I signed up on a whim for the Frankenmuth Fahrrad Tour 100k knowing that it was going to be a tough ride – plenty of horses and it’s a notoriously windy ride.
Fortunately, two of the horses had races today so they couldn’t make it. Unfortunately Dave brought his significant other and they’re hell on a tandem together. We had another tandem in the group and they’re exceptional together as well.
We started out at 8am on the nose, taking it pretty easy through the town of Frankenmuth so the group could organize, without a hint of a breeze. It was chilly but I had high hopes with the still start that we’d be spared from too much wind. As soon as we got clear of the slow starters it was on. We had maybe eight solo cyclists and the two tandems and everything was awesome on the way out – I took all of my pulls up front and was feeling fantastic – and have absolutely no idea how fast we were going but we passed a lot of riders.
I couldn’t believe how fast we got to the first rest stop at 25 miles. We spent ten minutes circulating through the porta-johns and topping off H2O bottles and hit it.
We were in a relatively sheltered area so I didn’t even notice that the wind had started to spin up… Fantastic, six miles from the turnaround and the wind starts picking up. Oh well, it was only a breeze, maybe 5 mph, how bad could that be?
We pulled out of the rest stop and were right back at it, and hard. Within five miles we were down to seven – five solos and the two tandems. Somewhere before the turn I started hitting my redline and fell off. We were flying. Much to my surprise though, they weren’t pulling away so the second I caught my breath I poured it on and managed to latch back on (they held up for me).
Then we hit the turn and what started out a gentle breeze turned into a brutal, soul sucking, leg burning wind – and we turned straight into the teeth of it. Folks, there was no shelter. None. Open fields as far as the eye could see so that wind had miles of space to pick up steam and hammer us right in the chest… You want to know how bad it was? There were dozens of those big-ass windmills dotting the landscape and horizon. It was so bad, hanging out in the back was only a slight advantage. We pulled into the next rest stop and I was praising Jesus for his mercy. That was at mile 45, I think. We spent a bit more time at that second one to eat a bit before heading out… Call it 15 minutes.
I stayed with the lead group till somewhere between mile 53 and 54. I was gassed and wound up behind another guy who was struggling as well… I second-guessed my judgment – I thought he was looking rough but I thought, “Nah, he’ll be alright”. Then he let a gap open and I lost my will to live. Seven miles to go and I was off the back because I picked the one guy who, rather than just warn me that he was falling off so I could go around him and stay with the group (if you don’t do this for others behind you, your etiquette sucks – you need to look at that), he just slowed down.
I managed that last seven miles but I was pretty bummed. And cooked.
I crossed the finish line at exactly 11:35, so subtract 25 minutes for stops and it was, with 30-32 miles dead into a brutal headwind and seven miles of that on my own, 3 hours, 10 minutes for 62.4 miles – do the math and I was still just shy of 20 mph.
Without the math, we hauled some serious ass.
So, I was hoping to hang on for at least 50 miles and I made it 53 or 54. Success. I’d hoped to hide for a bit of that ride but still pull my share for the majority of the ride. Check. I’d hoped for a time of less than 3 hours. Failed, to an extent – though that hope, considering the wind on the way back, was way over zealous… So I can live with that.
My legs are absolutely smoked. That ride was the best thing I could have done for myself this early in the season. I am quite pleased and exceptionally thankful that I ride with such a fantastic group of guys and ladies and that I have a wife, so supportive of my hobby/passion/midlife crisis, that I can do this kind of thing on a fluke and she’ll wish me luck and happiness as I’m walking out the door. I am a lucky guy. Of that, I am certain.
Oh, I almost forgot! This was, traffic-wise, the best organized ride I’ve ever done. There was so little traffic that when we had a crosswind, we could stretch our echelon across both lanes of the road, from one white line to the other – for miles. The roads were in fantastic shape, and it was not pancake flat – maybe chocolate chip cookie flat would have been a better description. And aside from the brutal headwind for the last half, it was quite the pretty ride.