Sunday, April 27, 2008

Un Brevet Brutal

Yesterday I rode my first brevet and it was brutal. Brevets, which started in France, are long-distance endurance rides. A former co-worker, who has completed several of these rides, told me about yesterday's event a few weeks ago and I thought that it would be good training before I set out for Yorktown. I expected the ride to be tough because at 127 miles it was more than I had ever ridden in one day. I also recently bought a new leather seat that is not yet completely broken in. However, it wasn't the distance or the seat that made this ride so painful; it was the wind -- the soul crushing wind.

Due to a bent fender I got a late start, so it was good practice for riding alone. Before I even left the starting point -- a Super 8 parking lot in Delavan, Wisconsin-- a pair of Ohioans had thrown in the towel. "We do these rides for fun and that isn't fun," they told me. I considered myself warned. I fought headwinds and crosswinds for the first 65 miles. At times it felt like if I was going any slower I'd have been standing still. I stopped counting the number of times that I thought I was going to be blown over. My upper body struggled to keep myself upright as I leaned heavily into wind gusts. As I pedalled along at 9 mph, I cursed mother nature and reaffirmed my committment to eliminate all unnecessary weight for my Transamerica ride. Fortunately, the brevet route was out and back, so while I fought the wind to the halfway point, I benefited from a tailwind for much of the way back. Though the ride took over eleven hours to complete, it was reassuring to finish.

This morning, I checked a weather station in the Delavan area for yesterday's wind readings. It reported sustained winds between 25-29 mph and wind gusts between 40-45 mph, with some readings up to 49 mph. If I ever face winds that strong on the Transam I'll take it as an invitation to pull into the first campground or motel I pass and I'll never choose to ride 127 miles in one day. But it's nice to know that if I had to, I could handle those conditions. Now if I could just find a way to avoid riding uphill.

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