Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ode to Cone

Thanks to the indefatigable Joe Lekovish for this:

This race is SERIOUS. Billed as Michigan’s "Paris-Roubaix", the Cone lives up to the billing.  

*beep* - Monroe County IS WESTERN FLANDERS!

Heed my advice, anything you have that is carbon fiber on your road bike, if you can, LEAVE IT AT HOME! Seriously! It may BREAK! Bike manufacturers love to sell you carbon fiber. It's tough and light, but it's made to break under tuff conditions and if it's anything, Cone is TUFF. 

I remember the year the top team in Ohio rolled in with their beautiful carbon aero wheels. Those wheels were made for people who race in states like Arizona, Georgia or Florida, where the asphalt is smooth and popholes are an unknown entity. Ohio - no, Indiana - no, Illinois - i'd pass. Michigan - DEFINITELY NOT. The whole team was DNF’d by the first lap and they laid out their punctured and torn tubulars next to their van like it was a body-count! I almost cried seeing that. 

The course is a 10.5 mile circuit with about 4 miles of unpaved roads. It’s pancake flat and if the wind is blowing, THERE WILL BE PAIN. Now these roads will range from sun-caked, hard packed dirt, ala the Bonneville Salt Flats, to loose gravel with razor sharp stones. Ask the promoter what the course will be like this year and his response will be “depends what the Monroe County Road Commission wants to do that week”. 

I’ve raced eight consecutive Cones and I’ve only flatted ONCE. I have a wheelset I use especially for Cone. It's heavy and slow and Iove riding it on Hines Drive where potholes are a-plenty. WHEELS: Sun MA-14 rims, 32 hole, 3x, 14g spokes laced to Shimano 105 hubs.TIRES: Continental Sport 1000’s, 700x28. TUBES: Thick, cyclocross tubes meant for 700x35 tires, which will move inside your tires and avoid pinch-flatting.

Despite all the hardships Cone throws at a bike racer, or maybe because of all the hardships, Cone is a beautifully surreal race. The horizon stretches for miles across freshly plowed farm fields. The wind sweeing across the landscape takes on an orchestral quality that mixes nicely with the whir of your bike gears, the beating of your heart and the gasping of your accompanying participants. 


If you can, before the race mount a set up like the one described above on your bike then go out and hammer down every dirt road you can find. Intentionally run into curbs and do everything you can to force a pinch flat or to knock the wheels out of true. If you avoid flats, broken spokes and taco’d wheels….. you’re ready for Cone!