The 1st Annual ALS MN Bike Trek

A story of an epic ride and epic failure.

What follows is a tale told from truth. It is the adventure that occurred at the first annual ALS MN Bike Trek by a group of riders from what today is now the Chilkoot Cycling Club. This story is both true, slightly embellished, and why you should join and enjoy the roads of northern Washington County for this great event.

I hope you enjoy and sign yourself up to either ride or support one of us who will be there chasing glory and helping others!

The month of May. A time when the weather begins to warm, or is at least supposed to warm. The Giro kicks off the first of the major tours of the cycling season. Tulips are at the height of their bloom. Sleet pelts riders as they complete 70 miles of 'Hell of the North', otherwise known as the ALS Bike Trek MN. A month we celebrate mothers and all they've done to us!

And sprinters begin to get serious about their craft.

It really is still early season: The legs, they are a fresh!

Alas, with all the good, all the promise of the early season, and the Sprint Championship already won1 there are those whose mental game is still not adequately prepared for the pressures we sprinters feel ride after ride. Rookie mistakes are made and manhood is oft questioned.

Pain. And Suffering. Repeat.

(For a change, it's not me.)

Before we begin this testosterone lacking male's tale of terrible tragedy, take a minute or two and check out these stories:

Note the celebrant... and then read the caption:


And another... note the celebrant. And then see the result: I love that one.

Do I have a point? Yes. But you're going to have to hear the full story to understand the point. Well, a dull point, but still, a point4.

Saturday May 7, 2010. 8 faces gather at the Bikery at 8am. But that's not my point. Your heroes (some more heroic than others) for the day:

Ted 'The Prof' H.

Mike 'The bike does my talking' L.

Shawn 'Not Sean and Yes! I'm from WI, u got a problem with that?' C.

John 'Sully' Sutcliffe (me)

Brian formally 'Chocolate Thunder' H.

Randy 'Red Sea' M.

Tim 'I dropped you and I dropped you and I...' T.(Moots Man)

Paul 'I have permission to be gone till noon' B.

We ride to lovely Withro Minnesota for the start of the adventure. But! At Withro we are joined by a guy name Greg "Bam!" M. (whom you all know, or if you don’t, you should, he’s not half as angry as he looks occasionaly) and another guy named Guy who is a friend of Justin's. Or WAS a friend of Justin's until he drove up from Iowa for this ride and spent the day on the bike with the Magic 8 + Greg who joined us in Withro so Greg rode about 12 less miles than us, which may or may not be important later in the story. You never know how these things will go.

Before leaving Withro (the ballroom, not the town) we ran into another 'guy' but this 'guy' was on a Motorcycle - his name was Tim, Tim 'Ducati' P.. It was a nice motorcycle - it was red - like an Argon Gallium (not the Pro, which is white.) Tim Ducati looked cold. We saw him later. He was cold. Not cold like in Iron Crotch3 cold, but still cold. Tim has a good story about people colder than him who had flat tires. You should ask him about it. It was his good turn for the day.

We also had some T.C.B.C. members trash talk us on their way out of the parking lot - 'Hey Bikery guys? Where are your women?!?!' We showed them when we saw them further down the road. Ever see that scene in Breaking Away when the Italians stick the pump in the hero's spokes? Me too! So dramatic. That scene has got nothing to do with this story, it just popped into my head. But if you're a woman who rides with us, knows us, is married to us, or generally has been anywhere near us, you could've answered the inquisitive TCBC rider's query.

Off we go. North up Cty Road 57 - the start of the Ride 'N Glide TT. And what should appear but the first stop ahead of the day. Near the end of Cty Road 57 where the road T's with 170th Street, a monster climb to the finish line, maybe 20 or 25 feet. And only 2 were brave enough to go mano e mano. The Prof and Sully. With Sully on the inside and The Prof on the outside. Hammer down, up hill, gear shift. Onto the hill. Heart rate building... and the first sprint to Sully. Yep. Sully.

Big early win. Could this set the tone for the day? The Prof does soon mention something about 'tired legs'. Sully thinks 'Yeah, tired legs. That was just a good 'ole fashioned whoopin!' The group continues - they all reveal in what the Argon has achieved. Even Sully can win a sprint with a nice bike! The Prof though, you can see the burn in his eyes. The others - perhaps they're pretending to enjoy the results.

