Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tailwinds and Sunshine

(Sorry about the photos. I touched the lens with a schmutzy finger and didn't notice until after the ride.)

Pine Canyon Rd. a.k.a "the Orondo Grade"

Yesterday was a good day. Not only did I complete a 200k brevet--my first solo brevet since FOOSHing myself two months ago--but I did it under warm sunny skies, with friends, and with the wind at our backs for much of the last half of the ride. It doesn't get any better than that.

The ride started and ended in Wenatchee as part of SIR's "brevet week" a.k.a Northwest Crank. NW Crank is a several days long cycling orgy with a full Super Randonneur Series worth of brevets and as well as a bunch of other "normal" rides. Sarah, Adam and I just went over for the 200k. Actually, I went for the 200k while Sarah and Adam went for the mini golf in Leavenworth.

It looked like there were about 25 of us at the start of the 200k. Several of the other riders had already ridden a 600k and a 300k earlier in the week. There was a lot of talk about the wind on the earlier rides. Apparently both rides had become horrendous slogs into cold headwinds. I heard stories of riding at 10kph on flat ground for hours at a time. Sounds like fun.

But Saturday's forecast was for calm winds and clear skies. It was chilly as we rolled out at 7:00am, but nothing that couldn't be overcome by pedaling harder.

Bread Pudding 200k

The ride headed up highway 2/97 to Orondo, about 15 miles up the Columbia river. I led the pack for most of this stretch since I was feeling strong and having aerobars on my bike makes it much easier to lead than to follow. At Orondo the route turned east on highway 2 and started climbing up Pine Canyon. Highway 2 climbs 2,000 ft here in about 6 miles, so I knew this would be a good test of how much fitness I had lost in the previous two months. I started the climb with Robin, Bill and Michael. Robin and Bill are on the Charly Miller team, and Michael is someone I've ridden with on previous rides. These guys are all strong riders, but I've never had a problem staying with any of them before. I was dropped like a brides panties on her wedding night. Either these guys were doping or I had taken a big step backward in my fitness.

About an hour later I caught up to Robin and Bill at the first control in Waterville. Thankfully they decided to sit down at the coffee shop for some bread pudding and a cup of coffee. (This 200k is named the "Bread Pudding 200k" in honor of this coffee shop's bread pudding.) I joined them and we had a nice civilized little break, far better than the usual chocolate milk outside a convenience store.

Bill and Robin pulling away as we start up the Orondo Grade

At this point the ride entered a new world of rolling wheat fields. I was reminded of riding through this same stretch last year with Kelly on the Cascade 1200 and how amazed we were by the vastness of it (it's still vast, Kelly). On the rolling hills it was a little hard for me to ride smoothly with Bill and Robin since they were faster on the ups, and the aerobars made it difficult for me to draft them on the flats and downhills. But they rejected my suggestions to leave me behind and were committed to staying with me for the full ride.

Bill and Robin pulling away again. This time Sagebrush Flats.

After a screaming descent into Moses Coulee we headed south toward Ephrata on a beautiful quiet road. There was a bit of a rolling climb before heading down into Ephrata and again Robin and Bill left me in their dust. But again, they were waiting for me at a the control in Ephrata, this time the more typical chocolate-milk-on-the-sidewalk situation.

From Ephrata the ride was mostly flat and uneventful, through farmland, and on roads as straight as an arrow. I was really starting to poop out at this point so I did more than my share of wheel sucking. Robin and Bill slowed down so I could stay with them and happily dragged my unfit butt along. Through this section we had some tailwinds so even though I was dragging, we were often moving at better than 20 mph.

Straight as an arrow

As we approached the Columbia River we were treated to a nice 40mph descent which was a little scary since I'm still getting used to the whole aerobar thing. Once down to the river we had a few more easy miles back to the start at the Inn at the River in East Wenatchee. We rolled in a few minutes before 3:00 making for a sub 8 hour 200k. Not bad for being out of shape (never mind that without Robin and Bill's help I would have finished about an hour later).

Robin and Bill dragging me home

With this 200k in the bag I'm back on track to qualifying for PBP. I obviously have some work to do to get back in shape if I want to make a time at PBP, but at this point my wrist isn't holding me back as much as my general fitness. I'm hoping to ween myself off the aerobars after the 400k in two weeks.


  1. Congratulations! Great to hear you are back - don't complain to many people about a sub 8 hour 200K as you may not get much sympathy! Took me 8:21 to finish ours Saturday in the piedmont rollers east of the Blue Ridge.

    I won't soon forget those wheat fields, the pictures look familiar and it sounds like you were on the same roads (can't be many there).

  2. Yep, a good quarter of this route was on the same roads we rode on day three of the Cascade 1200. Fond memories...