Saturday, June 06, 2009

The day I discovered chamois butter.

Today was Chicago-based team XXX's three-state ride. The intended route consisted of riding north to Wisconsin, back to Chicago, south to Indiana, and back up to Chicago. It was apparent by mile 20 that the goals of completing the ride were ambitious.

This is the whole route. I started and ended at Northwestern.

My teammates Alex and Aaron accompanied me today. We started out at a no-drop pace typical of XXX's usual Saturday morning rides, with about 50 people. We took a pit-stop at Highland Park (mile 12), and the group split up. We were left with about 25 people going to Wisconsin, and from there the pace really picked up. The group was going anywhere from 22-25mph most of the time, and I was sure they would slow down when people realized how much farther we had to ride. Uh, nope.

At around mile 20, I got caught at a long light, and had to pace back with three very Euro-looking guys. I was just about to shoot myself for getting popped so soon, but we caught up to the group just in time. After that it was smooth going all the way to the state line.

The ride was gorgeous on the way up. Instead of taking dicey Sheridan Rd north, we went west, and looped around the more rural roads of northern Illinois. Few cars, good roads, expansive fields, hay bales, horses, even rolling hills! However, the different route also meant that at any point in the ride, I had absolutely no idea where I was, which was further incentive to stick tightly to the group.

I fell behind the main group a few times, especially when they accelerated on the windy sections, but there were always stragglers around me to help catch back up. I made sure to keep Aaron and Alex in sight, and tried to stay in the front third for buffer in case I fell back. Also, red lights are good to me.

We stopped at mile 50 for an arrival break at a gas station, where chamy butter proceeded to brighten my appreciation for life. Chafing cured, we turned around to go home, keeping the same brisk pace, taking the less-scenic Sheridan all the way down.

The ride back was uneventful, save for a crash in a gnarly turn before Highland Park. Our own Alex took the turn too wide, but graceful as he is, managed to land in the grass, very much like a cat, with not a scrape. Another rider wasn't as lucky but got back on. We three NU riders left the group and rode back ourselves from Highland Park, and Alex and I rewarded our 87 mile day with the best part about cycling: lots of food, with hot sauce of course.

Today's challenging but glorious miles upped my standards, and reminded me why I love cycling more than I've loved anything for a while. Next chance I get, I'm going to break the 100-mile mark.


Jacob said...

stu said...

sounds like an awesome ride. I'm looking forward to this summer