Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding 47 hilly miles with my pal Ryan. This is awesome because here in the Heartland we’ve been dealing with rain almost every day. This weekend is sunny and warm. Well kind of warm. It was about 50 degrees when I met Ryan in Eddyville.
I got out of the van wearing full legwarmers, a long sleeve undershirt, a wool jersey, and a vest. Ryan was standing there with a shorts and short sleeves. I had checked the weather before I left, 50s for the first hour or so, and the high was only 62, oh and it was spitting rain, though that was expected to clear up.
“Umm, Dude, are you cold?” I asked.
“Yeah but it’s going to warm up quick,” he replied. We took the Eddyville blacktop towards Golconda, one of my favorite stretches of road in Southern Illinois. It’s hilly, twisty, and out in the woods. I thought back to last year when I was touring and tried to ride this road but was turned away because of a deadly shootout taking place between SWAT teams and a armed fugitive.
The route started with a massive downhill and I was instantly cold, even with all my wool. I’m sure Ryan was freezing. Of course the downhill is followed by a massive climb which Ryan attacked like he was going for a mountain top finish line. He was nice enough to wait a few minutes at the top of the climb. I found 160 beats per minute and kept it there. A few weeks ago I was having trouble riding at 160 bpm but even in this early stage of the ride I was feeling OK with that effort.
I hit 50.8 on the Flick Hill downhill, which I’ve been told is one of the fastest downhills in Shawnee, it’s got the perfect combination of steepness, length and road quality to hit high speeds. We decided to ride a couple miles out of the way down to Golconda to see the river, which made for a nice spot to hang out and take a break.
We continued on 146 to route 34 and rode it to Herod. Ryan basically pulled this entire time at a very rapid pace. The section of road is constant rolling hills which were not enough to dislodge me. Any time I went to the font to pull he would drift back because he doesn’t like to draft so I just hung on to his wheel and made the most of it. We covered the 10 miles in seemingly no time. By this point my clothing choices were proving far warmer then I needed, but Ryan was nice enough to carry my vest and leg warmers in his huge saddle bag.
At Herod we turned to face out greatest challenge of the ride, Williams Hill. Last time I had climbed Williams Hill I felt horrible, I couldn’t seem to get my heart rate up. Today I was feeling great. Of course Ryan rode away from me early, but I don’t think he’s used to hills this long, not to mention he just pulled the last ten miles. I was slowly closing back in on him.
Recent storms had littered the road with limbs and sticks, and I tried to ride around them as best as I could. I started thinking how funny it would be if I rode over a stick and crashed. About that time I bumped over a big stick and heard a “clunk” my camera had bounced out of my pocket. I probably lost a minute stopping to pick it up and make sure it stilled worked, as well as zipping up my jersey pocket. About two thirds of the way up I caught up to Ryan, he was standing by his bike with it’s chain off.
It would be prudent to tell you a bit about Ryan’s bike. It’s a classic Italian steel Basso, with Campagnolo components. Every part of it gleams and its one of the best looking bikes I’ve seen. It’s a classic ten speed which means it’s lowest gear is about in the middle of my cassette, and of course this is well before computer designed cogs.
I went by him and feeling even stronger and upped my pace a bit more. Soon I was seeing 180 beats per minute, which I haven’t seen in a long time. I was swallowing air as fast as possible and even though my lungs and legs were burning I was feeling great.
Perhaps the running I’ve been doing has helped, or maybe it’s just accumulated fitness of the last few weeks of strong rides. Maybe I was just feeling good? We finished up the ride on Route 145 and again Ryan pulled most of the next 5 miles. I’ve been riding with Ryan nearly every weekend and it’s definitely upped my game, because I won’t ride anywhere near as hard by myself.