We then catch Mike L. and Moots Man who were slightly up the road from us (we'll ignore that they may have passed the Stop Ahead before the group as that would take away from the story) and the group now continues north on Manning.

We pass the first ALS Bike Trek rest stop. We stop, not at the rest stop but at the entrance to the rest stop. Unable to make any sort of decision. We discuss if we should go in, or should continue. This goes on longer than it would have taken to go in and get another Bikery Scone. Mr. ‘Home by Noon’ makes the call: ‘Let's go on! But I reserve the right to complain later about not stopping now!’ We all agree. The man is a genius. But continue we do. (you feel the tension building don't you?)

We head north on Manning past Hwy 97 up to 228th Street. We take 228 now heading east - this takes us around the south end of Bone Lake. Great road - (shout out to Justin - a great route!) and the scene of what is to become the days major drama (there's always drama on our rides, much to the chagrin of guys named Guy who are very quiet except to say they're just gonna try and 'hang on' and then they crush you and they're also friends of the event organizer and got stuck riding with a Bikery team who has a few people who talk a lot, illustrated by this story.)

Back to the story: The group is heading east. Beautiful new blacktop. 2 lanes. smooth as a babies butt. 10 guys rolling along, and yes, we know, no women, and none of us know why.

We had just been riding a very nice double pace coming up Manning. It was a thing of beauty. Lee would've been so proud. We make the turn onto 228th... Chocolate Thunder calls for the pace line to come back together. But this is NICE blacktop. The wind is now  on our backs. We're happy. The sun has just come out. It's warming up (as long as you don't stop). Life is good! And we ignore ole Chocolate and his calls for ‘togetherness’. (We’re not very bright.)

And what should appear in the distance, ominously, but a Stop Ahead. Sprint two! Wind 'em up and here they go!

Thunder on the Outside - Greg on the inside. Thunder goes. Greg jumps. Everyone else yawns with excitement. No Argon? Who cares. But Greg is closing... closing as only a single guy with no kids who can ride whenever the hell he would like to ride can ride. The gap is closing FAST! They're at the line.

WOW! Greg almost goes down. his bike jerks to the right almost taking out Thunder. Thunder somehow hangs on for the win.

The field all take a drink from their water bottle. And continue.

Unlike Sully whose ego needs very little stroking, just a happy go lucky kind of guy who hates the spotlight; you can see Thunder’s head begin to swell under the bike helmet he calls home for his hair.

But we continue. And the group spreads out a bit more.

The swelling head is pushing Thunder off the front a bit. For him an exciting moment. Not something that happens often to guy who has kids and can't train whenever the hell he would like and does not own a brand new really fast Argon 18 Gallium (not the Pro).

Following this swelling is Greg. Licking his wounds a bit. But the better man for the effort he'd just put forth. Thunder is 25 meters in front of Greg and to the inside of the road. With Greg in the middle, perhaps slightly to the right of the mid-line of the lane. And our hero Sully a few meters behind Greg(do I sound Eurocentric using meters?) and further to the right of the one we call 'Bam!'.

And what should appear but another Stop Ahead. Sprint 3? Maybe. Maybe not. Chocolate Thunder looks back over his left shoulder. And again he looks. That stop ahead is about 100 meters away. And Thunder  thinks (this is author speculation regarding what is about to happen and may imply there was very little thinking involved by the man on the front with the HUGE advantage.) 'I've got this one. The feared Argon is behind Greg, and I've just broken Greg’s spirits not to mention he's like 25 or 30 meters behind me. This is mine! I'll be up by 1 sprint to the ever feared Sully!'

And the celebration beings!

Chocolate starts with the fist pump (celebration 1), he moves on to the 'rock the baby' (celebration 2), then a 'no hands double arm wavement thingy' (3) followed by several unnamed Chocolate Factory Patented movements that are better left undescribed on a family focused channel such as this one (celebration 4+).

But the fireworks followed.

The line up - Chocolate Factory2 , 100 meters from the Stop Ahead, near where a center line would be if there were a center line on this REALLY QUITE blacktop. (I note that for any legal officers who may be reading this).

Gregory "Bam!" in 2nd position. 25 meters off the Factory's back wheel. Near the middle of our lane.

