Archive for July 2009

 
 

Portland, OR

Ok, ok, one final e-mail. I am on the couch in a house of five, eight if you count myself and the other two people crashing here, and nine if you count Walter (top left picture). I can’t see how you couldn’t count Walter, so I am living with eight other people. And seven of us are enjoying our breakfast and coffee on the front porch as the last bits of the night’s cool breeze waft through the house. This is the chillest packed house I have had the pleasure of being wedged into. Maybe I should stay. Maybe next time I will.

Boise, ID to Portland, OR

The rides are ridden. The tour is complete. The year is done. There is a sense of accomplishment but also a strong sense of relief. The riders completed a series of very hard rides. Not just in the last 17 days, but the two previous legs this year as well. A lot of time. A lot of patience. And a ton of suffering.

3 hours 40min of riding and 1 million hours of van sitting in the first 14days left me sore from inactivity. The 90 mile and 150 mile rides in the last three days have worn me out, but in a way that makes me smile with satisfaction. I have threats and promises of hard days of riding in Portland. I look forward to them. I have ridden there enough to know that even on a bad day, you will have a great ride. Even if it was 109F there yesterday and nobody has an air-conditioning. Just head towards skyline and and everything will work itself out.

Photo: Jeremy and I passed this mobile party platform as we were riding from his house to Slate’s. Yes, two 20″ers welded together. Correct, cooler up front, grill out back. To the left you can see the edge of the propane tank as it dangles off to the side. If the horns don’t get you, his cig sparking the leaky canister probably will.

Footnote: After we got to Slate’s place I fell asleep first in his front yard on the grass near the side walk, from which I moved to and slept on his love seat, before making the final transition to the full couch. And not once did he kick me out for acting like any level surface was mine for the taking. A gentleman among men.

2009-07-30a

Boise, ID

Today is the big day. Not just the longest ride of the series. Not just the one of the rides with the most climbing in the tour. It is the last ride. The final ride of the 3rd leg final leg of the final year of the current Rapha Continental project. It may continue in some future form, but for now, it is nearly done, its purpose fulfilled. Rides ridden, agreements fulfilled. Routes documented, pictures captured, video recorded, artefacts collected (generally by Mr. Cole Maness), rider journals written. Once today is done, and a good 6 months of future work completed, the two years of work will be recorded in a less ethereal mode. Guide book, DVD, and maybe coffee table photo journal headed your way.

150miles means an extra early start. Not our usual early start which some how is always an hour later than our planned on the road time. If anything we need to be out the door a hour before we planned if that was something that was possible. Most of us are downstairs 15min before the 6:30am roll call, in our kit, on our bikes, heading out early to the G-Fit Studio (http://gfitstudio.blogspot.com/) to relube chains, wipe down frames, and air up tires. The space is immaculate. Three double bike service stations boasting the Feedback Sports Pro-Elite clamp (http://www.feedbacksports.com/products/pro-elite_commercial_clamp.aspx). Yes I have a Feedback Sports work stand and yes it is worth the money. Yes I paid for mine, and yes I would pay for it again. But, since it is different than the typical lever-clamp systems, it takes some of the crew a little bit to figure out how to work the thing. Do I turn the knob first? What is the push paddle on the arm? Ratchet what? Fortunately the breakfast spot is next door so the time spent figuring out how to get the thing to let go of peoples bikes didn’t really eat into our food consumption phase.

My stomach is a little funny so I only opt for something small and light. A bagel with cream cheese and a hot tea. I am a little worried about it not being enough for the ride but there isn’t any way to eat enough in a meal to support the ride we are about to do anyway. You just have to be careful about eating consistently the entire time. Some food every 30min and at least one bottle an hour. A meal that is too large before a ride is worse than too little in my mind. You can always eat more once you get on the bike. De-eating once you are rolling is a messier operation.

Not ordering a breakfast seems like the master plan. Everyone else went for the full meal deal and ended up only finishing half of what they ordered. Perfect. I get to pick and choose between plates for a couple of extra bites. And a couple of extra pieces of fruit. Fresh blue berries, strawberries, and cherries. Who doesn’t finish their cherries?!?!?!

