I did the Jesse James Bike Tour this past weekend for the second year in a row. My friend Geoff and I had a little late start getting on the road because the night prior I had the damndest time trying to mount my slicks. Looking back, I should have been okay with my Rubino Pros on this century ride, but I have recently been running ThickSlick Sports for a little added puncture protection. The only problem is that the bead on the ThickSlick is so tight that I have found it near impossible to put on, and just I couldn’t get the rear one mounted. It was late, I was too tired, and so I gave up - cleaned and lubed the rest of the bike and figured I would wait until I could get an extra hand in the morning.
5 a.m. came too early – and when Geoff arrived I was still a zombie and not nearly ready to go. He found a trick to getting the tire on, though. Mounted the tire “backwards”… putting the section by the stem on last. I would not have thought of that, but it worked. We finally hit the road at around 6:30, a half hour later than planned, then proceeded to get lost trying to follow the many detours for getting on to 35E (every exit from every direction seems to be closed). So we arrived in Northfield late, but were able to meet my other friends McKay and Natania and get underway at the 8:00 cutoff time.
A little chilly at the start, it ended up being a beautiful sunny 70° throughout the day. Northfield is a nice little town. The course starts and ends at the high school and goes briefly through a suburban feeling part of Northfield and then into vast farm country for about 35 miles southeast to Wanamingo (don’t ask me to pronounce it), turning west and going through Kenyon to Faribault, then back north through Dundas to Northfield. The highways are remote and well cared for, with very little traffic – which made for nice riding.
McKay and Natania recently moved to Minnesota from the Intermountain West and they commented on how different the farm country felt – corn and soybeans as far as the eye could see – even the barns are built differently. McKay grew up in Idaho where he is probably more accustomed root cellars, and I have no idea what sorts of structures pepper the Arizona desert where Natania grew up. They did not say it, but I am sure they were also wondering at the lack of mountains on the landscape after recently living in Utah.
One of the things I enjoy most about long group rides is the random chatter. Avoiding politics and religion (somewhat) we always end up talking about bikes and bike racing – at least I do. This time it was about sunglasses and what we’ve seen the pros do with them during races (after I nearly dropped my own on the pavement). I have seen Alberto Contador ride with them tucked into the collar of his jersey on occasion; Peter Sagan carried them in his mouth on while riding on muddy cobblestones during this year’s TDF Stage 5; but many have them tucked into their helmets, often with special clips to keep them in place.
Random conversation that morphs into talk of Contador’s unexpected dominance at the Tour of Spain after breaking his leg during the Tour de France six weeks prior, and invariably lands on PEDs and what Lance Armstrong is up to these days. We talked about lots of other day to day things that have become a blur summed up in the emotion of a fun group ride.
The chatter was broken up by the wind, and we went long stretches in a quiet pace line as we tried to cut through it. We took turns leading, but Geoff definitely did the lion’s share and I didn’t complain as I skulked behind. The sound of the wind was so strong that the leader would have to check regularly to make sure the group was together.
At about 50 miles I was worried that Natania was on the verge of bonking. I was bringing up the rear with her in front of me when a gap opened up and we lost contact with McKay and Geoff. They hadn’t realized that we had been dropped; I tried pacing Natania back a couple of times but she was slipping. Fortunately it was just before the point when the course took a turn north and we shifted relative to the wind so that the going was easier again. McKay then saw what was happening and he dropped back to support his wife. We were now riding easier and she was able to recover and was strong for the rest of the ride.
My own troubles started at about mile 85, when my knee started screaming. In Jens Voigt fashion I told it “Shut up knee!” and pedaled on.
“In Garmin We Trust”
As we neared the finish, it became clear to us that the ride organizers had miscalculated the distance at 94 miles. We decided to put our faith in our own GPS devices and turned a few heads as we rode past the finish line. I noticed others doing the 100 mile “Getaway” ride following us as we circled the neighborhood for another 6 miles so that we could put on miles to reach our goal. Geoff’s Garmin rolled to 100 just as he hit the curb after we circled back to the finish line – so we called it good at 6 hours and 33 minutes.