Greetings, Team Seagal Fanboiz! After reading the hair-raising account from our Good Doctor, regaling us all as to how he and his fellow jerks assaulted the state of Arizona harder than his dog Taco assaults the kibble at the first twinge of the post-jenk munchies, I was inspired.
This weekend was certainly shaping up to be beautiful - a fact that I'm sure was appreciated by no one more than Jeff Yielding, the wily overlord of cycling in Hermann. Last year the weather was amazingly awesome with enough sun to almost cancel out the wind. This year was more of the same, sunny, and a little less windy. Energor surely has smiled on us.
What was the plan? The Tour of Hermann is more of a "fondo" than a race. It's a fondo on beautiful gravel roads around one of Missouri's most picturesque areas. Picturesque, and hilly. Very hilly. Let's put it this way - the roads go up and down more than Criss Angel's head during nap time in a kindergarten class. Anyway, after last year, I learned my lesson - that Hermann will go Commando on your legs:
With that lesson in mind, I applied mountain bike science to a drop-bar bike in the form of an 11-34 cassette, then applied some PBR to my mouth, and proceeded to profit.
4:30 AM came early, but would ensure early arrival to properly prepare my mind, taint, and bowels for the upcoming onslaught. This is a another lesson learned by this weekend - being the first person to "christen" the porta-john is a double edged pork sword. On one hand, there is no line, you have all the fresh single-ply TP you could want, no pressure to finish in a timely fashion, and no splatter on the seat to wipe off. On the other hand, with no underwater turd-mountain built up yet, the chances of a chemical-water splashback are very real - I now know this first hand. Those kerplunks and the subsequent wetting of my cheek meat from below had me remembering the movie "The Sandlot," and Ham's amazing cannonball that splashed water all over the sunbathing girls.
Saddling up, I was happy to see a healthy contingent of Jefferson City crushers, and was bestowed many a training secret from one Corey Case, specifically that of the Second Surge energy gel. That shit has enough caffeine in it to get even the Masson Storm himself wired. The sun was rising, much like my anticipation of the start, which couldn't start soon enough.
As we rolled out, forming into a fairly high-paced line down Hwy 19, I could only marvel at how freaking slow some people pedal - I call it the "pathlete's cadence." This is essentially when someone who doesn't know any better stays in the hardest gear, pretty much all the time, thinking it to be the best way to go fast and get a good workout. I see it all the time, dudes crushing out the Forest Park bike path at 10 mph with a pedaling cadence of about 15 rpm. It is the equivalent of maxing out when weight lifting, all the time.
Whatever, it was a beautiful morning, and I was enjoying the bobbing and weaving on the Katy Trail, as I weaved in and out of different groups, before turning onto the first climb of the day, an average paved climb that has you cresting and looking at a simply beautiful valley, one that belied the utter pain soon to come. Some rolling flats brought us to the first real gravel climb of the day, one that I think I'll call the "grosso cazzo bianco." It was just huge, long, and unrelenting. And, to top it all off, the erosion "trails" going across and down the road kinda reminded me of engorged veins. By this point, Robo-Peat, despite our recent assassination attempt, had already passed me back on the Katy, and I was wondering just how someone could truly mount the grosso cazzo bianco on a singlespeed. Hell, whatever - it's all because the titanium hardware in his hip makes him lighter. Yeah, that's it.
Anyway, the first loop wasn't too crazy, as the roads were very well groomed, and the climbs were just a handful, though they were harder than Criss Angel at tee-ball practice. During a short re-route on pavement, I was happy to see the steam from the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant rising straight up, not being bothered by the wind:
It was awesome to bomb back down to the Katy Trail, for it was easy riding back to the car, where I had waiting some tasty pancake muffin things prepared by the saintly Mrs. Crotch:
After stuffing my over-sized head with Mrs. Crotch's muffins, I joined forces with the Nick "You think that muffin is good, try mine" Smith. It was game time, and had to roll out. We rolled for probably 20-25 miles, bullshitting and also watching bulls shit. (Good thing Rich Pierce wasn't there, because the way he attracts murderous wildlife, those bulls would have no doubt ran us over.) He pointed out some stuff I would have missed, like this glorious church steeple peaking out from the trees out in the middle of nowhere, which required a short break:
We had a good steady pace going, though I think we were both going faster than we would have, had the other not been right there. On this second lap, the roads got a little deeper in spots, requiring more brappage. Fortunately, my Continental Top Contact II's give zero fucks about anything in their way - something that helped out the moment Nick and I came across an erosion canyon on a bombin' downhill. There was a nice lady there who had already flatted, and was waving us down to curb our speed so that we wouldn't end up like her, but I had to brap the tires and plow through the canyon.
