Sunday, December 24, 2006

Prarie Roubaix, A Minnesota Classic is Born!

posted by Neil Eerdmans

Wild ride yesterday and fulfillment of a dream of mine that I have had for some time. I am a pro cycling fan and love to watch old films of races over and over again. In fact, my wife will say, "oh, It is Phil again." Referring to Phil Ligget's voice that is on everyone of my tapes and DVDs. After watching these races enough I wanted to experience the mud and grit of the Paris-Roubaix for myself. I did yesterday on my three speed mountain bike.

The electronic age has its good and bad points like everything else but one of the greatest points is having mailing lists where you can reach 100 people in one shot. I have finally found a group of people crazy enough to try just about anything on a bike. It also has provided a way for me to meet some of the neatest people that I would have never met or kept in contact without e mail. The race that I cherished so much yesterday would have never happened! The potential of the electronic age is limitless on so many levels! To check out coverage of this crazy event go to...

The route started and finished in Fletcher, MN and consisted of 4 laps on a 10 mile, 50/50 mix of dirt and paved roads. The dirt was mainly ice, snow and mud. 6 brave souls showed up (Neil, Bernie, Skibby, Dan, Tom and Mike) with Dan earning a solo victory after he attacked on a particularly treacherous part of the course. He graciously donated the $10 prize money to Team Strongheart. All proceeds for Team Strongheart benefit Camp Odayin, a camp for kids with heart disease.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Passion. It's what drives us to do great and wonderful things. It's the founding principle of what drives Team Strong Heart.

If you hadn't already guessed, we're all pretty passionate about cycling and last night's manifestation definately raised a few eyebrows.

It had snowed about 1 to 2 inches of wet, heavy snow here and the bike trail was still open around Elm Creek Park Preserve. I could hardly wait to get out and ride it. Threw my studded winter tires onto my 'cross bike and headed out. The temperature was a very comfortable 31 degrees and the snow on the trail was completely untracked. I could only ride about half as fast as usual, and there was no wind noise, so you could really appreciate the complete silence, the soft humming of the tires and the muffled popping of the gently falling ice pellets against my clothes and helmet. Turning on my bike light after it got dark, transformed the park into a shimmering wonderland. that's passion!

Funny thing about's not always easy to understand. As I rolled out of my neighborhood I was greeted to a few disbelieving and nervous smiles/chuckles that essentially begged the question, "are you crazy or just plain stupid?" One of our good friends that lives across the street even called my wife and asked "Does Bernie even want to make it to the Race Across America?!! I said to myself, 'Is that Bernie? There's ice under that snow! I'm telling on him!'" My wife told her that "yes, indeed, he is nuts, and thank you very much for watching out for him." Later that night when they met up at a neighborhood women's party, the neighbor commented again about my "dangerous enthusiasm", and my wife explained, "Studded snow tires..." Our neighbor's expression, along with the rest of the women at the table, dawned understanding as they all chorused, "Ohhhh..."

Unusual...yes. Crazy...a bit. Passionate...absolutely!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

River Bottom Moxie

I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy...Kostik, you are my hero!

Greg Kostik showed serious Moxie on our 3 hour MTB training ride at the river bottoms today!

This picture is of the raft crossing at 9 mile creek...only during the winter, the raft is taken out and the creek is usually frozen by now. Recent warm weather reopened the water and left the only available "crossing" over a tree that had fallen across the creek. I'd like to point out that this is not the kind of tree anyone would typically look at and say, "Oh yeah, no problem." This tree started out only about 18 inches wide and ended around 8 inches wide crossing a 25 foot span.

Greg kept his title as Ride 2 Eat's crash test dummy on 9 mile creek not by riding down the bank and crossing on the ice before checking it as usual, but by crossing this spindly little tree while carrying his bike across with the grace and precision of a Flying Wallenda! Unreal.

My brain automatically went into self preservation mode and the argument against it was futile. Even the two MORC riders who were kind enough to stick around and watch this potentially amusing adventure come to the punch line were in disbelief. There was no way they were going to try crossing.

Before I knew it, Greg "shimmies" back across the tree, grabs my bike, crosses back over and tells me to "come on...just shimmy across". 6'3" don't shimmy. That and my shoes were slippery. So the great advice from the other side was to take my shoes off. Ok, fine. Shoes off and threw them over to the other side...brilliant. Gloves were slippery too, Ok, fine. Gloves off and threw them over to the other side...Einsteinian. At this rate, I'm either going to make it across or be stark naked with all my clothes on the other bank. Gotta go now. Only there's only one way my brain will let me. Namely the "scoot across on my butt while straddling the log" method. I'll let your imagination paint the picture. No pride here. The going was pretty smooth until I had to "scoot over" the stump of a branch kindly sticking straight up in the middle of the span. I finally made it across without getting wet. Back to riding and trying to shove the thought of the return trip into the back of my mind.

