Cone-Azalia is one of those races that always spawns pages and pages of discussion on tire selection and gear ratios. If you've never done it before, the best thing to do is simply come to Milan and pre-ride the course. It's worth it to know what you're facing out there. If that's not an option - I will do my best to explain the conditions here. As the race is in late May this year, the Monroe County Road Commission has made some road "improvements." The good news is there aren't many potholes to worry about (it's almost all dirt) the bad news is we have a lot of fresh gravel on the course. Cone is intended to be a spring classic done on road bikes with slick tires. While you're welcome to try (I am), I've received a lot of email from racers incredulous about the "golf-ball sized" or "razor sharp" gravel. This is a race which will be won by the person who's bike continues to have two rolling tires after XX miles. Keep that in mind while preparing your steed. Many people are opting for CX bikes with file treads this year. If you choose to bring a CX bike, you will not be alone. Now, let's do a short walkthrough on the course...
Parking - Corrigan Propane on Cone Road, just off of US 23. We also have limited parking at the Milan Township Hall just down the road, but most people will want to park at Corrigan. It's closer to the course, we'll have registration here, and the all essential porta-potties. Be aware that if you Google Corrgian Propane in Milan, MI - Google will lie to you. If you prefer to use Apple Maps - Apple Maps will tell you to fly to Italy. To get to the race, go to US23 and look for Exit 22 "Cone Rd Azalia." It's right there - we'll be waiting.
Starting Line - Cone Rd and Azalia Rd. Have you ever wondered where the name of this race came from? I was at first confused because the course we've done the past few years has never gone by Azalia. It never made a whole lot of sense to me, but for 2015 - you're in for a treat. We weren't able to use the 2014 course due to a conflict with Milan High School and the Township. Instead of canceling the race, we decided to bring it home. Cone-Azalia is back to Cone-Azalia. Welcome!
Road Conditions - These are dirt roads and they're highly variable. Some parts are a-ok for road slicks and other parts like this one - may not be. There is fresh gravel all the way down Bunce Road, on Oelke near the railroad tracks, and on Azalia past the railroad tracks - shoulda got a picture of those! There's a definite trade to be made between a road bike and a CX bike this year. Choose wisely based on how much you're willing to risk a flat.
Golf-ball sized gravel, huh? - Yes, that's how I'd describe it. It sucks and it's loose in some spots. Be careful. We have volunteers sweeping the turns and what we can of the roadway, but we can't clean the entire course. The best thing is to be prepared.
Finish Line - I know the map shows start and finish at Cone and Azalia Roads, but we're actually going to setup the finish line at Azalia and Church Street - in Azalia. This is it. It's paved, but it's narrow. You sprint to this sign. Don't worry about the field finish because there's no way it's sticking together out there...
Final Thoughts - I really want to thank the racers and volunteers who continue to make this race what it is. Cone-Azalia is a different kind of animal. I love Cone and think it's really something special in the Michigan race calendar. I hope you enjoy this year's event and I'll see you all out there. HE