetta recumbent rider John Schlitter & 57 year old Larry Fitz (both finished in the lead group with me last year) broke away.  HPV rider Tony Levand caught them, but strong winds blew him and his yellow machine (The Carp) into the ditch, and he was stopped checking out his HPV when our group came upon him.  The brutal wind broke up the entire field into small groups within a few miles from the start.  It took us (about a dozen riders including Larry Ide & Paul Carpneter) 1 hour, 19 minutes to arrive at the first check point at South Solon 25 miles in, and we were about two minutes behind the 2 man breakaway.


We lost the only tandem in our group just before the first check point.  Captain Murray Wilmerding dropped off his stoker Scott Denny at the school after 50 miles, and rode his tandem “solo” for another 157 miles.  About 3 minutes down on the break, our group was down to 7 riders 50 miles in at the school we reached in 2 hours, 24 minutes.  While leading the single speed division, [a new category won by David Lewis with 178 miles] Matt Bond (the only person to ride all 15 Calvin’s) crashed out and broke his clavicle on the first 50 mile lap.  Despite being outlined in orange spray paint, there were some big potholes which were hard to see in the driving rain.  About the same time down on the break, 6 of us rode our first 100 miles in 4 hours, 51 minutes.  Shortly after the pits (the start area at the school where most riders franticly feed themselves from coolers stocked with pre-filled bottles), we lost two riders including Luke Taggart.  4 of us (Wesley Wilmer, Brian McEwen, Michael Sterr, & I) started our 3rd big lap in heavy, blinding rain chasing after the 2 man break. 


As we were approaching the school (150 miles in 7 hours, 17 minutes), we could see the break leaving, but our 3 minute stop (riders removed their arm and leg warmers as the rain had stopped and the sun was shining) in the pit area put them out of our sight again.   In echelon form most of the time (there were very few sections of the course with a direct tailwind), the 4 of us were working well together, so I was surprised to hear we were some 6-7 minutes behind the break when we finished our 4th big lap (200 miles in 9 hours, 57 minutes).  I was amazed because John Schlitter & Larry Fitz are both in their 50’s, and I knew Larry wasn’t getting much draft from John’s recumbent.  We lost Wesley at the school/pit area where he used a PortaJohn.  On our first 7 mile lap, 35 year old Michael Sterr dropped off.  A criterium racer from Columbus, OH, he had only ridden 300 miles this year before Calvin’s, but still managed to more than double his previous longest ride of 110 miles with a 228 mile ride! 


This left just Brian McEwen (still pulling) and I to chase after the two leaders.  We figured no news was bad news (we must have been losing time on the break) every time we rode up the short hill into a bastardly headwind past Merry Vander Linden (she rode the new 100 mile time trial in 6 hours, 1 minute) who was taking photos for the UMCA/UltraCycling Magazine.  On our second short lap, HPV rider Tony Levand smoked by us chasing after the two leaders.  By the end of our 7th small lap, we had fallen to about 10 minutes behind leaders Schlitter & Fitz.  They had time to finish a full 8th lap, but Larry was so exhausted that he stopped at 242 miles for 2nd place overall while John cranked out another 3 miles for 245 miles and overall victory!  Next in (arriving minutes after the break) was HPV rider Levand with 242 miles.  McEwen and I arrived at the 6th mile point where Larry Graham punched our numbers for 241 miles and 4th place overall.  41 year old McEwen from East Lansing, MI improved on his 2006 Calvin’s ride by 6 miles despite worse weather conditions!  I ended up with one mile less than my previous lowest mileage Calvin’s, despite the new partial lap rule.  Wesley Wilmer ended up with 235 miles and 6th place overall.  My new carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix s-works bicycle (Tom Boonen won Paris-Roubaix on the same type of bike this year) worked well. 


From Oakland, IL, Larry Fitz has been a top mileage rider at all 3 of his Calvin’s:  He rode 256 miles his rookie year in 2006, set the course record of 267 miles last year, and was the first regular bicycle this year with 242 miles.  He also rode 417.5 miles at the Sebring, FL 24 hour race earlier this year. 


