Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Short Ride

The ever ambitious Nick had a vision of a double century today, but it wasn't to be. The original plan was to ride down to Pella and Lake Red Rock, but due to Saturday's snow and rain down there Nick, Paul, and I compromised and decided on a route north and east to Eldora and Iowa Falls for about 140 miles. Initial conditions weren't what we were hoping for. A strong wind from the NNW dogged us from the first. Combined with sub-freezing temps that had our Camelbak hoses frozen solid at points and numbed our fingers and toes we were in for a rough one.

Going east, roughly with the wind, was a treat and I thought we might finish the ride feeling pretty fresh, but I should have known better. At about mile 40 when we turned north we had to fight not just the wind, but some pretty tough rollers of hills. By the time we hit Eldora at mile 60 we were ready to turn around and after a brief discussion we decided on a route that would put right at 100 miles and Nick and me at about 113. Going south with the wind was a treat, but east was still a chore.

Our revised route had us riding along 270th Street in Hardin county all the way through Hubbard and Radcliffe, but that was a lie. 270th doesn't go straight there at all. After that it was dead reckoning as we zigzagged SW. We found some pretty nice B roads that curved through scenic hills. Unfortunatley we also found several miles of pavement that were pretty much unavoidable. At Roland we took a bike path for a mile that was far worse than the B roads we had been on. By the time we crossed I35 and the Skunk River we were more than ready to be done. The last few miles into Gilbert Nick and I sprinted for the tops of hills, but niether of us had much left in our legs.

We were all pretty satisfied with the distance we went today given the conditions. That double century will have to wait for later in the season when we have some nice weather for once.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First post on new computer.

Last weekend's ride was a gravel century with Nick and Wade. We rode over to Frasier on the Des Moines river and rode north along the valley to Stratford then turned around and came back the same way. As usuall the hills along the route were challenging. They are steep and pretty long for the Midwest, but there aren't as many as I had remembered. We rode more flat river bottom miles than it seemed like we did last year along here.

All along the way I was dreading the last hill out of the valley, Y Camp Hill (166th Ave). It isn't the longest, but it sure seems to be the steepest and most of the hill is hidden from the bottom so you don't know just how far you have to go. I wasn't sure, but I thought I could make it up without walking. As I started up the gravel was looser than I was hoping. That meant that I wouldn't be able to stand up and pedal without my wheels slipping, not to mention that it is a lot harder to ride through loose gravel. About half way up I went over to the left side of the road. Not where I wanted to be given the possiblity of traffic, but it was much smoother than the right side. After I got onto the harder surface it was no problem to finish the climb. It almost seemed too easy.

All in all a pretty good ride for the first century of the year.

Monday, March 09, 2009


On Sunday I decided to do CIRREM, a 62 mile gravel race, at the last minute. Paul, Nick, and I drove down to the start in Cumming where, not to our surprise, the weather had scared away a lot of people. Rain, snow, and temps in the mid thirties were forecast.

It was raining as we rolled out of town and on to the gravel. I started at the back, but soon found myself passing riders and moving up to the front. The hard packed gravel was hardly affected by the rain. Just a couple of miles in Nick and I broke off the front, everyone else seemed to be going too slow for our taste. I have the feeling that if we hadn't done that this wouldn't have been much of a race. People just weren't feeling good in the rain and didn't want to try and push themselves.

Pretty soon though a group of seven or so riders had caught us. We went rode together for a while until five of us broke off the front for good. I was really surprised that I was with that group and that Nick wasn't. He has been riding really well this year and already has two full gravel centuries under his belt.

I rode with this group through some pretty hilly terrain towards Winterset. The rain and snow that were forecast were always present and I didn't mind them. I was perfectly comfortable for the first fifteen miles or so until water started wicking down into my cycling boots. My hands were became too warm too so I stripped them off and rode without for the rest of the race. What wasn't comfortable was the sleet that hit us for a few minutes in the first half of the race. It stung my face and hands, especially on downhills and going into the wind.

After Winterset (which I only recognized because I had ridden some of the same gravel in Paul's GRAID ride last spring) I lost contact with the lead four riders and was on my own for the rest of the race. It was a beautiful ride. Lots of hills, wind, fast gravel, and not a few dogs.

I would pull the cue sheet out of my pocket, memorize the next two turns, put it back and enjoy the ride. It was tough to remember much more than that. After five miles of spacing off it is tough to remember whether the next turn is a right or a left. With five miles to go I put away the cue sheet for good and sprinted for the finsh. I was sure that someone would catch me so every so often I'd glance over my shoulder and see if anyone was back there. No one was.

With three miles to go there was a bridge with lengthwise boards spaced about an inch and a half apart. The same width as my tires. As I came up to it I thought to myself that if I got caught in one it could be a pretty nasty crash. Sure enough, with nearly sixty miles of hard riding behind me it was tough to steer a straight course and I ended up with one tire in the gap. Luckily I managed to ride out without incident. Don't ask me how.

I rode the last couple of miles as fast as I could. Not all that fast really. I arrived at the Cumming Tap in fifth place overall. Not bad. I was happy to get into dry clothes.