With the extra riders from Boise and the additional people that flew into Salt Lake, it is a pretty big crew, 14 in total. We double pace line out of the center of town, down some side streets, through a cemetery, and then out onto the highway. We are on the 30 heading NW of town. The ground is pretty bare and arid. Not arid like Texas, we have prairie grass and Mesquite trees. Everything seems to be closely cropped, where there is some sort of ground cover, and dusty gravely dirt. A land dessicated. Which is strange since we followed some pretty impressive rivers on our way in. Where does all the water go?

The 4 lane, divided middle, huge shouldered highway heaves itself sky ward as our first ascent begins. It is 6-7% and signs facing oncoming traffic warn of break checks and run away ruck turn offs. We slowly make our way up. I am with two riders, the three of us watching the summit of the pass inch towards us. Struggling engines red line to our left. A bright orange dump truck with dump trailer in tow leaves me thinking about how if it was 5mphs slower it would be the perfect skitch assistant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skitching). In the middle of this train of thought Cole Maness rapidly pedals past me. What? Why is he looking back? Here comes the same set up as earlier, only grey and slower. His sprint has brought him with in the range of a grab being possible, not just distance but speed. His left hand extends, finds traction on the last indentation on the side of the trailer, and his legs come to a rest. The bastard actually hooked himself a ride to the top. Sitting back and relaxing, he coasts up hill, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at us with amusement. As the rig pulls over the rise Cole releases his catch back into the wild and waves it goodbye. The diver bellows his horn twice in response. Glad to be of assistance and you are welcome.

We return to the river etched valley. I suppose it is still etching since it is flowing swiftly on our left. The road is narrow and tight. Small lanes, no shoulder. Ditch to the right, followed by a wall of dirt and rocks. The single column of riders tries to stick to the white line. A semi-constant stream of traffic passes us. Lots of trailers, lots of trucks. We are moving quickly, each rotating up as the front rider peels off. I, 8th back in the rotation, watch the rider two ahead of me, using him as a guide post on both distance and path. Slam. I am launched 3-4′ to my left. Hands almost off of the bars, connection retained solely by my hooked thumbs. If I had any lighter of a grip on my hoods, I would have gone aero, but not in the good way. My first thought is I am about to crash. The front end of the bike is all over the place and the roughly chip sealed awaits. In what felt like a 5sec struggle for control, but was probably only 1sec at the most, I am able to straighten out and look back to figure out what the hell happened. The three directly behind me are scattering. The rider 4th behind me (12th in the line of 14) is either not quick enough or not lucky enough. He slams into something, turning the front wheel ninety degrees to his momentum. He goes ass over elbows, right knee smacks the ground as he disappears head first into the roadside ditch. An cloud of dust and dirt is ejected into the air as he slams home. Brakes and tires burn as people slowdown to loop back to the accident. I am the first on the scene, wishing it hadn’t been 2 years since my Red Cross first aid training had expired. Seeing how how he went down, I am sure I am about to have to deal with some serious injuries. He is trying to sit up and I get him to lay still. Strangely everything is working. I test his collar bones and neck, question him about dates and times. Press on his arms and legs, extend his joints. His helmet is scraped but uncracked. He has some gnarly road rash on his knee, deep grooves. But he is alive and it is not serious or life threatening. As wrecks goes, this is a good one. He is walking away from it although it is the end of his ride this day. 20 feed further back I pick up the culprit, either unseen or un-pointed. A 4″x3″x1.5″ nearly squared rock that now rests at the bottom of the adjacent river. Hopefully staying out of trouble.

The turn off appears and we exit the main highway. Two or three scattered groups which become additionally stretched by the subsequent climbs. This landscape is hard to photograph. There is no differentiation. A river exists deep in the valley sloping to our left but there is no good way to frame it. The plants and trees are uniform. The dirt and grasses are yellow and brown. The route is long and difficult, but the visuals are uninspiring. Unlike other rides, there aren’t any zones being moved through: grassland to forest, pine to snowcap, dark to bright. Looking through a viewfinder, everything seems cluttered without contrast.

