I had to drive to Waterloo Iowa to complete the 400K Brevet. This was the third qualifier in the 4 ride series that are required to ride Paris-Brest-Paris in August. My goal for this ride was to complete it in under 15 hours. That allows for a 18MPH average on the bike and 5 minutes off the bike each hour.
When I arrived there were not many cars in the parking lot that had roof racks or trunk racks attached. There was a Team Bacchatta van with four recumbents leaned against it but I saw no other traditions bikes. Not a good sign. Rain was in the forecast for the morning with sunshine in the afternoon. The wind was to be south east at 10-15 switching to south as the day progressed. The route was an out and back to the north east. Not quite ideal conditions.
As we departed I was the only ride doing the 400K. The recumbents were doing the 200K route before heading home to Florida. I had ridden with one of the riders at Sebring and Metamora in 2009 and knew he was pretty strong. At least I would have some help for the first 60 miles.
The route starts pretty flat as you head through Olwein but nearing Volga the hills start. Not a lot of hills just really long ones. It seems like every town is at the bottom of a hill. As you start the long decent into town you know there will be a long accent leaving town. This always motivates me to limit my stopping so you don't hit the hills with stiff legs. Before the first big uphill outside of Volga I was on my own and it was going to be that way for the next 11-12 hours.
I don't mind riding by myself. I have found that on long rides it is better to go the pace that feels comfortable at the moment. During a long ride you will have ups and downs and if you ride with someone the odds of you both having the same good moments it slim. The results are rider A slowing for rider B then later rider B is slowing for rider A. This is not a problem if you are not in a hurry but I rarely find myself riding without a time goal in mind so I always seem to be in a hurry. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I also don't like to stop for extended breaks. A three to five minute break is all I need. Just enough time to top off water and grab something to eat. Usually whatever I grab gets consumed on the road.
With temperatures in the mid sixties, a nice tailwind, the off and on rain was not chilly enough to need a rain coat so I pushed on towards to turn around in Desoto, WI. Besides, stopping to put on the rain coat, then stop again to take it back off when I got too hot would slow down my pace. I was trying to bank as much time as I could before I had to turn around back into the wind.
After studying the profile map I was looking forward to the 500 foot decent to the Mississippi into Lansing at the 100 mile mark. Not really looking forward to the climb back up after the turnaround but this look to be one of the longer hills I have ever seen in Iowa. Fortunately the hill was every bit that it promised to be on paper. There was not any really steep sections just long and snaking as you got closer to the river.
This was my first visit to the river town of Lansing. My first thought was why hasn't RAGBRAI ever ended here? As I rolled thought this small town I could see why it was not a viable option for 10-15 thousand visitors in one day. The town was pretty small and there was limited access from major roads.
Crossing the bridge turned into an adventure. The Lansing bridge has a steel grated deck like the Mississippi bridge between Sabula, Ia and Savannah, Il. The same bridge that is used each year on TOMRV. I have ridden across that bridge at least 15 times with no problems and was not anticipating any problems with this bridge. As I turned on the bridge and started the slight rise me back wheel spun on the wet decking and my heart jumped. The rest of the ride across the bridge was taken at 10 mph and very cautiously. Especially on the last part that was a downward grade.
After the bridge only 5 miles to Desoto and the turn around. Since I had taken a longer break (10 minutes) in Monona 30 miles before the turnaround the plan was for a quick stop (3 minutes) in DeSoto and then back to Monona for another 10 minute break. I made the turn in less then seven hours so I was over 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Basically right where I wanted to be.
The rainy climb out of the river valley took 12 minutes to complete. The only other Iowa climb I have ridden that rivals this one is the TOMVR climb as you leave the Mines of Spain south of Dubuque on Sunday morning. At least the grade is not too steep and you can get into a rhythm. After the climb the sun came out for the remainder of the ride.
I pushed it through the check points and was able to keep 15-20 minutes ahead of the pace I wanted for the rest of the ride back to Waterloo. I arrived at the finish at 8:43 PM just as it was getting dark for a total time of 14:43. 14 hours of riding and 43 minutes of stopping. The 600K on June 4th will be a little more relaxed with more riders and some longer breaks so I was glad to have an opportunity to push myself through out the ride and was happy with my fitness at this time of the season.