Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kansas City 400km

Most people think that riding a bike 250 miles in a day is crazy. Driving 8 hours to do so is even worse. However, I have signed up to ride the Shenandoah 1200 kilometer ride and need to ride a 250 ride before the end of May to qualify. Unfortunately, none of the clubs in the Upper Midwest offer a 250 mile ride in time to help me. So, Kansas City here I come.

On Saturday, I showed up in Liberty, Missouri to ride the 400 kilometer brevet with the Kansas City Ultracycling gang. At sign in, I immediately recognized three guys that I have ridden with before. I had ridden with Spencer Klaasen and Jack Romans at my first ever 600 kilometer brevet, which I did in 2008 in Lincoln, Nebraska. I also knew Dan Clinkenbeard whose crazy storytelling had kept our group in stitches during the last day of the Granite Anvil 1200 kilometer brevet in 2009. Dan is famous for never, ever moving to the front of the group to take his turn pulling riders to reduce air resistance.

We started the ride just before sunrise in the darkness of a strip mall parking lot. Kansas City's RBA, Bob Burns, started the pre-ride meeting with a new-to-me practice of having everyone introduce themselves to the group. In all, there were about 15 riders lined up. With a casual, "Well, I guess you can go", we were off into the morning.

Within a couple of miles, the field had broken into several small groups. I fell into a group with Spencer, Dan C., and Rod. Following the course proved to be about as easy as possible, we simply followed US Highway 69 from the outskits of Liberty, Missouri to Davis City, Iowa.  Fortunately, Highway 69 parallels Intertate 35 so traffic was minimal for most of the route.  Although we were heading into a steady 10 mph headwind over non-stop rolling hills, we maintained a nice pace for the 72 miles to the first control in Pattonsburg, Missouri.  At Pattonsburg, we added two more riders to our group, Karen and Keith. This group of 6 would stay together for the rest of the ride. Because there were 2 Dans in the group, I was referred to as "Dan who pulls".

We averaged 14.2 miles per hour while riding and reached the turnaround at 3:35pm, a time of 9 hours and 35 minutes for first 200 kilometers. The turnaround was at a tiny post office in Davis City, Iowa. To prove that we had been there, each rider had to mail a postcard back to the ride director.

On the ride back to Liberty, the 10 mile per hour winds pushed us along nicely. The hard effort of the northbound leg was replaced by a more conversational, light-hearted spin. The only drama of the day occured when lightning started lighting up the sky as we approached Lawson, Missouri, about 20 miles from the finish. After a team meeting, and a flurry of smart phone weather research, we decided that the worst of the storms would miss us so we headed on towards Liberty. The skies opened up and we rode through steady rains for about 10 of the remaining 20 miles but we all arrived at the finish safe and sound, albeit wet. 

I finished at 1:25am for a total time of 19 hours and 25 minutes.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Heating Up...sort of

The strange spring weather in Wisconsin has allowed an early start to the 2012 cycling season. As of April 8th, I am already up to 880 miles for the season and have ridden two 75 mile rides, two 125 mile rides and one 180 mile ride. The 180 mile ride was Saturday's debut ride of a route I created called "Old Abe's Parade". The route is certified as a RUSA permanent  which allows riders to gain RUSA credit towards various distance awards. The ride starts in BRF and travels to Pepin by way of Independence, Mondovi and Durand and returns through Alma, Arcadia and Ettrick.

I left at 6:00 am under clear skies and with a beautiful, setting full moon. The temperature at the start was 28 degrees. The ride to Durand was awesome across terrain that became increasingly hilly. The section between Durand and Pepin is one of my favorite roads to ride anywhere in the state. County Highway N travels parallels the Chippewa River and the Tiffany Bottoms Wilderness area. I saw multiple bald eagles and was lucky enough to watch one eagle scoop an unlucky fish out of the water as I rode past.

Just as I was leaving Pepin, the predicted 30 percent chance of rain turned into a steady drizzle that would last over the next 5 hours. I rode southeast along the Great River Road trying to enjoy the regular views of the Mississippi River and adjacent bluffs. The climb over the bluff out of Alma was a long, steep and soggy grind. By the time I got to Arcadia, I was soaked, freezing, and in full bonk mode. A meal and some hot chocolate gave me enough energy to limp over the two climbs which highlight the section to Ettrick. Things finally dried out shortly after leaving Ettrick and I was treated to glorious light as the sun set halfway between Ettrick and home.

I finished the 181 mile ride in 14 hours and 39 minutes. Not an elite time by any means but I was pretty satisfied with being able to complete a ride of that difficulty in bad conditions so early in the season.