From Hays, KS and St. Petersburg. FL on his Bacchetta recumbent, John Schlitter set the Calvin’s course record of 267 miles last year.  Also last year, he was on the winning two person recumbent team RAAM, won overall at the Saratoga, NY 24 hour race with 460.6 miles, and won the overall at the 500 mile Texas Time Trial in 29 hours.  He set new course records at all 3 of these victories.  With this recent Calvin’s win, he is perhaps as ready as he can be to become the first person to ever finish solo RAAM on a recumbent or HPV in June. 


Other RAAM riders this year were well represented at Calvin’s (mileages):


Scott McIntosh (205) will be tackling solo RAAM.  Murray Wilmerding (207) and Paul Carpenter (202) will be doing the new 1,000 mile Race Across the West ending in Taos, NM.  Starting the 4 person team RAAM will be Dave Tanner (190), 73 year old Lew Meyer (185), and Bob Ansel (192).


It was a brutal weather day with many people “dropping out” or riding far less than 12 hours.  Women’s winner Nancy Guth was held under 200 miles, and only 25 of the 136 twelve hour starters rode over 200 miles this year compared with 83 last year.  Riding the new 6 hour race, last years women’s winner Bena Halecky (225 miles) only rode 50 miles this year.  On my 2nd big lap, I do remember seeing her stopped by the roadside with her friends dealing with bike trouble.  The new 6 hour race started one hour after the 12 hour race, used the new partial lap rule, and had 17 riders.  Recumbent rider Troy Timmons had top mileage with 114 miles, and Melissa Bellow was the first female with 71 miles.  Also new, was the 100 mile time trial (no drafting) which started 15 minutes after the 6 hour race, and staggered riders at 30 second intervals.  It had 8 riders, and was won by Kevin Dobo-Hoffman in 5 hours, 19 minutes.  The first female and 2nd overall was Cheryl Chaney in 5:38.  The oldest rider was 81 year old Richard Lawrence who rode 64 miles in the 6 hour race.  The youngest rider was 7 year old Josh Hall who rode 50 miles on a BMX bike. 


Spreadsheet of 2008 Class Results: 


Here are my mileage stats for all the Calvin’s 12 Hour Challenges I have ridden since 2000.  Before 2000, nobody had ever gone over 250 miles in the 12 hour event.  Here are my mileages:


2000 – 263 miles (Finished alone.)

2001 – 264 miles (Set course record doing 5 big loops with Wesley Wilmer.)

2002 – 256 miles (Finished with Mark Hekman & Steve Marshall.)

2003 – 256 miles (Finished with Mark Hekman, Steve Marshall, Jim Amelung, & Brian Tober.  HPV rider Frank Geyer finished about 5 minutes before us with same mileage.)

2004 – (Was 110 miles into event with Karen McKee, Tracy McKay, Gary Waggoner, & John Jurczynski in the lead group when Robert Bachtel’s death cancelled the event.)

2005 – 242 miles (Finished with Brian Nieport seconds behind Bob Schoettinger/Adam Fuson tandem.)

2006 – 256 miles (Finished with David Young.  9 minutes later, Brian Nieport finished.  Two minutes after Nieport, John Jurczynski, Frank Sebode, Larry Fitz, & Michael Flood all finished with the same mileage.  7 people are the biggest top mileage group ever at Calvin’s.)

2007 – 267 miles (Finished with Larry Fitz, and recumbent riders John Schlitter & Jim Verheul.  HPV rider Dennis Grelk was top mileage rider – setting a new course record of 297 miles!)

2008 – 241 miles (Finished with Brian McEwen in 4th place overall.  Recumbent rider John Schlitter was top mileage rider with 245 miles.  Larry Fitz & HPV rider Tony Levand both rode 242 miles.)


I have now logged 2,045 official miles at Calvin’s!


Discarding 2004, my average miles per year ridden over 8 years are 255.625, so I was nearly 15 miles below my average this year. 


The course is a mostly flat 50 mile loop, but is has 36 turns making it almost like a giant criterium.  With little shelter from the wind, the big loop has two checkpoints (one at the start/finish area {Shawnee High School} and the other 25 miles into the loop in the town of South Solon) where riders have to stop and have their numbers punched.  At 3:30pm, the 7 mile loop opens.  In 2008, partial (by the mile) laps were given.