Thursday, June 3, 2010

Covered Bridges 400k

Some rides go smoothly, other rides do not. The larger forces of randonneuring sometimes work together to create unexpected difficulties. This was one of those rides. Last year, I came down and rode this 400 in personal record time as far as 400's go and was excited to have a repeat performance along this beautiful course. We gathered at the start of the ride chilly, in the early morning before the start. I followed the big pack out of town, but the group got cut apart with a few stoplights just a few miles down the road. I found myself riding next to Milison, who was on his first 400k. We started riding together just as the first winds started pushing us around. The sun was just coming up behind a huge cloud bank, but the day was dry so far. As we continued south, the fierce winds blew strongly across the fields. As the sky got lighter, we could see the first beautiful flowers blooming. The lilacs were in full bloom and many of the cherries still had flowers on their branches. Sheep were calmly grazing in the fields around Scio as we started noticing the first rain clouds. 

In Scio, Corey was having some stomach problems, so we hung out with him for a while. The rest felt good and Milison and I were enjoying some caffeine. We got Corey back on his bike and he started to feel better with some calories and hot liquid in his stomach. Now the search for covered bridges began. This was an interesting concept for a brevet; usually the rides aren't themed in this way. Each or the bridges is unique and beautiful. Riding along these back highways feels like we stepped 100 years back in time. We stopped at each bridge to answer control questions for the info controls as we continued to wonder south. All day we were working in to some kind of head wind. I started counting down the miles until we got to head back north and take advantage of a tailwind. 

Morning turned into afternoon and the sun decided to come out for a few hours. We were able to strip off some of the bulky clothing at lunch. Back on the bikes we enjoyed the last of the covered bridges and set our sights for the Mohawk General Store, our next major stop. The major of the climb of the day was a quiet brake from the wind. The small pass blocked most of the headwinds. At the Mohawk Store, we bumped into riders who were not on our brevet. Whenever we interact with other cyclists at these stops, they always are a amazed and confused as to why we would want to ride so far in one day. I was asking myself the same questions today. 

The plan from here was to bike just a few more miles south, then cross I-5 and ride the tailwind all the way home. But, the weather had other plans for us. The moment we crossed over into the valley on the west side of I-5, we were hit in the face with some more headwinds. To top it off, there were fewer trees and larger fields in this section of the ride. We hunkered down and got back into the drops and stacked up into a nice pace line and headed north. The sun was setting as we staggered into the next control. I remember being here hours earlier last year. At this point Corey and I came to the realization that at this pace, we weren't going to be getting finished until 3am. We tried to pick up the pace a little bit, but the wind slowed us down again. Sitting all day in the saddle in a pace line was making me saddle sore, not a fun way to spend the next 6 hours. I stopped not far down the road for some more chamois cream. The road continued on endlessly into the night. The winds didn't stop with the sun going down, but we push on anyway. The next stop was at a convenience store in Albany. Hot coffee and some calories helped me get back in the mood to finish this ride. As we neared the next control, we could see some riders returning back to the highway. It felt good to see riders ahead of us as it was the first time since lunch. Not much was open in downtown Independence late at night. We ended up getting invited into a loud bar by the bouncer. They put us at a table and put hot coffee down in front of us and signed our cards. Being inside with lights, music, and heat was a little bit of sensory overload. We paid for our coffee and left to finish the last 50 miles. 

Everyone was starting to get sleepy, but we kept the conversations up to keep everyone on track. Corey and I found ourselves riding along after a quick bathroom stop and we chatted to keep awake. We came upon our friend John, who was looking a little sleepy. The three of us finished the last few miles together just as the birds were starting to wake up. We didn't end up getting back to the hotel until after 4am. This wasn't my slowest 400k, but it was very close. We stubbled upstairs, turned in our cards, and each took a hot shower before passing out in bed. 

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