My Ride Report
by Tobie DePauw
I have to admit I was a bit nervous at the start.
My wife and I had just returned from a 10-day trip to the Philippines just 5 days prior. I didn’t ride at all while I was there and couldn’t even run due to some nasty leg cramps brought on by 22-hour travel and dehydration on the flight there. I rode a few times last week and took it easy. No cramps. No jet lag, either, for which I was very thankful.
The excitement of the ride, mixed with a healthy tailwind, made the ride up to the North Checkpoint a cinch. I passed up a chance to fill up the bottle and a half I had already finished in 17mi and regretted it. After the checkpoint, I knew we had to catch up to the group in front of us. We were about to turn south, into the wind, for the bulk of the course. A nice Pegasus rider and I caught them just as the road turned south. That was the minute I felt the 2 weeks off the bike.
The wind was a cruel blessing. It was nice to have air movement, but it was perfectly in our faces for the whole road south. It was funny how the heat and the wind distracted you from the fact that the ride was mostly bumpy, dusty, and at times perilous gravel.
I was pretty tired when I rolled up next to Feller. He was grumbling, too. After all that work, I decided to sit up and take it easy. While I took a nature break, Aaron passed and Feller and I had to kill ourselves to catch him and his group. It’s always discouraging to see your quarry at hand and not have the spring left to catch them. I was cooked by Creston, cursing myself for not packing food and taking it easy at the start. Aaron sat up. Feller pressed on while Aaron and I mutually agreed we were out-of-shape and lowered the pace. We hit checkpoint two and came back to life after filling our bottles. Checkpoint #2, the purple checkpoint, did a great job and they’d be sad if I didn’t say that. The distance to the checkpoint was just right. Thanks to the stranger who loaned me the energy bar (what a mooch, huh? I plan the ride and then bum food and drinks off the riders…)
The route was perfect. We announce the “optional” rough road that shaved 2mi off the total course but included some rough dirt road, a creek crossing, and a raised railbed. I think 4 of the 50 riders took the “safe” way and the other 46 riders celebrated the adversity. The Creek was a highlight. We came across a few yokel kids massacring frogs with spears and bb guns. That’s Ogle County, baby.
The dirt road, Locust Rd, was a welcome respite from the wind and the sun. Once we got off Locust, we headed to Woodlawn road, which was narrow and loose for a few stretches before rising up to the South Checkpoint. It was on Woodlawn that we came across a dejected looking man wearing a Hinckley Springs jersey walking his bike. When I rode up, he said “4’s my limit”, along with some other colorful language. I gave him my spare and threw it together for him. We rode up another mile and his other tire blew. It was actually nice to have a reason to rest for a minute. Thankfully, while we were changing his first flat, a few other riders stopped to chat and were riding with us. One of them, a Pegasus rider named Sage, volunteered his spare to keep Hinckley rolling. That was right before the rise to the South Checkpoint. The South Checkpoint came like a mirage and only when we arrived did we realize what an oasis it really was. Anna A, hostess extraordinaire, had set up an incredible rest stop. By her own volition and out of her own pocket, she had a buffet of chips, cookies, pretzels, M&Ms, and ice water. Vince & Jeremiah from Half Acre filled out the glorious “CHECKPOINT 3!” Team, and fittingly provided the beer.
Next year, I think we’ll see some exciting rivalry between checkpoints.
Turning north at County Line was a good feeling. The wind was at our backs and our avg speeds were inching up from embarrassing. The heat was more noticeable as we pedaled at the same speed as the wind. It felt still, stagnant even. We came up to the “haunted house” at the corner of Elva and Willrett where the Gravel Metric Preview was filmed and the pea gravel at the corner claimed Josh “Crash” Arends. The skid marks at the corner told us he wasn’t the first to go down, either. We saw one skid lead right into the ditch (after the ride, we realized we failed to check the ditch for the body). He had some nasty contusions on his elbow, shoulder and hip. He also made a wince-worthy dent in his helmet. We took a few minutes and made sure he would stay conscious before getting back on our bikes. He trooped the whole way home.
The pavement ended on Gurler and I can’t say I wasn’t happy. That meant we were close to home.
Rolling into the bike shop, I couldn’t think straight. I drank 10 bottles of water and still felt like a raisin. I was exhausted and sore and couldn’t quite finish my sentences clearly. It was strangely comforting to see riders sprawled everywhere. I wasn’t hurting alone.
After I regained my wits, I took the best shower ever, then took the best car ride ever over the Fatty’s where I had the best beer ever, followed by the best chicken wrap ever. It’s funny how exhaustion leads to hyperbole, isn’t it?
The nice people at Fatty’s did a great job getting the riders fed quickly. Half Acre Cycling provided the beer and Twin Six donated some nice raffle goodies. Bravo to Erica (and Jacob) for doing the raffle.
All in all, it was a brutiful day on the bike followed by a pleasant recovery among friends.