This year, two of Milwaukee’s awesomest events coincided – the Great Downer Avenue Criterium and Germanfest. As a cyclist of German descent, naturally I did both. On the same day.

First came Germanfest. My parents drove down from Fond du Lac and met Kelley, Stefano (our newly-arrived Italian exchange student), and me at the fest grounds. I intended not to have any beer, so as not to ruin myself for the race, but my willpower only lasted through the first polka song. I managed to limit myself to one and a half beers, one brat, some schnitzel, and an almond horn. Not bad. The five of us had a great time, and we were on our ways home by four o’clock.

After walking and feeding the dogs, I headed back downtown for the race while Kelley took a nap and Stefano emailed his family. They met me at the race about an hour later, which was fine, because the Category 3 race got stopped about three times for crashes. As a result, the Pro/1/2 race started an hour late and was shortened from 80 laps to 60.

We finally got going at around 7pm. I felt like crap for the first 30 laps. Physically, I felt about as good as can be expected after my uberlunch, but my head just wasn’t in it. I’d only done one other crit this year (last weekend in Evanston), and Downer is not for the timid. Playing it safe through the corners put me at the back of the field pretty quickly. I stayed there until guys started popping off the back, requiring me to accelerate around them. About mid-way through the race, I heard someone yell, “hang in there, Denny!” which made me think, “dang, I must look as crappy as I feel,” so I decided to move up a bit.

None of the many attacks managed to escape the field, so the pace remained high the entire race. My teammates Steve and Mark hung in there quite a while, but finally decided they’d had enough. Before dropping out, Mark succeeded in getting me back for a practical joke I recently played on him. Except his joke was completely unintended and unfunny. As I was riding behind and slightly to his right, he suddenly lost his grip on the handlebars and nearly went down. Had he done so, he probably would have ended up underneath a pile of about 20 bleeding cyclists and broken bikes, myself among them. Fortunately, and not for anything close to the first time, he managed to save it.

That’s about it. I finished the race, to my relief and satisfaction, and scored two beers on the cooldown lap. Stefano was duly impressed, and Steve, Mark, and I were all happy to put one of the harder Downer Ave races in recent years behind us.

In conclusion, here’s a picture of a guy who looks like me but isn’t (my teammate, TJ) impressively avoiding a crash while maintaining his grip on a water bottle.