Sunday, August 16, 2009
Loess Hills L'Eroica v1.0
L'Eroica, "The Heroic", a 200km gravel grind on the strada bianchi of Tuscany. The literal translation of the strada bianchi is "white road". We've got our fair share of the white roads in Iowa and Nebraska, so much of it that it'd be foolish to not partake. We also have this unique geological formation called loess. Only found here and in China, loess is wind blown silt that over the ages has formed bluffs above the Missouri river valley.
After a bit of recon on the bike, in the car and on the laptop, I mapped out a 90 mile route that was sure to please. Next it was recruitment time. My buddies in Lincoln just finished up a Rapha Continental ride so the invite list was short and sweet. Partner in crime and head floor sweeper at Monkey Wrench Cycles, Nate Woodman. Journalist extrodinare and editor of The Skateboard Mag, Kevin Wilkins. Multi Trans-Iowa finisher and long haul specialist, Matt Wills. And graphic designer layout king, Jesse Peterson.
The equipment chosen for the outing was as broad as the course. Matt on his 1994 Slim Chance, Nate aboard his race ready Moots CX, Kevin atop his Salsa Podio, and Jesse with his spank me new Ibis Hakalugi. I'd hoped to be throwing a leg over a new Fisher Cronus, but seeing as they're still on a boat I opted for my Madone. The tire of choice was either 25 or 28c rubber, 85-100 the psi. I must admit that I was a bit nervous only running 25's but the Bonty RXL Hardcases did there job well.
I awoke to damp roads and after a quick jaunt to the shop for some last minute supplies I focused on one last route check while I waited for the Lincoln crew to arrive. Matt rolled in first. He made the three quarter hour spin up from Bellevue. It wasn't long before the remainder of the group pulled up. With coffee brewing the group chit chat turned to Jesse's lack of waterbottle cages and of course, the weather. Jesse opted for the backpack route, aka. Camelbak as the rest of us neatly folded and rolled the rain capes, just incase the 70% chance of early thunderstorms became 100%.
The damp roads were more annoyance than anything else and as we worked our way south towards the Bellevue toll bridge the pavement began drying out. Three dollars at the toll booth and we were over the river and into Iowa. As we all made the obligatory strip club joke passing the Playhouse, Matt decided to up the tempo and we turned south along the base of the bluffs.
With 20 miles under us it was time as we turned left into the first section of our own strada bianchi. Sector 1 starts with your typical loess hills climb, a steady grade of about a mile with a kick up pitch over the last 200 yards. From here on out we would climb and descend thoroughly enjoying each undulation and winding road, be it on a ridge or a valley.
Our first break of the day came when we spied a giant sized lawn chair above the Wabash trail. This enormous piece of furniture built for Andre the giant accomodated the 5 of us as we basked in the increasing intensity of the emerging sunlight. The white road kept calling as we swerved through Council Bluffs and up to the north loop. The unridden new sectors did not disappoint as the miles ticked by easily with the changing scenery, never approaching in a straight line. Our first unscheduled stop would come in the form of a flat tire. While blazing a descent at close to 40mph, Nate got caught in some industrial grade gravel and punctured his front tire. I quick fix, a few hot tamales and we were on our way.
Offical stop two in Crescent found us reaching for hot dogs and pizza slices as we took one step closer to becoming convience store connoisseurs. As the white gravel from sector 7 ran out behind us we were only left with the last traverse of the Missouri and the climb up to the reward of the day, a 750ml bottle of St.Bernardus Abt 12 courtesy of Beertopia. There are few finer things in life than a good ride with good friends, today was one of those days, a fitting way to say goodbye to summer, and hello to the fall riding season.