So it was 9 years ago that I toed the line for my first Wausau 24, I was running the 12 hour 2 man Fat Bike class, it was the first year that Wausau had a Fat Bike class and since I had just gotten my first Fat Bike a couple of months earlier I was chomping at the bit to see how well it would do in the dirt against “regular” mountain bikes. Well, my teammate Butch Welke and I crushed it, taking 1st place in the Fat Bike Class and besting 2/3 of the regular 2 man 12-hour mountain bike teams.
Well from that point on I’ve been hooked, having done Wausau 7 times since, each time mixing things up in what class I was racing, but ultimately my Titanium Salsa Muk Luk Fat Bike has been my go-to bike every time. I’ve set it up as a single speed 29+ and taken a 4th in the 24-hour solo SS class. I’ve run it as a SS Fat Bike in the 24 solo class, and most recently as a geared Fat Bike in the 24 solo Fat Bike class, always placing in the top 4.
I own plenty of bikes I could race at Wausau, but my Salsa Muk Luk and I share a weird bond with the Wausau 24 race, it is my “Go-To” bike anytime I think of trying some type of epic ride.
Wausau to me is always an epic ride/race, firstly the comradery of all the fellow racers, the fun party atmosphere combined with an Amazing racecourse every year, and the chance to push yourself for 24 hours on some of the toughest trails around. It’s the one race that I look forward to every year.
This year’s course didn’t disappoint, it had a lot of “classic” trail sections with plenty of rock gardens and roots, as well as some new loamy tech trails that made you work for every inch of forward movement. Over the years I’ve learned to pace myself and let certain parts of the course work for you, while in other sections you just ride as smart as you can to minimize damage and overexertion. The entire time I was on course I was constantly telling myself to “ride smooth” smooth is fast.
Smooth worked pretty well until lap 3 where I clipped a tree stump which sent me over the bars in a pretty spectacular front-wheel ride for 20 feet or so, while I had time to scope out the crash point and figure post-crash management depending on the outcome. I bruised a rib and banged my knee a bit, which later the rib would give me some pain if I really dug deep or was engaging my core a lot (which is a good amount of the time when you’re riding roots and rocks)
This year’s race was a bit different because of the past year and a half of this weird pandemic, I went into it with no real training effort other than some good base miles this past winter and just general weekend rides. I didn’t worry too much, it’s not my first rodeo, I’ve been racing bikes on and off for 43+ years, and I’ve been known to pull out some crazy efforts when need be.
But I wasn’t going into this year as a race, per se, I was looking to better my mileage over my 2nd place finish in 2018 that put me at 157 miles (along with a broken finger around 11:30 pm in a rock garden fall). I didn’t care who my competition was, and I didn’t really care if I won it, to me it was about the miles I put in. Well it ended up a little bitter-sweet, I ended up winning but only put in 10 laps which worked out to 130 + miles, so in one respect I “won” but in another, I didn’t reach my goal.
So I went into this year telling some friends that if I won, this would be my last bike race as I’m 55 years old and wanted to go out with a win. So did I win?? Yes, did I meet my goals? No…. Am I done racing?? I guess you’ll have to check back here every once in and while to see.
In the meantime, I’m going to apologize to my Muk Luk for the Hell I put it through the past 9 nine years and give it a much-needed rebuild and rest. Stay tuned for Muk Luk 2.0 transformation on Fat-Bike.com in the near future.
Peace out Angry One.