This loop found us really employing out seated climbing position, lest we risk spinning out (not baller.) This would only get moar challenging as the grade increased, and our muscles fatigued. No matter, the roads and hills unfurled before us, as our chit chat lessened and we stopped noticing the scenery as much:
As the hills continued on loop two, the distance between Nick and I stretched out a little bit as we settled into the best paces for each of us. But it wasn't long, before plopping back down onto the paved road that would take us back into town, which was a nice rest from the buzzing.
Rolling back into the staging area, I felt relatively good, but with an ominous sense of apprehension about going out again. I knew I could, but I knew that I was gonna get totally fucking equalized by the end. So that may explain taking a little too long of a rest before loop 3, where the temptation to engage in drinking and merriment was strong. I had to press on though, as I had missed most other people I knew who were going out for the 3rd already - all of 'em on Team Noah - those jerks!
Most people seemed to think the 2nd loop was the hardest, but I disagree - the 3rd I believe was the most soul-crushing. Heading down the road, my legs were fatigued, but still turning the pedals over. However, it wasn't long before I was feeling like Mr. Burns trying to decide between "catsup" and "ketchup...
The third loop was the hardest, because the hills were more rapidfire, and there was less mellow flat-ish roads in between them. One hill would crest, point your right back downhill, where you would coast right into the next one. Bombing down one hill in particular not too far along, my spirits were briefly lifted as there were a small herd of no-doubt-feral children cheering me on, hoping I would run over the sticks they had laid in the road. What CUTIES!
My smile was quickly rotated 180% once I reached the base of one hill in particular, Benson Road. I'm not sure how I summitted this towering peak, but I do know that I was watching the speed on my Cateye fluctuate between 2.5 - 2.6 mph, for about 10 minutes. The thing just never stopped - I was praying to Energor, asking him to give me the euphoria to continue.
One thing I couldn't help but notice though, despite my euphoria, and in between periods of reminiscing, was the abundance of trash - mostly beer cans - on the side of the road, in ditches. It was more annoying to look at than choppy internet-streaming footage of Spring Classic races from Europe. And anyone who thinks that there is a lot of trash in the city, doesn't realize just how much there is out in the middle of no where too. In fact, if I bet the overall amount of trash would be relatively equal if you looked just 50 past the road's edge. End rant. Start euphoria.
That third loop was a truly done Mario van Peebles style - solo. Passed one person, and thankfully was back onto the road home a little sooner than I expected. That being said, the paved road was no picnic either - the final two paved hills made me feel more defeated than a Japanese girl staring up at a tentacle monster.
Unable to pull a proper wheelie up the Stone Hill Winery driveway, I was euphoric at the application of the third sticker to my number plate:
Arriving back at Stone Hill Winery, it was clear that plenty of ladies were getting married, as the supply of loud, drunk holsteins piling into their cars with ill-equipped suspensions was much higher than it was at 9 in the morning. Fortunately, I received a glorious prize from the man himself, Jeff:
After finishing up and shoveling some of the random food I had in my trunk down my throat-hole (old french fries, peanut shells, clipped toe-nails... still avoided the Clif Bars though) a meeting formed between myself, Maria, Robo-Peat, EK, Mr. Clarke, where we decided to re-convene as quickly as possible at Wings-A-Blahzin' for some fried pickles, prepared meat, and a Punch0r Special:
Unfortunately, I was unable to stick around for a second day of euphoric ascents of the Hermann Hillsides on account of official Ryback family business, however I was pleased to learn of Sasha and Lawman taking my place. I was less pleased to see that Lawman somehow managed to puncture his "it's not fat, it's plus-sized" tire, and had to walk to the nearest oasis - out of air and out of PBRs, he procured the only other 12oz at his disposal, displaying true Superior State of Mind - I'm just thankful that 12oz was not a Lime-a-rita.
I am more than a little impressed at those who were able to complete all 5 laps, particularly Maria and EK, who ground up more gravel than a lovesick Crazy Jim. Nice work, we're not worthy:
In the meantime, continue to get super stoked at this upcoming season, and to help you get super fucking pumped, watch this extreme hardcore downhill freeride wreck:
Stay tuned, as there is moar to come:
-Casey F. Ryback