The return was a bit more ominous since we had to start out at the skinny end of the tree. Again, Greg trotted across with his bike in hand, came back over, grabbed my bike and back across. Eeesh, I ain't got it. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take my shoes off again...not like I was actually going to try the same tight rope act that Greg can pull off. Only one snag for my crossing method...that pointy stub of a branch was not only sticking up, but was now pointing TOWARDS me.

Fortunately, I again avoided getting wet but Lo, my darling wife, THAT's how I ripped my pants.

Dec. 16

Inspiration for Prarie Roubaix by Neil

Here is one for you... Saturday morning I get up and we are hanging
around at my father in laws new cabin home... VERY COOL! Everyone is
sipping coffee and chatting when my brother in law walks in and says, I
think we are missing our ride, Mike and his buddies are riding north out
of Rockford on the White Pine trail at 10. I responded by saying I
don't think I have missed my ride.

I asked how far I was from the trail and my brother in law Bill, also a
bike racer, said ten miles... Well, that was perfect, I could cut them
off. So I took off on Bill's mountain bike and headed for Cedar Springs
as fast as I could. When I got to Cedar I got some sugar for my bottles
and stood on the trail.

Now this trail looks a lot like the Arenberg Forest when you see the
riders hit the Cobbles in Paris-Roubaix. I didn't know which way to
head until I saw that Mike had left a message that informed me that they
were still south of me. So I started down the two track rails to
trails. Two track, not cinder. Wonderful. The sun is fighting to get
through and there is a strong south wind that I am riding into,
thrilling, a spring classic in December.

I got to the paved trail and just as I did I spot Mike, Tom and LeeJay.
TOm and Lee Jay don't know me so I yell out "MAKE ROOM!" in a real
grouchy voice. Mike is laughing while there other two that don't know
me that well don't know what to think. The next thing I know we are
heading north on the two track with the wind on our back talking about
RAAM. They are very interested. It is fun to talk about and it is even
better imagining that we are in a four up break away in the late stages
of Paris-Roubaix. We take turns on the front and chat about RAAM
strategy until we hit Sand Lake. Here we take a left and ride through
town and are heading west out of town when we take a left into the head
wind. Very cool! Moist dirt road and on cue Mike puts in a great pull.
The dirt is loose and moist, Spring Classic all the way. I take a stong
pull as we head back for Rockford. Mike is looking great, he races with
the Cat. 2's in the summer and holds his own, he hasn't lost any!
We take our positions on the front and start pushing it. We are going
along a fence line that could easily be in Flanders. Perfect!

We get back to the trail and let those guys catch on. Mike and I keep
the pace high. The ride is 2 and half hours in when I drop them off at
the pavement. The 12 miles home are tough but great at the same time.
I am spent but to get in a classic like that in December in the Midwest
is priceless!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Winter Training at the Foleydrome!

So what do you guys do to train in the winter? I've heard this question a lot over the past few weeks since the weather got a little chilly.

Dr. Dan has us all on base building and strength training for the next few months so getting the miles in can get pretty creative.

Neil and I were riding the beloved "Foleydrome" which is a Park and Ride garage close to home that is lit, covered and empty in the evenings. Each lap is about 0.5 km. Add a couple of friends (Jay and Dave) and a couple hours goes past in no time!
In true crazy Minnesotan winter style, I went out for a 2 1/2 hour training ride with my trusty Niterider light in the near freezing drizzle before riding the Foleydrome. It was simply beautiful and coming home to a hot shower was the icing on the cake!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thanks Neil!

After a 10 year break from skate skiing (pun intended since I stopped when I broke a ski) and me just never getting around to taking it up again, Neil made me an offer I couldn't refuse. "Hey man, I've got an extra pair of skis so why don't you come out and try it." Why are simple words always the most powerful? Thanks Neil!

I met Neil, Jay and Zabby out at Elm Creek at 6:30am. Still dark but the lights were on and the snow was perfect! It was such a rush to get out on the skis again and put in a couple of hours while watching the sun rise!

The day got better when Neil, Rotach and I met Evan and Noah in Stillwater for a long training ride in the glorious sunshine. Man, this day was a 10+!