The 12 mile climb. I climb alone. No one’s speed seems to match another’s. Everyone is soloing. Finding their sustainable tempo and sticking to it. I run out of water and am hoping for the van. There is no way to tell if it is just over the next ridge or 10 miles away set up for a good shot. If I was smart I would have dropped in on that camp ground I passed 15min ago to fill up, but I still had a little water at that point and I thought the van must be close. Close is a relative judgement which decreases as thirst increases. I was pretty parched and the van sure seemed that it was forever away as I slowed my roll. The last thing I needed was to add heavy exertion to my increasing dehydration. They say your body isn’t good at indicating the need for food and water, and that it lets you know it has run out of energy or hydration after the fact. One of the top rules of riding in a long route or in a race is eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. The hills crowd the view keeping everything obstructed. Unable to see where I came from and where I was heading, and how far the next rest stop was, I continued at a casual pace. 45min later, the final peak of the mid day climb is reached, and the van sits in the left turn off, an oasis in the dessert. Another 15min and I would have just filled my bottles from the stream near the road and just taken my chances that my stomach is strong. A greedily gulped bottle and two freshly refilled, I begin the long descent into a dot of a town for a coke and a possible ice  cream sandwich. 20mph turns taken at 35, I hang on to enough momentum to give my legs a nice long rest as I practically coast into town.

A nice acidic Coke and a pass on the ice cream. A quick 10min stop and I push on. 3 riders ahead, the remainder behind. The head winds kick up. A shorter climb, although even short climbs seem long at this stage of the game, and I am across the reservoir dam. The van is parked on the far side. This time I pre-emptively water up even though I am not particularly low. The 3 are about 5min ahead. The park pull off at the head of the paved bike way just on the other side of the final climb. A perfectly straight 4 mile stretch with an unchanging 5-6% grade. A slow progress spin and I am up and over. I drop into the park and it looks like the front 3 riders have continued looking to finish the final 8 miles and get off of their bikes after a long day of riding. I decide rather than finish the ride solo, I would like to do the final leg of the final ride with the crew. After today everyone is headed their separate ways, for at least a while, so there is no time like the present. People show up in 1, 2s, and 3s until the final 10 of us are assembled. Clipping back into our pedals, we take it casual back into Boise, the sun in our eyes.

Ride Time: 8:32:19
Distance: 150.86 miles
Speed: 17.5/54.7mph
Heart Rate: 140/178
Cadence: 79/136

2009-07-29a

Missoula, MT to Boise, ID

A warning. Curvy road. 45. Not 45mph. Next 45 miles.

We travel between walls of tightly packed pines. Gaps expose the wide shallow river to our left dotted with shoreline sand bars. The occasional rock jams block the flow creating tempting swimming holes.

Repetitive 300ft construction zones manned by the happiest workers on earth. Every orange jacketed individual turns to wave at every single passing vehicle. Even the guy actively pushing the rumbling road de-surfacer as it crawls down the road. The manic sign holding road marshal vibrates her hand upon her wrist as she grins from ear to ear.

The feelings of borderline car sickness increase as you move from the front bucket seats to the back bench seat which rests above the rear wheels and shocks. The van cycles between acceleration and coast and over aggressive turns. On the less common straight patches of pavement, it swims down the lane like a migrating salmon. A huge bloated salmon, slowly flicking to the left and right rather than taking the direct path. People need a break, some need a bathroom. We spy a sandy beach on the bank of the river. It is part of a small state park with installed facilities. It appeared too quickly to turn off as we go by so we burn off some speed and pull a u-turn. Time for a dip.

We disembark. Pull bags out of the back in search of swimsuits. Some opt for underwear. I choose the obvious choice of body coverings. Flattering and hydrodynamic. Tight and black. My trusty Speedo. Its only flaw: non-alignment with my bib tan line investment. A price I will just have to pay. There isn’t a chance in hell I am not going to jump into this river after having been stuck in this stuffy van for most of the day.

Missoula, MT

A coffee and two croissants at Le Petit Outre (a misconfiguration, a mistake by the sign company, not of the owners, a mistake that stuck). We have two ride hosts today, three for the location. Ben Ferencz and Selden Daume. They have set up sponsored breakfast, lunch, and dinner stops. Ben co-owns Freeman Transport (http://freemantransport.com), works at Adventure Cycling, and is a farmer. Selden is the manager at the breakfast bakery stop. Tom Robertson (http://thrphoto.com) opened his house and refrigerator to us. A gorgeous space, walls covered in photographs and a gallery of bikes.

