After years of riding with men, I was really happy to finally see some serious female action on a ride over 200k. And no less than the AV400k, most fearsome route in the Minnesota portfolio of brevets.
This ride was my last before Paris-Brest-Paris and at only 2 weeks out, some might call it too close. I am defending my decision to go because it was so much fun it would have been criminal to miss it. Sure, the speedy boys all took off in the first 10 miles never to be seen again, but with 5 in the cyclo-tourist group (which is a lot by our standards), it was just fine. I was already expecting Renee, whom I rode with last fall, who is preparing for her first 600k in September. At the start was a surprise visitor from Colorado Springs, Ronaele, whose husband was providing support at the controls. 3 randonneuses on one ride: a new record in my book.
This day was a pretty good day for riding but wound up being much hotter than expected and a bit of a headwind, but aren't we all used to this by now).
I had agreed to ride with Renee as her beau, Ed, wasn't going to make it. That put Renee, myself and SpinBob all together for a nice ride. Bob and I were really committed to not killing ourselves on this ride so close to PBP, but it was a bit of a shakedown ride too. Final equipment and other things needed to be checked. This made the ride even more useful than I had imagined.
The start was similar to all our Apple Valley starts with a quick 31 miles to Cannon Falls. This always passes pretty uneventfully, but we went a bit of a different way that the 600k does. The three of us were to play hopscotch with Ronaele all day until we teamed up for the night.
Renee, Bob and I had a blast with lots of joking and nice riding for the morning. Renee loves a good descent and it was really fun to watch her whoosh down hills as we went along. the AV400k is the hilliest 400k and has almost as much climbing as the 600k so she got to do lots of descending. At Plainview, we stopped for a sandwich and noted how hot it was getting. Instead of sitting outside, we stood at the counter inside. I had to apply extra sunscreen too. We ran into another rider, Phil, who was just pulling out. We halso had a nice chat again with Ronaele's husband, who we saw at every control. He and Ronaele are in retirement doing permanents and brevets; I had lots of respect for her by the end of this ride.
The next section is about the hilliest part through Whitewater State Park with big climbs in the park and finally out of Rollingstone. SpinBob started realy suffering from the heat (he likes to say that it is his kryptonite) and we backed off on our speed to compensate. Still, we rollled into Stockton at about 4:00 pm just about 10 hours for the halfway point. There we ran into Phil, looking a bit worse for the wear. The 5 of us would basically stick together for the rest of the ride.
Climbing out of Stockton is a long, slow process and Bob suffered further, but we waited at the top for him and continued along. By this time, the heat of the day was passing and he was destined to bounce back as temperatures dropped. We stopped again in Plainview for another sandwich and preparations for the night ride. By this time, it was closing on 7:00 pm.
Unfortunately, we missed the beautiful view of the Zumbro River, but the next miles passed nicely with good conditions. Phil had some stomach distress near Mazeppa, but recovered immediately. We got to Zumbrota and quickly refueled; I had a 10 minute nap too on the concrete; I'm really good at sleeping on concrete these days.
The next leg to Canon Falls went really fast and we picked up time. Unforunately, I was dozing after that and one of the flashing lights on the back of the bikes started sending me into a hypnotised state. We fixed it, but not in time for us to recover bearings and prevent a wrong turn at 86 instead of 81. Oops, we added 13 miles to the ride.
We ended at dawn, just as the sun came up. Not the fastest 400k ever, but one I won't soon forget. From this I discovered that my big chainring needed to be changed (I had started to notice a curious tendency to drop the chain during the various climbs).
Strangely, all the riders basically were in either our group or the one in front of us which finished an hour or two faster (but didn't go as far).
On to PBP.....