Gran Fondo Badlands 2018

I’m home, tired and sore after a long day. It was the Gran Fondo Badlands, in Drumheller, AB.

It’s really hard to summarize the day, because it was so eventful. There were ups and downs, pain and joy. To set the stage, though, the weather around here turned horrible yesterday. The forecast was nothing but high percentage chances of rain and thunderstorms. And we were planning on spending more than six hours out on bicycles in it. Keith had made the trip from Vancouver to be here. He is staying with us until tomorrow. His take on the situation was: “Think of the stories we’ll have to tell.” Mine was: “Don’t trust the weather forecasts around here.”

It was looking like he was going to be right on the way there. It was intermittent, but there were downpours. The kind where you have to kick your wipers on high speed. It was still raining lightly in Drumheller when we arrived and had some breakfast. We were ready to go.

Keith and I, ready for the weather

The roads were wet. But the rain disappeared.

The starting line

That’s when our plans started going astray. Eleven kilometres in, we were in the bunch when Keith got a flat rear tire. I stopped to help him change it.

Keith changing his tire

We said that we’d used up our bad luck, and the rest of the day would be better. The truth, however, was different. After the second climb of the day, I got a flat in my front tire.

Flattering picture…

We made it partway to Wayne when my tire went soft again. Then when we were at the aid station in Wayne, Keith’s front tire went flat. That was four flats in sixty kilometres. We were having to borrow inner tubes, because even though we came prepared, our reserve supplies were already used up.

We rolled out of Wayne and going southeast, until the turnaround for the 100 km route. Keith and I had both signed up for the 160 km distance, but we were so far behind schedule. We were more than four hours into the ride and we were only at 75 km. I was starting to feel more positive (no flats in 15 km and the weather was perking up), but Keith was starting to wear out chasing me. We agreed that he was going to turn back, and I was going to go at least as far as Dorothy, and maybe climb the last hill of the ride.

I set off, and immediately appreciated a tailwind. I was feeling good, and pushed over 40 km/h for almost 20 km to Dorothy. I was feeling so good that I went straight on and climbed the hill. Then I thought I could go as far as the 140 km turnaround. When I got there, I reasoned it was mostly flat to the 160 km turnaround…

As I was heading towards the 160 turnaround (straight, rolling road to the east), I was staring at a HUGE thunderstorm. It was getting closer, but I could see it was drifting left to right, so it wouldn’t hit me. I saw a number of lightning strikes in the distance.

So I did the whole distance. After such a rotten start, it felt good, despite the fact that I rode solo into a headwind for the last 52 km. I stopped to take a picture in the hamlet of East Coulee, and texted Keith to let him know where I was… it was 2.5 hours since we’d parted ways.

East Coulee and Hoo Doos. Storms to the left of me, blue sky to the right…

It started to get a bit painful in the last 20 km, particularly due to my left foot. I was riding my Roubaix, which has Speedplay clipless pedals. At the first stop, I had to use the portajohn and needed to cross some muddy ground to get to it. From that point on, my cleats on my shoes were muddy, and so were my pedals. It was harder to clip in, but still workable. When I clipped in at Dorothy, little did I know that my left wasn’t going to come out again. When I stopped the last couple of times and at the finish, I couldn’t get my foot out. I literally had to get a friend to help me get my shoe off (still stuck to the pedal) so that I could get off of my bike! I left it there until I got home.

I was the last of the Bow Cyclists to finish. I saw and waved to almost all of them as they were on the return leg when I was still heading outwards. And most of them were there at the finish to cheer me as I arrived. It was a great feeling. I was 132nd out of 147 finishers of the 160 distance. 7 hours and 17 minutes, but only 5:59 of that was in motion. When I set out on my own I thought I might be the last overall, and I was fine with that.

Considering the weather forecast, the day was beautiful. Considering the flats, the ride was great. Both Keith and I were right: there were lots of stories, and you can’t trust the forecast. 🚴‍♂️