Monday, April 23, 2007

200 km aka "The Easy One" Part 1

Saturday 4/21 was the first of four qualifying brevets held by the Great Lakes Randonneurs in Wisconsin. The route would be Delavan to Sun Prairie and back, 128 miles to be completed in 13.5 hours.

Friday night I took Metra’s UPNW Line to its terminus Harvard, IL. 8:30 PM was the first available train after the outbound rush hour, when bicycles are prohibited, which got me in town at 10:20 PM. Lucky for me, none of the brevets are scheduled on one of the 22 “blackout” days on which bikes are still prohibited.

From here it was 18 miles to Delavan, WI and the five star accommodations of the Motel Super 8. The ride along U.S. 14 was pleasant, lightly trafficked with the wind at a dead calm and a waxing crescent low in the sky.

En route, Julie called to say she’d be later than expected. Sam Van Dellen had put me in touch with this kindhearted woman, who hooked me up with some floor space. Good thing too, cause my plan theretofore had been to stand around asking the other riders to crash in their room—riders who were all sound asleep when I pulled in at Midnight.

Like a good boy, I limited myself to 1 beer at Kimberly’s in glamorous downtown Delavan and met up with Julie, Ben and Ben shortly before lights out.

After a restless night, I awoke early, joined the crowd abusing the continental breakfast and registered where I was issued my checkpoint card, route sheet and a handful of hamster pellets (protein laden energy bars.)

We assembled on the tarmac minutes before 8 AM for a motivational speech and liability reminder and I began to feel a bit out of place. Organized, group rides aren’t really my typical thing. Some cats had wheel sets that cost more than my whole bike. My “good” bike. I was wearing a mountain bike style jersey and cargo pants. I had a camera around my neck. Nobody else had a front rack. I’m pretty sure nobody else was carrying a lock. (NOTE: I expected to lunch at a diner! Are YOU going to replace my stolen bike!?)

Anyway, off we rolled. I chatted awhile with Jim Krepps from the CCC, who was riding through tendinitis in his ankle. Jim’s done ‘em all-- PBP, Boston-Montreal-Boston, Cascade, Gold Rush. He’s going to PBP this year, but then taking some time off from endurance cycling. Kinda wimpy, no?

I was quite enjoying myself, riding along at 16-18mph in the considerable wind break of the group. I knew they would drop me eventually, but my thought was “If I can keep up for just 20 miles, it will be worth the effort.” Soon more grandiose strategies unfolded in my mind. “I should definitely keep near the bike at the first checkpoint (mile 35,) so that I can leave with them in a hurry.”

At mile 8, I was dropped.

For awhile I paired up with Frank, an Industrial Psychologist from the Twin Cities. He claimed to be nearly 60, but didn’t look a day over 45. He had been to PBP in 2003 and informed me that the roads were much nicer than stateside. Then he dropped me.

The first (and third) checkpoint was a filling station in Edgerton. Ordinarily, I might rant a bit about big oil and the irony of its involvement here, but I have learned, both from touring and living on the west side of Chicago, that sometimes patronizing a gas station unavoidable. I snapped a shot of Julie.

Back on the road, I found myself in a small group with Jeff, who owns a bike shop in South Bend, IN. He reassured me that the Long Haul Trucker was a fine steed for the job at hand. We chatted until I dropped my water bottle—which upon my retrieving it had a nice wheel shaped dent. All apologies to the nice lady behind me…

I missed yet another good photo op at mile 60 as the leaders approached on their return. Another PBP veteran, Scott McIntire, who I know from his days bartending at Cal’s, was close to the front. I was pleased to see they were only about 10 miles ahead at the halfway point, although the wind that had built up behind me did have me concerned about the reverse ride.

At around 12:30 I pulled into the second checkpoint in Sun Prairie, mile 65. About this time I was realizing that nobody else was going to stop for a 3 egg omelet, hash browns and bacon, so I decided I would go with the flow and eat gatherer vs. hunter style. I slammed a Starfucks “frappasomething” from the cooler case and ate another pellet.

I was saddling up when Mike Feirstein arrived. He and Scott were the ones who fist told me about PBP 4 years ago. The proprietor of Cal’s and grandson of its founder, Mike had a late night with a show at the tavern. Operating on no sleep he looked a little weary and had started 20 minutes late.

I told him he would catch up to me and headed into the wind…