After moving to Wauwatosa more than 10 years ago, I came to expect an odd “equinox” that coincided with warmer weather. Echoing over the tree tops would come long groaning stanzas in a rondo between a jet liner at take off and a jack hammer convention. I soon learned that it was the auditory detritus from the Milwaukee Mile at State Fair Park, more than 5 miles away.
Over time, I could discern between Indy Car races and NASCAR events; tire testing or “real” race events. Obnoxious though it may have been, reading the newspaper accounts of the events and the revered history drivers placed on the 1 mile oval, I came to respect its designation as the “oldest racetrack in the country.”
So, when the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced its 2013 schedule including the Milwaukee Mile, the proximity to home made it an irresistible addition to my (dramatically shrinking) race calendar.
Riding to the venue, versus loading up a car, picking up fellow racers, stopping for bio breaks et. al., kindled an Italian vibe. Like riding from Milan to Bergamo. The simplicity of loading up a messenger bag with various race stuff, and pedaling 20 minutes afield helped set a mood.
Rolling silently through a dark tunnel under the stands and up onto the daylight of the infield and track, pushed the pedal to the floorboard for atmosphere. The stands, set for 45,000, sat in eerie silence save for the ghosts of delirious fans cheering on everything from horse racing (back in the 1800s), on up to dirt track racing (1950s) and even a Packer game or two (1960s). A turn around the oval showed scars of battle: massive skid marks running up into huge divots gashed along the walls.
The race (Masters 3-4 category), running on a modified road course stretching almost 2 miles, generated the excitement of speeding down the finishing straight lap after lap. The large pack mimicked the action in a NASCAR event, save for the fact that it was lycra clad racers on two wheels “trading paint.” I push a modest 350 watts out of turn four compared to Indy cars 520 kW (~700 horse power). And my sprint into the finish might top out at 40mph while 40-year-old Dario Franchitti, manages to average about 168 mph in his Honda IZOD Indy Car. The reality of 60+ competitors almost silently plying a course that, filled with four-wheeled “horseless buggies”, would create a ruckus heard five miles away was surreal.
As the laps turned down, and the white flag waved signaling the last lap (really!), I wondered if race car drivers ever experience double vision and shortness of breath as they near the finish line in the final lap. Turning through Turn Four and onto the final straight, with competitors stretched six to seven wide sprinting for the checkered flag…so…far…down…the..
For results of this race check the WCA website here.