Despite being rained out and postponed we still had an excellent turnout for the Spring Dirty South. 14 riders made the journey to Glenn O Jones Lake for the 100K ride. The Dirty South is a gravel grinder, which means it includes gravel roads. I’m not sure if there is an official definition for a gravel grinder but its essentially a road ride with a substantial amount of gravel roads. The route I planned was right about half gravel and half oil and chip.
So from the beginning for me the Dirty South is about climbing hills that you normally don’t climb on road rides. That means lots of steep nasty gravel hills. For others gravel grinders may be countless miles on long flat gravel farm roads, but to me that doesn’t exactly sound like fun.
Our group of 14 riders was an impressive collection. We had mountain bike racers, road racers, past racers, endurance enthusiasts, we have a guy preparing for a 2700 mile mountain bike race, and we even had the Illinois State road Junior race champion. I mean this is a serious group. The wild thing is, if the cold rain hadn’t shut us down 2 weeks ago I think we would have had twice as many riders. Many riders had plans for Easter weekend and couldn’t make it. Others had returned home to Ohio. One important note, and just to add confusion, the State Champ isn’t the guy in the state champ’s jersey, he’s just the guy who borrowed the state champ’s jersey.
I knew the gravel sections would be hard from driving and marking the course the night before, they were soft and mushy. There were sections where it felt like I was driving a rally car. Climbing these wet gravels on a bike was brutal, It seemed like I had a flat tire. On the first seriously tough gravel section there is a ton of sand stone masonry around the residence, and I stopped there for a picture. I thought it was the top of the climb and forgot that the seriously steep section was right around a corner.
After we all regrouped I told everyone that we had made the summit and it was just a bit more gravel to the hard road. We went around a corner and saw a wall. I tried crossing lanes and spun all the way around in the soft gravel incline and was facing downward. I tried to turn back to face the climb but the bike just spun out and I had to walk the climb.
Luke showed up for the ride from Harrisburg on his fully loaded Divide touring rig, a 37 pound bike. He had no problems and was often near the front ridding with the State Champ and the guy with the State Champs jersey. Luke rode a century on the day since he finished the ride by going back to Harrisburg.
Even though I had marked the course we more or less stayed together and regrouped at regular intervals, but I’m very glad I marked the course because it took the pressure off me trying to remain in the front of the ride to make sure all the turns were followed, and it eased my mind if anyone got far off the back. Even though the conditions were pretty brutal mechanical were almost non existent We had one flat for the ride and no other problems. Very lucky for me, since lately I’ve had a problem almost every ride.
After a lunch stop and a killer climb up Tom DIck Hill, we had one more serious challenge, Jenny Ridge, a very short and very steep gravel climb. I hit this climb on the front of the group and had a nice lead then my Quads exploded. These cramps were some of the worst I’ve experienced, I could barely get off the bike and I had to stop right in the center of the road. After about 30 seconds I still couldn’t move my legs. Both quads had locked my knees turning them into stilts, the pain was very bad but the worse part was being unable to control the muscles.
I took a big drink of electrolyte fortified kool-aid and in almost immediately my quads relaxed and I was able to move. I even got back on the bike and finished part of the climb. At the top Moe hooked me up with some endurolyte capsles and I drank some more water before getting moving again.
The final section back to the Start was flat and the wind became an issue. I got with the Champ, the Jersey, and Moe and we formed an echelon. I hung up for about 3 miles but the cramps had created massive ammounts of soreness in my legs and when I attempted to push harder I could feel the begnings of another cramp. I slowed up and finished the ride with the next group, well more like I limped in behind the next group.
This Dirty South was the absolute worst my legs had felt after a ride, other parts of me were OK, the touring bike is so upright it doesn’t put mush strain on your back, and the breaks had allowed me to stay with the faster riders without completely blowing up my cardio system.
After the ride there was refreshments and most importantly MEAT, PROTEIN. Seriously some of the best sausages I’ve ever had. This year’s Dirty South will go down in my book as one of the best rides I’ve done ever. People were constantly telling me how good the route was, which made me very happy since I strongly believe that we have some really excellent bicycling terrain in Southern Illinois.
Can’t wait for next edition!