As soon as I read the email I knew the ride would be hard and that exactly what I needed. Gravel, over fifty miles in the hills and a full contingent of murderers.
Oh yeah, this would hurt.
When I pulled up I spotted McWoodie loading up his bike. When he turned to grab his bag I picked up a tire iron and shoved it into his front derailleur cage and reefed hard but it did not break. I tossed the would-be weapon into the back of the van unnoticed and went and got my bike.
When we had six fast guys and me we piled into two cars and headed out. We arrived at the parking lot, unloaded the bikes and put on our costumes.
The sun was out and we opted to leave the arm warmers and vests and bet on the day getting warmer. Soon we were rolling on double track that included loose pea-sized gravel. We formed a couple mellow pacelines.
Hey kid, right side of the road !!!!
This part of the ride was on the Iron Horse Trail and we encountered some traffic including a lad who we assumed was English because as he was heading toward us from the opposite direction he wanted our right (his left) and so we all swerved and took the left track.
After a handful of kilometers we turned right and the climbing started. Einmotron, who was an excellent ride host told us the road would get steeper and looser as we climbed.
We're going there
In true murderer fashion Einmotron, McWoodie, Big John and Brad set off and got small quickly.
Look close and you'll see the road cut. We're heading there....
Coz, El Jefe and I formed the chase group and danced between the ruts. With altitude the views opened up. The grade didn’t let up but wasn’t excessive.
Steeper, steeper, steeper
The B2 Bomber is resting at the cabin so I put some fat rubber on the Blue cross rig and assembled a saddle bag and was hoping for the best. On the first descent I was keenly aware I wasn’t on the super stable Boone with the Miracle Max hydraulic discs. It took the better part of the day before I was comfortable on the Blue.
El Jefe, A.K.A. Mr. Stuff was the Minister of Hydration on this ride
I failed to follow my own rule which is that when riding with Einmotron you better load the course on your Garmin. Thus as we neared the top of the first climb I didn’t know how close we were until our ride host, Einmotron came zipping down to check on us and rode us back to the top.
One of our group dressed like a deer and one had a flat
More up and down and some fast riding. We regrouped often and aside from a flat from our one rider NOT on tubeless we pretty much kept going. The road was rough enough that there were water bottle ejections on some washboard descents.
The ride took me to an area that was new to me and it was supercool. The only drawback was there were lots of people exercising their second amendment rights which made me glad I was wearing an orange helmet.
A washed out road required a portage
At our next stop McWoodie mentioned he was having trouble shifting. I guess my jab at his derailleur had worked after all.
Calories are the currency of long rides
As the ride wore on the sun got hotter and our water was running low. After a long climb we regrouped and then Einmotron announded we only had one more climb aside from the final push along the Iron Horse Trail which is a zero to two percent grade.
Fun, Fun, Fun
We set off on the descent that led to the last climb and somehow I fell in with Brad and Big John. When the climbing started I worked hard to keep my pedal stroke round. Big john was out ahead and I focused on my own effort.
Before long I was two bike lengths behind Big John and watching my HR approach my weight. The road twisted back and forth and the sun and shade made it hard to see the good lines. One minute I had great traction and the next I was bouncing on washboard and losing momentum. Then I’d cut the corner and find it was loose.
At one point on the climb I swerved to the right to take what I thought might be a better line only to spot Brad’s front wheel out the corner of my eye. I pulled back into my line on the left side of the road to let him pass but he didn’t pass me. By now Big john had twenty meters on me.
Once again I focused on my cadence and hip flexors and drew close to Big John. By now it seemed I had been climbing for fifteen minutes and Big John started to gap me. A minute later Brad passed me ever so slowly and then I tried to hold his wheel.
That didn’t work.
Soon Brad was far enough ahead that I lost visual contact on one of the many twists in the road. Then I looked up and saw Big John turning his bike around as Brad rolled up to him. I pulled up and I was baked.
Maybe it was just me but I was so tired everything looked a little Rapha at the top
One of the things I really appreciate about Brad is that after a hard effort he acts like it was hard (take a lesson McWoodie).
Nice try boys....
I guess the answer to why Big John was smiling is either that he was done climbing or that he had dispatched all of his teammates.
The rest of our band rolled up and then we started down. My jersey felt cold as my sweat evaporated on the descent. It didn’t take long before it was dry and I was comfortable again.
The roads were better on this part of the ride but my canti’s aren’t Shimano hydraulic discs and I used some caution.
Look at the mountains in the distance
For the final run back to the parking lot most of the guys formed up in a paceline and I recalled a bad experience pacelining on gravel so I kept a few bike lengths behind.
We finished, got dressed in street clothes and headed back to Seattle. I can’t say how it was in the van full of murderers but in our car we were all tired.
I may be crazy but when I’m showering after a hard gravel ride and the water is all dirty from the dust coming off my legs, I smile. I smiled big on this one.