And in 3rd, our hero, John "Sully" Sutcliffe, sitting carefully to the right of Greg. As hidden as a bald 6'4" man on a 61cm frame can be when he's behind a not quite 6'4" man who's on a close to 54cm frame.

Thunder looks over his left shoulder.

Sully, starts licking his chops. (Hey! My lips were chapped, ok?)

Thunder takes another look.

Sully begins the acceleration. Carefully. Trying to stay camouflaged by Gregory.

Thunder, another look, and celebration 1 begins.

Sully moves hard. Right leg, left leg, up a gear, RPMs increasing like a bullet coming out of gun! BOOM! Sully moves around the left of Greg. The gap that had been 25 is now 24, and 23... and falling rapidly as Sully's explosiveness pays the dividends his well trained quads were designed for... And oh the Argon... Have I mentioned the Argon?

22 meters...

19 meters...

Thunder moves on to celebration number 2 - he sits up - he rocks the baby...

17 meters...

15 meters... The gap is closing... Thunder, nearly as close to winning another sprint as he will ever be.

10 meters... Sully finds another gear as Thunder moves into celebration number 3, with an added pump of the fists (if that's what you could call them).

7 meters... this is serious - Thunder is now into all out celebration step number 4 and the gap is...

2 meters...

Factory looks over his shoulder one last time. It's obviously an effort not designed to spot oncoming riders but to take in the look of shock and awe on the riders who had been far, far behind our fading champion. He spots Sully. Agast, the man formerly known as Thunder moves to his left in an effort to push our hero (Sully) into the ditch followed by a feeble try at 'acceleration'. But Factory understands he is not a young man like our hero, which must be crushing.

Their wheels are even. But it's over. It's been over even before the premature celebrations kicked off 60.5 meters ago.

Sully is now up by a wheel. 2 wheels. Thunder now has tears beginning to flow in his eyes. A yowl from his inner soul emerges that sounds like a squirrel hit by 35mm tire on a cross-bike.

(It hurts me just retelling this.)

Thunder knows in his heart of hearts it's over. He's become Erik Zabel. He is the cocky cyclist. And not only has he lost yet another sprint, but he's lost this one with an Exclamation point! A dagger between the shoulder blades. A stiletto placed into the ribs. The shot heard round the world.

Really - one for the ages. pre-mature e-celebration is one term for it. (think about it!)

The oncoming peloton nearly crashes as they laugh so hard they nearly tip over. A rider lightly wets his bibs!

Sully uses the single, distinguished, subtle but point making fist pump. No rock the baby. No double hands in air with a twist. Just a simple placement of the victory knife right where it belongs.

Let's be honest. That's gotta hurt. Your hero, Mr. Sutcliffe, winner of the first 2 most major sprints of this young cycling season thinks in his head: "Boy, that's hurting you much more than it's hurting me."

And we'd only gone 25 or 30 miles! There is more. The sneak attack on the way into Scandia. The rest stop at the State Park. The team letting Moots Man think he'd ridden away from us again.

The parting of the sleet by Mr. “Red Sea” as we finish the Hell of the North. There may even have been 1 or 2 more sprints? Who can remember.

Mr. Home By Noon never did use his reserved right to complain about not stopping at that early rest stop.

Mike L. the man who speaks through his bike did what he always does and put the hurt to us.

Mr. C. - the blue Cannondale - rode off into the sunset back to WI from wince he came.

It was a grand day! We shall return next year. I'm sure the rematch will be just as fun!

1 The first annual Calvin Jones Bikery Field Sprint on the First Saturday of May.

2 The new nickname for the former 'Chocolate Thunder'.

3 Iron Crotch - An early season ride in Western Wisconsin that is designed to test your crotch’s fortitude early in the cycling season. Often wet and cold and cold and wet.

4 Rereading this 3 years later, I think I may have never gotten to the point. Or maybe I did. Ride, enjoy, and do it with people you enjoy!

PS - sometime I should tell the story of the clown who sprints early and often on rides and then suffers home into the wind over those last  final 10 miles with the juice fully drained from his now ‘tired legs’.

Got Thoughts on this "outstanding" story? Send Sully an Email

Read more of Sully's Trial and Tribulations here.

If you'd like to donate to help find a cure for ALS:

My Fund Raising Page

Team Chilkoot Velo Fund Raising Page

Originally appeared on the interwebs around Thursday, May 13, 2010.