Last chance for a weekend ride before the Colorado trip (still two weeks out, but the bikes are being trucked from Houston and have to be dropped off this week) and I was bold enough to suggest a hillier route option. Kevin of course was all over ths idea and proposed a combination route that included the worst sections of two tough rides - the dreaded Alpe de Sealy and the tougher option of the Pattison-Bellville run. Thanks buddy, I knew I could count on you.
So it was off to Bellville on a misty Saturday morning. There's a Valero station on the main drag in town where we usually stop for water and micturation, but it seemed anti-social to park up there and be gone for several hours, so we drove a bit further into the town proper. A Farmer's Market was setting up in the town square, so we turned down a side street and ended up outside the Bellville PD. Afficianados of the blog may recall the time when we had a brush with Bellville's finest in the form of Sheriff Buford T.Justice, who didn't take any too kindly to a bunch of city slickers on bikes wearing homosexual shorts and blocking the back road into his city. He gave Larry a stern warning out of the window of his cruiser before roaring off to the Snowflake Donut shop. This later led to a massed sprint for the Brazos River and the County line, as we tried to get out of his jurisdiction before the donut shop closed.
We geared up and lit out for the hills. Kevin's plan was to ride a loop of 529 and Coshatte road and then see how we felt. This means nothing to you unles you frequent the byways of Austin County, but it means taking on the rollers between the Brazos and Bellville out and back. Although both legs cross roughly the same terrain, 529 has road cuts taming the worst of the grades, Coshatte (a quiet, country road) does not and you can really feel the difference.
The fog hadn't really lifted and 529 is a moderately busy road, but fortunately there wasn't much traffic yet. We started out aiming to warm up at around 15mph on the flats, taking the descent and ascents as they came. At the turn I was feeling warmed up for sure and getting a bit concerned about the delights ahead - Coshatte and then Alpe de Sealy!
On Coshatte Kevin offered some coaching tips for the rollers - basically coast down the drops to get your heart rate down fter the previous climb, then start working with a high cadence as the climb bites and try to hold the cadence all the way to the top by down-shifting. I got the hang of it and was able to keep pace with him on all except the longest climbs, where I ran out of gears and had to grind out the last few yards. The final two before Bellville were the toughest and I was glad to reach the rail tracks that mark the western edge of the route.
Rather than ride into town, we crossed route 36 right there and hit a Shell station for a break. We were at about 15 miles and I was pretty tired already. At that point we had lots of route options including the original plan, but I didn't have the legs for Sealy and proposed that we ride the same loop in reverse. This would give us a total of 30 miles, not much saddle time for Kevin after driving all this way, and I felt a bit guilty about that but he was a good sport and agreed.
Back at it and all those climbs! Kevin's technique and guidance saved the day (on several climbs he actually called out the gear changes for me!) and we got to the turn for 529 without a coronary. To boost the miles a bit we turned down the road that connects the Sealy/Pattison routes, but there wasn't much too see and it was odd to ride on the flat after climbing so much, so we turned back.
What should have been a challenging but straightforward run back on 529 (part of the MS150 route so I've done it at least 12 times!) became more of a challenge when once again Kevin broke a spoke, on his front wheel this time. What is going on there? The bike shop thinks the spokes are being corroded by something toxic in his garage, but Kevin is a Unitarian and apologises to weeds when he pulls them, so that seems unlikely. He's concerned that he's pushing the weight rating but I don't see that, those wheels should be strong enough. I suspect he has a pair of badly-built wheels that need replacing, perhaps with some Zipps for bling?
The wheel was already slightly out of true so he decides to ride in at 13mph in the hope that the inevitable bumps will be less likely to taco the wheel at that speed. I roll out the descents but hold back on the climbs (where of course he passes!) and we make it in with no more drama. A quick chocolate milk outside the Cop Shop (pretty risky, Bellville probably has a city ordinance about men wearing shorts drinking milk in public) and then back home.
No training ride for me next week (Kevin offered to lend me the truck, but I refused politely), but we might take our b-bikes (my single speed, his truck) down the bayou trail he likes, just to keep in shape and look for birds.