short version of the story...
as i've come to realize is going to be expected there were some last minute cancellations of people i was expecting and hoping would be here to ride. all are understandable and i hope everyone the best that wasn't able to make it. so drew and scotty made their way to the bar friday night and then headed to the apt where they were well asleep by the time i got home from work. 6a.m. wake up call and a trip to family table where we caught the first glimpse of the machine that would make a habit of burying us for the next two days. dennis rolled up on his new fisher cronus carbon cross bike with some ridiculous deep v zipp wheels. the bike looked sick even in the dark sitting outside a cafe. finish breakfast and head home to get ready to ride. trevor and o'gara joined us and we rolled out.
the first loop of the ride is about 35 miles and it was obvious that dennis felt good. really good. the pace we were pushing felt a little hot to me but with 3 guys on gears and 3 single speeds all geared differently it was hard to find a comfortable pace for everyone. and the weather was cool but the roads were still super fast so i wasn't surprised. and of course those damn zipp wheels were destroying the world. at one point i used my bike to throw a rock straight into one of those carbon rims but it just laughed at me.
we dumped the unicorn just before the 35 mile stop at the sattre store and i'm pretty sure he was happy to go. apparently unicorns are more into rainbows than hundred mile gravel rides. refeuled a bit at the sattre store and then it was on to the meat of the ride. 50 miles through a collections of hills in allamakee did a number on the group. conversation slowed a bit, as did the pace. the wind seemed a little stronger, the air a little colder. the only one who really seemed unaffected by it was dennis. if you're reading into a theme here, you should be. i'm pretty sure dennis is out to conquer the gravel world this year. i've ridden a lot with dennis over the years and he's always been a strong rider but i've never seen him ride like this. the effortlessness with which he would just pedal away from the group on these massive climbs was nothing short of impressive. for his efforts he has been crowned the 2011 std overall champion and showered with gifts. a huge stack of cash, elderly prostitutes and a baby hippo.
anyway, the second loop of the century passes near town around the 75 mile mark where drew's bike/pack setup finally did him in. his back was destroyed and he split and rolled back to town suffering through a total of about 83 miles. honestly, you could tell something was off from pretty much the start of the ride. always hate losing people that far into a ride but knew it was for the best.
so dennis, trevor, scotty and i headed south for ossian and the hopes of warm food. 85+ miles in and we hit the caseys in ossian. just like last year there was no hot food until the clerk told us the pizza was over an hour old and he was in the process of throwing it away but we could have it. it tasted an hour old. it tasted like heaven. we sat too long. my legs hurt.
back on the bike struggling to get the legs going but then it all came back together and we put in one last push getting home at around 107 miles in just under 9 hours. i'd expected faster but its hard to quantify the toll that the stretch in allamakee from about 40 miles to about 65 miles takes on you during this ride. i'm pretty sure dennis could have done the ride in about 7 hours if we had let him go.
scotty, drew and i headed for the bar for dinner and grelk joined us. dennis had dinner and hung out for a bit then headed back to a foam roller and some decent sleep. should. have. joined. him. sometime after an appetizer, 2 dinner and way too many drinks the three of us stumbled our drunk asses home. waking up sunday morning was borderline terrifying. i knew we were riding no matter what. at least we postponed the ride til 10a.m. instead of 8a.m. but hangovers affect my stomach first and i was pretty sure i wasn't gonna get any calories in before we headed out for another 66 miles. but we struggled our way to tbocks and i was able to do some work on some french toast and hashbrowns.
we headed home to get ready and left just the four of us this time (drew, scotty, dennis, me). it was pretty slow going as we headed out to harmony. by the time we hit bluffton about halfway out we were starting to move a little better. surprisingly well from my perspective considering the 107 and the shenanigans of the night before. dennis again was riding like a machine. drew was on a different bike with no pack and riding like i'm used to seeing him ride. scotty seemed mostly comfortable to sit back and pedal with me as i was now the lone single speed riding a pretty easy gear in some very fast conditions that held the geared guys back a bit. coldwater creek brought a 42mph downhill and a minefield of potholes that almost ruined my day as drew tried to nascar pass me at the worst possible time. lunch at kwik star was predictably amazing. found a spot out of the wind but in the sun and again got way too comfortable. leaving harmony sucked. re-froze the fingers riding straight into a cold and stronger-than-expected headwind left everyone miserable for the first few miles. but then we turned back south and a very comfortable ride for the next 30 miles back to decorah. dennis stopped at the apt for a bit then rolled out while scotty and drew got packed up.
showers were skipped understandably to get to the mexican restaurant sooner. 2 beers and a big ass steak burrito and i was feeling better. better but a little bit tired. the weekend was a complete success and i got exactly what i wanted out of it. i knew i was fit but i didn't know how fit and the weekend got my mind right. i know i'm fit enough to ride into the depths of misery and ride out the other side. that confidence is as crucial as anything going into transiowa. i don't care how fit you are or how well you manage your nutrition/exertion on a huge ride like that, there will be times that you are in hell. you will be buried in pain, hunger, bonk, and paralyzing pessimism and the only thing you can do is quit or keep pedaling knowing that you'll come out the other side. i hadn't been there in a long time but somewhere in the hills of allamakee i found myself there again. between coming out the other side of that and the way my body recovered for sunday's metric i am plenty confident in my ability to push through another transiowa. of course that doesn't take into account the weather, mechanicals, getting lost....
huge thanks to everyone that showed up and rode. trevor's looking strong again, scotty looks more than ready to battle the transiowa monster, drew looks like he could ride forever and showed glimpses of his strength/speed when he chose to ride off with dennis a couple times, and of course dennis just looks like he's on a mission while simoultaneously looking so ridiculously comfortable and effortless. just over a week until sylvan island, 3 til transiowa, 4 til the time trials and 6 until the royal 162 and i'd say i'm pretty happy with how i'm feeling right now.