I am really enjoying this way point. A backyard BBQ last night at Tom’s place, thirty minutes after we landed. Burgers and pasta salad. Romain lettuce and ripe tomatoes. A keg of home brewed beer and a pyramid of spicy ginger ale cans. People spread out on chairs and steps. Happy to be out of the van, in a house rather than hotel, under the trees in a grassy backyard.

Then this morning. Free food and a coffee of your choice at Le Petit Outre, a modern French restaurant. Plenty of pastries, but also shelves and cases of blocks of wax encased cheddar, paper wrapped aged meats, and bars of artisan chocolates. A medium drip with sugar and cream, a ham and cheese croissant, and then a cream cheese danish with embedded black berries for a post-breakfast/pre-ride dessert. Team Rapha fills up the outdoor benches, back leasing against the store front wall, legs crowding the narrow side walk. Spirits are high, everyone one is excited. The entire travel group is getting to ride, everyone is getting fed.

A short drive to the new start point, eight miles closer to town. Ninety six miles rather than the original eighty eight listed in the header of the queue sheet.

Form up, double pace line, flat twenty to twenty three miles per hour warm up with a partial tail wind. Easy pull throughs, up to the front, and then the slow glide to the back of the pack, resting before your next turn. Overcast with no outlook of there being a break. Finally, a no sunblock day.

The first legit climb. Rock faces to the left, waterfalls to the right. I stick with Ira, using him to set the pace, for one third to one half of the way up. The tempo is a little fast and I need to make sure I can finish the day after my forced sabbatical. One hundred and eighty five heart beats per minute is only fun for so long. I ease up on the throttle. Ira pulls away and James catches up and passes. The main climb is three miles of maybe five percent leading to a ridge full of rollers. Hahn catches me as I am trying to conserve momentum up each rise. We chat and cruise for a while before I take off in search of the two ahead. We connect at the gravel T turn off to the lake. I pull over, Hahn rolls up, we wait for the remainder of the group.

We are all together again, flowing easily over the mile or two of unpaved but relatively smooth road which leads to our first scheduled stop: lunch by the lake. This, like breakfast, is also provided by Le Petit. Hard tack. A roll with sharp cheddar cheese and thick slices of dry salami. A raisin roll with peanut butter. A chocolate brownie in the shape of a blunted ice cream cone, dry and semi-hard on the outside, moist in the middle, topped with dark chocolate sprinkles. Everything is delivered to each rider via a bakery and Freeman Transport logoed white mussette bag that are ours to keep. Very pro. Very Euro.

We finish with our meal and stretching and end up riding into the rain. Rooster tails of water and dirt spray across each rider as we continue our trek. The single fie column sticks to the edge of the road, the light traffic passes easily. All the up hill was in the morning, once we escape the rain, the afternoon is filled with conversation and descents.

The ride ends at a local BBQ joint in a small town. Prearranged and prepared for our arrival. We are a little late but the owner is unconcerned. The pork ribs, beans, and coleslaw was going to get paid for had we shown up or not. And the cooler full of chilled beer would probably have mysteriously found its way into the fridge at his house. We trade our kit for something a little less aero and dig in. Everything is delicious. He claims that this is the first time he has made coleslaw and that he got the recipe from the Internet. True or false, it should make it onto his permanent menu.

The pans are emptied, the plates are piled, the cooler is bare save for some melting ice. With no room left for dessert, our bill is paid, the van is reboarded, and our temporary home is sought. Showers are taken and laundry is started. We pile onto couches and floors for the second and last night in this comfortable house.

Rapha made a “Kings of Pain” t-shirt, once upon a time, which featured a column of rider’s names down the right side ribs. If a “Kings of Class” version were ever to be released, Ben, Selden, and Tom would easily make the list.

Ride Time: 5:20:58
Distance: 96.24 miles
Speed: 18/47.8mph
Heart Rate: 149/196
Cadence: 85/134