100 climbs down, 5 to go!

Last Sunday I did my 4th 100+ mile ride – it would be my last hard training ride before departing for France to ride L’Etape du Tour. I wanted this one to be the hardest, hilliest one yet, so Jose and I set out to do ~120 miles in JeffCo on a route he calls the “Hills from Hell” – sort of an extreme version of the Covered Bridge route. Now remember, I’m a Wildwood kind of guy, so I’ve rarely had reason to venture down to JeffCo – in fact I’d never actually done the Covered Bridge route proper, so I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into other than “big climbing.” It was very humid and already heating up when we at Frontenac Starbucks – from there we rode the BugMan route to Hwy 141 before diverting to JeffCo via Hillsboro Springs Rd and the first climbs on the day. We then went climbed a series of small hills and did some stretches that couldn’t be classified as climbs but nevertheless took their toll – kind of like body punches! We eventually reached Old Lemay Ferry and began “The 4 Dogs.” I remember doing these climbs once about 4 years ago – I was still new to racing and summoned the courage to try a “no wait” ride with two guys named TK and Paul Krewitt. I didn’t know them but heard they were fast – I think I made it to the “3rd Dog” when they disappeared over the crest while I limped my way back to familiar territory in St. Louis Co. This time it seemed no easier – by the time I hit the 3rd hill I had to go into my 25t and just spin. I was getting concerned – we were only ~35 miles into the ride, and I was already feeling the climbing along with the heat and humidity. We stopped in Antonia after the 3rd climb to get some lunch, and my stomach started feeling a little upset. The sandwich sucked but I forced it down, and it wasn’t much cooler in the store than it was outside and so wasn’t really a very refreshing stop. We started out again, but before doing the 4th climb we warmed up again along Hwy MM and then tackled a “fun little road” called Wedde Rd – and back! These are two murderous climbs with long, steep pitches that required me to again resort to using my 25t. Back on LeMay Ferry we did the last (thankfully not quite as hard) hill before reaching the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge. At this point we had still done only ~50 miles, and I was seriously wondering if I would make 120 miles – the heat and humidity were stifling by now, and I was not feeling that great. We stood at the water fountain and I began pouring water on myself – that felt wonderful, so I literally doused myself before we started heading back N on Lemay Ferry. Suddenly, I was feeling a lot better and tackled the long (1.5 miles) but not too steep climb with gusto. We cut across Kable, deciding that, altogether, Kable counted as a climb (maybe you’ll disagree), and then down Old Hwy 21 to Tower. Okay, I’ve never done Tower before. I’ve never even heard of Tower. Jose kept telling me what a terror it was as we did those gawdawful rollers (that, despite our best efforts, we could not justify as climbs) and the long smooth descent. We rounded a bend, and there in front of me it looked like the road just jutted vertically straight up into the sky! I wanted to just get off my bike, lay it down on the side of the road, and tell Jose “Okay, you go get the car and I’ll be waiting right here!” Quite obviously it was another 25t grinder, but I survived and was still feeling good as I continued to douse my face and neck with water, a la “Landis on Stage 17” (even if he is a doping cheater!). We eventually made it into House Springs for another water/fuel stop, and after that we did the Byrnes Mill, Nollman, and Jim Weber (hard direction) trifecta. Nollman is a nice climb – steep and rough at the bottom, with a hard switchback, but then easing a bit and allowing some speed on the upper half. By the time we hit Hwy W via Twin Rivers we had done ~75 miles – we figured we needed ~90 miles by the time we hit Eureka in order to make our goal of 120 miles, so we ventured into tierra incognito along Hwy FF. It was a tough headwind going out west, but I knew we would eventually wind up in Pacific via Hwy F. I recalled from driving along that road (never ridden) that there were “some hills” – an understatement, to say the least! The first climb was long with several steep pitches, but the second was much more manageable. We made it into Pacific, where I decided it was time for the real thing – a Coke! You can’t beat Coke as a late-in-the-ride pick-me-up, and we left Pacific along Route 66 with a jolt and a nice tailwind. After that the only hard climbs left were Alt and Woods, and I climbed them nicely. We diverted up Strecker and down Kehrs Mill to avoid construction before taking Clayton back in with a marvelous tailwind. I was still feeling pretty good so I pushed a hard tempo to “pad the average” while Jose hung on for the ride! At ride’s end we had a smidge under 120 miles in 7:02, with (by our count) 22 total climbs (many of which were much tougher than on any of my previous 100+ mile rides). I figure that makes ~100 climbs I’ve done during the past month or so preparing for the five Pyrennean climbs I’ll do during L’Etape! Today’s ride was an extreme route (by Missouri standards) in extreme conditions (even by Missouri standards) – Jose joked that L’Etape would probably not be as hard! I don’t know about that, but I’ll find out next Monday!

Here’s the route we took (thanks, Jose) – you decide whether we were too strict or too lenient in deciding what qualified as a climb:

– Plaza Frontenac
– N Geyer
– Down Adams
– Up Ballas (H)
– Down Marshall
– Up Hillsboro Springs to High Ridge (2H)
– Hunning
– Up Old Sugar Creek (H)
– Down W Swaller
– Up Lions Den (H)
– Up Binning (H)
– Old Lemay Ferry to Wedde Rd (3H)
– Wedde to Moss Hollow and back (2H!)
– Old Lemay to Covered Bridge (H)
– Covered Bridge to Kable (H)
– Kable to Tower Road (H)
– Across Tower Road (H!)
– Hillsboro House Springs
– Up Byrne’s Mill (H)
– Up Nollman (H)
– Down Antire
– Over Jim Weber (H)
– Highway FF
– Highway F to Pacific (2H)
– Pacific to Eureka
– Up Alt Rd (H)
– Up Woods (H)
– Over to Clayton
– Strecker
– Kehrs Mill
– Clayton to Plaza Frontenac

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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