Nearly 400 racers turned out for a day of stormy weather, followed by near perfect racing conditions.
By Troy Melhus
Let’s just get it out there right now: Sport racers pretty much took one for the team at the 2015 St. Croix Woolly.
Put another way: Around 7 a.m. on Sunday, May 17, organizers of the annual St. Croix Valley race — which takes place just around the outskirts of St. Croix Falls High School — sent out this message via Facebook:
“Good Morning! The Woolly bike race is going on as scheduled. We had a conversation with the race director, and the Woolly Bike Club decided collectively that the race will go on as planned rain or shine. See you at the race!”
“Some people questioned it, but we didn’t,” said Race Director Matt Fisk. “We pretty much said if Noah doesn’t go by in an Ark, or lightning, the race is on. The mud wasn’t going to stop us.”
And then came the storms. What could effectively be called "torrential rain" hit during the first lap of the Sport and Marathon races.
“During the Sport Class it was pouring for a while. And that got ugly,” Fisk said. “Apparently there was water running down the trails. The Sport Class and the Marathon riders...it was a little rough for them.”
Maplelag marathon racer Matt Schultz — covered in mud from head to toe — didn’t mince words.
“The first lap was horrible. It was so muddy, I had to keep stopping because there was so much goop in my drive train,” Schultz said. “That first lap almost killed me.”
But a funny thing happened by the 1:15 Elite/Expert/Comp races: trail conditions were as well as could ever have been expected: A few greasy rocks here and there, but overall a great, tacky, roller coaster ride.
“Even with some big rain, our trails shed water pretty well,” Fisk said. “If you look at the Elite class this afternoon, bikes are clean. They’re going to pretty much ride the water out of it. The trails are going to be the best conditions of the year!”
Nearly 400 racers eventually turned out for the St. Croix Woolly — putting it close to last year’s turnout.
Marathon racer Sandy Schreyer said racers were remarkably upbeat given the challenging conditions. She complimented the Woolly Bike Club for keeping things so positive through the rough weather.
“Everybody was so wonderful,” Schreyer said. “There was just such a collective good spirit out there. It was a lot of fun and a great race.”
Troy Melhus is a former expert racer for the Peace Coffee Bicycle Racing Team and former reporter and editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He still occasionally throws his helmet into the ring as a Comp single-speeder. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.