Christian Vande Velde figures a link to his results in the Tour de France will earn him a spot in the elite start area for his first run in the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40.
The Lemont, Ill., native finished fourth in the grand tour in 2008, and helped Lance Armstrong win with the U.S. Postal team in 1999 and 2001. A string of crashes and injuries set back Vande Velde in 2009 and 2010, but he has been back on form in 2011: 17th in the tour and second last month in the inaugural US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
The climbing in that stage race will serve as excellent preparation for Vande Velde and his battle with defending champion, Brian Matter, up the Birkie hills to the finish line at the Telemark resort. They will be among 1,850 bikers rolling down Main St. in Hayward for the 29th annual Fat Tire on Sept. 17.
A veteran of cycling’s premiere races, the Garmin-Cervelo rider has long been drawn to race near his grandfather’s homestead, in Tony, Wis..
Christian Vande Velde
“Chequamegon Fat Tire has always been on my bucket list,” Vande Velde wrote in an email to Off the Couch. “It is only an hour away from my grandparents house, where I escape whenever I can find time.
“I love it there. I spent most summers of my youth and half my current daydreaming hours up there.”
Vande Velde is a five-time USA Cycling track champion and has more than proven his ability on the road. Mountain biking will be a new venture.
“I am not the most savvy on the mountain bike, but I can hold my own with some time in the saddle,” he said.
Vande Velde will be one of a handful of Fat Tire entrants to bring Tour de France experience to the race. Greg LeMond won it in 1990 and 1991 and Marty Jemison, who rode for the US Postal Service Team, took the wins in 1997 and 1998. Jeff Bradley, from Iowa, raced the Tour for the 7-Eleven squad and also put his wheels on the line in Hayward.
Frankie Andreu, the one-time domestique for Lance Armstrong who became embroiled in the doping allegations against the seven-time champion, raced the Fat Tire in 2004, after his retirement from the pro ranks.
And Bob Roll, the well-known cycling announcer, was second to the line in the 1996 CFTF.
"It's a great honor to have Christian Vande Velde ride in the Chequamegon 40," said race founder and director Gary Crandall. "With all the great professional events that CVV has attended and could attend, and especially with the great year he has had, it speaks well of his home town, grass-roots perspective to show up to the Chequamegon event. We will show him a good time and give him his money's worth."
Matter, the Team GEARGRINDER racer from Sheboygan, will be going for a Fat Tire three-peat. He also holds the record on the 40-mile, point-to-point course, 2:02:55, set in 2009.
Two-time champion Doug Swanson, three-time winner Steve Tilford, Cole House, and Tristan Schouten also expect to be in the mix, no doubt motivated to race one of the world’s best.
In the women’s 40-mile contest, Jenna Rinehart returns to defend her title. Three-time champion Catherine Walberg and Sara Kylander-Johnson figure to be on the case, along with Lea Davison, who took the win in 2008.