Today I did the Arcadia Brute – the first of Wisconsin Triple Crown’s Series of three hilly rides in Wisconsin. Arcadia offers some really nice hill climbs – up to 17 – 23% grades. Last year, I was a little more excited about this ride and did fairly well. This year, not so excited. Truth is, I haven’t been riding much. Actually I’ve done about 60 miles of riding since the 24 hour race in Sebring, Florida, in February. Since February, I’ve had a good deal of PT and multiple bike fits from our Retul guru Nick, and knew I had to get out there and see if I could have a decent ride, even without any solid training.
The first group went out at 6:15 am, which was about the time I woke up in Black River Falls. It’s about a 50 minute drive to Arcadia, and I was more than happy to let the fast people go out. I knew I wasn’t ready to hang with them this year. (And I didn’t even want to see some of them and get shit for my current state!) I ended up going out at 7:30 am, with a smaller and slower group. I didn’t have a lot of expectations for the ride – I just wanted to finish in a fairly respectable time – maybe 5:15 with breaks.
As the group thinned out in the first five or ten miles, I started to get comfortable on my new CAAD 10. Those DI2 shifters are pretty sweet and responsive, as the Coulee region has some pretty dramatic changes in grade. I was a little surprised at my speed on flats, but then I remembered I wasn’t carrying four water bottles – something I typically do on longer rides in the California and Nevada desert.
I went to the first rest stop and accidentally put Heed in one water bottle – the one I mixed with my chocolate protein mix. Not a tasty drink, but it kept me going. There was one bad accident on a 12-18 grade downhill – one cyclist was strapped to a backboard with a cervical collar on – his bike was not pretty. So we all slowed down to let the ambulances get him out of there. I hope he’s doing okay – it looked like a nasty fall. (There is a lot of gravel on the down hills – it is farm country after all.) Around mile 20, I had a female hanger-on. I should explain that I don’t draft other people on endurance rides, and I really don’t like to be drafted. Short training rides/fun rides with friends are fine, but for longer/more important stuff, I like to know I was responsible for my work on the road. I moved really close to the gravel on the side of the road, she moved with me; I moved out about four feet onto the road, she followed. So I did something I shouldn’t have – I increased my watts very quickly. She dropped off, which is what I hoped would happen, but I also felt a twinge on my right quad. That little twinge stayed with me for the next 48 miles. It was one of those every .75 second reminders – every time I pedaled the down stroke with my right leg, I felt it slightly. A good reminder about keeping my ego in check I guess.
I skipped the second rest stop, seeing that the third was only nine miles later. Those nine miles were pretty long though – one of the notoriously steep hills coming out of Fountain City reminded me why they planned the third rest stop so soon after the second. I passed a few guys on the way up, and they saw my Triple Crown jersey – it highlights the distances done on each of the three rides from last year. You also get to add a name or a quote to the jersey – a very cool personalization option. They were impressed with my 300K Dairyland Dare, which I thanked them for, but, “That was last year. Today I just want to get through this 100K unscathed.” They laughed, but it was honestly part joke and part reality.
There are a lot of really beautiful hill tops on this ride and sometimes it seemed like I was on top of the world. Okay, maybe just on top of Wisconsin. I ended up getting rid of another lady who would speed up the hills next to me, just beating me to the top and then fall back while coasting down the backside, too tired to pedal. I like riding next to someone if they’re willing to chat. She just seemed hell bent on beating me, and she was middle aged and ripped. It was a little intimidating, but I just started singing the songs on my iPod aloud, and I think I freaked her out a little. One of the best things about this new bike is I felt comfortable getting into the 40 to even 50 mph range on the down hills – the thing is just really well constructed. My SuperSix always has a little shimmy once I get above 35 mph.
The last 20 miles were a challenge for me – I remembered why they call this the Brute. A few of the turns were poorly marked, and so about twenty-five of the riders (including me) missed the turn. I ended up adding five miles to the ride, but I was really glad the other riders flagged me down as we passed and told me to turn around when I did – I was about to go down a 15% grade hill. I got through it, and for the final five miles, actually increased my wattage back to what it had been in the first twenty miles. The weather was pretty nice – the average temp on my Garmin was 69, with a high of 79 at the end. The ride is a family event – Stuart Schillings’ wife and her family cater it and its usually pretty good food. This one only offered a main dish of pork, or beans with bacon, so we opted to drive to LaCrosse and get a good lunch instead. All in all, it was a nice ride. I am really glad I have a month before the Kickapoo Kicker in Viroqua – the plan is to do the 200K again.
Bonnie is an endurance rider, a part time yoga practitioner and avid dog lover. Belgianwerkx is her first road racing team. She is a full time social worker in Washington County. She is scheduled to ride the 508 this October.