There is a big ride about 100 miles South of me in the sleeply little town of East Prarire MO. Its called the Tour de Corn, because as you might guess, they grow lots and lots of corn. The ride started about ten years ago and has grown about ten times larger than the original ride, they had almost 800 riders this year.
Before I talk about my personal Tour de Corn story I just want to say that the reason it has grown while other rides in the area stagnate and die is that the organizers and volunteers act as if they really want to be there working the ride, the rest stops are fantastic, the routes are excellent and the rider support is second to none. They really do a great job and the ride grows every year.
So now my story, well I wasn’t going to do the Tour de Corn this year, I did it last in 2007 and while I think its one of the best ran rides around, it’s incredibly flat, you literally ride through corn fields all day, I like some hills and turns in my rides. I haven’t been able to do it for the last two years because I was away on GOBA, but since I didn’t do it this year I thought it might be a good time to go Tour some Corn. My parents thought about going but decided not to and I decided I wasn’t going alone.
Enter Luke: I went on a ride Friday with a young guy who is an exceptionally strong rider, he is an animal and regularly mountain bikes away from other riders, but he’s just getting into road biking more seriously. Luke wanted to do Tour de Corn, so now that I had someone to go with it was on.
Disorganization: I used to spend some time before a big ride getting all my stuff packed in the car and ready. I didn’t do that Friday night because I’m such a big time rider now that I don’t even have to think about it. So when I arrived in East Prairie without my helmet or gloves at almost precisely the time the ride was starting I began to think that maybe I should have put some more thought into this.
Finding a helmet wasn’t hard, my River 2 River cycling friends were there and they carry lots of stuff, but their extra helmets are aero time trial style with the long teardrop shape. I could have been OK with that, but the aero helmet also had flaps that cover your ears, and very little venelation. I’m not sure if I could handle it on my head for 100 miles.
There was a bike shop along on the ride and they kindly loaned me a helmet, and I forgot to ask about gloves. By the time I got going I was over 30 minutes behind the start. I rode like a man possessed and before long I had caught up to the families and kids doing the 8 mile ride, I blew by these guys like they were standing still, which is really something to be proud of since they were like 6 years old.
About ten miles and drafting 2 cars, a tractor and a big paceline I began to pass the tail end of the riders and soon I pulled into the first rest stop where Luke, and my River 2 River friends were all taking a break. I ran into my friend Mike Bryant here, he’s the guy who started the Tour de Corn. He used to drive to Southern Illinois every weekend to ride with my friends so he could get away from the flat corn fields.
Luke and I headed out to ride the 100 mile course and found a guy to draft, despite the fact we were doing 21 it was such a relaxed and easy pace that I never noticed that Luke had disappeared. I waited a bit at the next rest stop for him and when he didn’t show up I decided to just go on. At the next rest stop I hooked up with the same large paceline I ran with earlier and rode with them for the next 25 miles in tough headwinds. They were an awesome group of riders and it was the first time in my life I’d ran with a double pace line that actually rotated at regular intervals and stayed smooth.
About 75 miles in I realized I hurt in many places, I’d already rode 200 miles this week and my rear end was sore going into the ride, the lack of gloves was causing my hands to hurt, there was some soreness in my legs and lower back from riding bent low into the wind. My pace started falling and a few riders I had passed earlier passed me back. The remainder of the ride was a sufferfest.
When I arrived at the finish I was greeted by Luke, I assumed he found a shortcut or got a SAG ride back to the start, but he had finished the 100 mile course 30 minutes before I got there. He had to wait 35 minutes for a SAG truck to bring him a tube when he had a flat and disappeared from me earlier, then he had missed a turn and rode a few miles the wrong way, and yet he still finished 30 minutes before me. He had passed me when I was at the 75 mile rest stop and was inside waiting to use the restroom.
I did the ride in about 5:35 minutes of moving time and 6:35 minutes of total time. It’s by far the fastest century I’ve ever done, and yet I can’t claim to have finished a sub 6 since my total time is over 6 hours, I don’t even want to know what Luke’s time was, that guy is scary fast.
So the moral of the story, ride the Tour de Corn, get your gear ready and it might not be a bad idea to carry some spare stuff in your car.