Saturday, August 14, 2010

Darn Wisconsin Roads

Remember last weekend's Fit-Pic? That gravelly, torn up mess of a road along the Ironman Wisconsin bike course? One week later, one return trip to Madison to ride that loop that departs from Verona's Fireman's Park, and that ripped-up road is still there. Not only that but it looked to be just as rough riding as it was last Saturday when the road was fresh from its midnight maintenance left unfinished.

Here's to hoping that road--and the other loose gravel spots along the route--are fixed before race day. I figured within a week there would at least be a layer of asphalt would be laid over the gravel. But no. You could almost say the roads were worse--in some spots anyway. Gravel, potholes, dirt-road tendencies and the like.

If you're planning to ride part of the Ironman Wisconsin course before race day--or if it's your usual weekend loop--here are the spots on the Verona loop where you'll need to brace yourself. That is, if you ride uber cautiously like me.

Valley Road: This road was ripped up--I think in an effort to be repaved for IMWI--on Friday, August 6. One week later and it's still looking as it did on August 7: a rough mess. You can ride it--others passed me doing so as I walked, and eventually carried, my bike--but it's rough and slow. And the gravel pieces are large enough to kick up and lodge themselves between your wheel and fork, causing the wheel to lock--happened to me. Best bet: Bypass Valley Road by continuing down Route 69. Turn right at the second road you see, which runs parallel to Valley Road. At the second stop sign, turn right and you'll get a longer stretch of Sugar River Road and link back up to the course.

County Route-G: In comparison to the other road blunders, this one is like a blip in the system. There's a stretch that's been recently repaved--hence the warning for no center line that you'll see if your eyes are wandering off the road--but it still needs a bit of retouching. In addition to painting the center line, you'll encounter a few bumps in the road. Nothing major but enough to keep an unsteady-in-aero cyclist from staying tucked.

Witte Road: Depending on how the wind is blowing, you can really start cruising on County Route-S's straightaway before making the left onto Witte. And usually, after the turn you gather your momentum for the rollers that follow. This time around you might want to proceed with caution as this road looks more like a crushed limestone trail than a paver. You won't have to get off your bike (I'm scared of the downhills and even I stayed on) but you might want to ride the brake. The good part is Witte does even out eventually and you can fly down the next batch of hills.

Stagecoach Road: After passing through Cross Plains, Stagecoach is just begging to be repaved. The unfortunate part is that I doubt it will be before race day--this year anyway. The warning to this road is that its quite rigid, not like the riding over train tracks bumps but similar to those highway strips for cars intended to make you slow down. Bad description, I know, but just hold on if you're feeling unsteady on your bike.

Shady Oak Lane: Forgive me now if I'm labeling this road incorrectly, I never notice the street signs when I'm out riding. All I can tell you is that you're going to find more loose gravel spots after climbing and descending the three major hills on the Verona loop, and I can only guess as to finding them on what is Shady Oak Lane. You're almost back to Verona, you've survived the major climbs and you've gathered some speed again. But you can gather too much or a few road sections could toss some accessories, or you, off your bike. They're only two feet wide tops and stretch across the road--three or four of them but I never remember the count by the time I finish riding--but something blew through this week to turn these normally negotiable patches into slightly scarier zones. Big potholes that you can't see until you're on top of them can toss a flask or water bottle or two, and bigger rocks to tilt you off balance or mess with your wheels.

Yeah, I know some of these road hazards don't sound that bad. But if you've seen me on my bike before (lucky for me I deleted the picture my mom snapped of me rolling down a hill into transition at my first race on my tri bike) or knew about all of my road boo-boos, you'd understand my hesitance when it comes to taking these far-from-ideal roads. On the bright side, there's an awesome patch of freshly paved road to take you straight into Cross Plains. But now I have to hope that those rough patches start to follow suit, especially on race day.

Photo grabbed from randomduck at flickr

Note: Here's a little warning that I'm asking for forgiveness for in advance. Around the 30-days-before-Ironman mark--and even before since friends have used me as the answering machine this summer--I start to over consume Ironman information. In turn, a lot of it might appear on Fit-Ink. Just want to tell you know before you start thinking this is turning into a race-only, all about Wisconsin, totally triathlon site. Not the case. It might get a little unbalanced, but I promise it won't be forever.


  1. Having just rode the course Sunday (8/15), I can tell you that Valley Road and Witte Road will remain with gravel on top. It's a pavement maintenance treatment called "chip sealing" ( As vehicles drive over the pavement, the lose gravel will get kicked off to the side. Your best bet now is to ride in the same groove as the vehicles' wheels.

    As for Stagecoach Rd, that does not see enough vehicular traffic to warrant repaving at this time. There are lots of trucks because of the quarry, hence the significant cracking.

    I'm guessing the Ironman race staff is coordinating with the local municipality about the Shady Oak Lane gravel sections. It appears that they replaced the storm water culverts and should be able to replace the pavement prior to race day.

    (I'm a Civil Engineer by day, triathlete by early morning and some evenings.)

  2. Hi RobbyB--
    Thanks so much for all of this info! So helpful although disappointing to read that Valley Road is going to stay as is--the gravel that I keep finding is huge and quite scary to ride. That and making an already difficult bike course even more hairy. Totally understand that Stagecoach wouldn't be repaved--I love the little traffic on that road and the chance to ride next to a buddy so I can deal with the bumps. Those bumps and the pieces missing on Shady Oak are nothing compared to Valley and taking it easy on Witte where you should be able to cruise.
    How was the ride on Sunday?

    Thanks for the comment!



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