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I guess that boutique bicycle clothier Rapha is putting in some effort to appeal to women cyclists, because through the social media grapevine I learned about a global Women's 100k event that they were putting on. From a quick internet search, it appears that they started doing these in 2013, and altogether at least they're doing a better job than some of their competitors at targeting the female demographic (perhaps Assos has changed since 2013?).

Anyway, whatever. That's just mostly me reluctantly giving Rapha an eentsy bit of press in exchange for their efforts to organize a women's ride. On to the important part: they organized a women's ride, yay!

There are a lot of women cyclists in Lincoln, relatively speaking, from what I've observed. I see women out riding bikes on the bike paths all the time, often with small children in tow or strapped to their bicycles; there's a woman-focused gravel riding group (Gravel Girls; main internet presence on Social Media Brand F); and a group dedicated to helping women become confident racers. All fantastic, but the majority of the events seem to happen at times when I just can't attend, argdarnit. So I was pleased to discover that I could make it to this Rapha ride for a change. In the preliminary chatter before the ride, I learned that the 100k route would be about two-thirds gravel, one-third pavement. Jolly Roger time.

Of course, then it went and rained hard on Friday night, flooding my patio and into the living room, and if that weren't enough it rained a bit more on Saturday night. After our experiences in Big Bend with the dirt that turned into peanut butter and brought the fendered Jolly Roger to a dead halt, I was a little nervous about road conditions for the ride, and didn't sleep especially well while debating whether or not I should remove the Jolly Roger's fenders as a preventative measure. But I observed that the organizers hadn't made any specific comments about changes to the route in response to the rain, so in the end I mentally shrugged my shoulders and set out for the meeting point.

A whole bunch of cyclists of all shapes and sizes showed up at the start, hurrah!
Getting ready at the start of the Lincoln Rapha Women's 100k
Part of the group getting ready to line up for a photo

After we lined up for a photo, we set out for the countryside. The beginning stages of the ride were all on pavement, so the only excitement we experienced was the joy of being out on bicycles, making new friends, and traveling along scenic bike paths and then up and over rolling hills with a wonderfully amicable group of riding companions. When we finally reached the first bit of gravel, I mentally breathed a sigh of relief when the gravel road remained firm and easily rideable despite the moisture.

A beautiful day for some gravel adventures

We carried on, up and over rolling hills, and then came an unmistakable sort of sign, declaring "GRAVEL ENDS." Hmm. From gravel to dirt. My sigh of relief had been premature.

Later, one of the riders commented, "You'd think we'd learn to stop riding BEFORE everything got completely clogged with mud, but that never seems to happen."

I didn't take any photos, but just to give you an idea of what we were up against, here's a picture from one of the other riders:
Dirt segment

Note that all the bicyclists in the photo are walking their bikes in the grass to the side of the road.

The two riders on fatbikes fared slightly better than the rest of us, although they, too, had to be careful to not let too much mud accumulate.

While the Jolly Roger's fenders weren't a complete showstopper, there were still several sections where my only option was to pick up the whole ghastly beast and carry it along, and the same was true for everyone else on every other sort of bike. Another rider later commented that she was highly entertained by the amount of cussing she overheard while we all slogged through this section. Not only was it muddy and treacherous, it was hot and felt even hotter because we didn't have any breeze from moving on our bicycles. At one point, I looked down at my arms and could see the sweat springing out of my pores, beading up because it was too humid for anything to evaporate. I had to completely stop a couple of times to pant and recuperate so I didn't overheat too badly, which is saying something because I rarely push myself to that level of exertion. The main thing that kept me going was the fact that I didn't see anyone else turning around and coming back along that section of road. I had to figure that it would come to an end at some point. And eventually, it did. After about two miles of trudging.

This all happened before we were even 10 miles into the ride.

So I was ready for a break by the time we reached the first designated rest/regroup point, in Denton.

Mud cakes
Just a touch muddy

More mud carnage in Denton

You might observe that there's a large stick sticking out of my rear pannier in this photo. That's the stick I used to scrape as much mud as possible out of my fenders, and I grew so fond of it that I decided to hang onto it for the rest of the ride. The other riders declared that it needed a flag, but I failed to pack along any bandanas, so eventually I had to settle for tying on one of those nylon shopping bags that wads down to a small size. Hobo style, my specialty.

While we waited for everyone to regroup, one rider had the brilliant idea of heading over to a nearby carwash to remove the bulk of the grit. The Jolly Roger isn't a prissy bike, but I wasn't relishing the thought of how much the mud would damage my drivetrain, so I joined in and hosed off the worst of the mud.

Bike wash

The remainder of the ride was warm and gravelly and hilly, but not nearly so crazily eventful. A whole bunch of the riders wound up dropping out after the stop at Denton, and I can't say I blame them because that first section took some serious work and it was hard to know if we could trust what the ride organizers were telling us about the rest of the route (which was great).

It's just too bad that they missed the DISCOASIS rest stop.

Disco stop

The support squad even dressed up. One guy was wearing a t-shirt that said, "DISCO SUCKS" and another guy, seen test-riding one of the fatbikes, was wearing this outfit:

Fatbike test ride
Yes, those are wedge shoes, and that's a mesh top.

I hadn't expected the ride to extend out as long as it did, so by the time we reached Malcolm I was overdue for lunch. Fortunately, they had cans of minestrone soup for sale, so I enjoyed some salty luncheon repast out of a can - perfect for replacing electrolytes.

Chatting in Malcolm

It was amusing to discuss ride food preferences with everyone. My soup turned some heads, but another rider agreed that it seemed like a good idea and joined in with her own soup and crackers rendition.

At long last, towards the late afternoon, we reached the finish line, where we were greeted by this:

Our support crew provided excellent support!

This was a welcoming sight at the end of the Rapha Women's 100k

A welcome sight! Champagne and good cheer, and way more fanfare than I ever experience at the end of a brevet, heh. All in good fun.

One other aspect of the ride deserves mention. Eight of us managed to complete the whole distance, and we remained a diverse group (for Nebraska, heh), including a tough-as-nails fifteen-year-old and one of the two fatbikers.

Most noteworthy, however, was a woman who is just one year into diagnosis and treatment for chronic Lyme disease, C. At some point while struggling through the muddy section, I observed that a man had joined our group, and seemed solicitous towards a specific rider as she worked her way through the sticky stuff. He turned out to be C's husband of 25 years, along as her support squad. We would come to learn that years of coping with undiagnosed Lyme disease had taken their toll on C's neurological well-being, leaving her struggling with memory loss and mobility issues, oof. But somehow, she said, when she got on a bicycle she could move fine. In that context, it made complete sense to have someone along for personal support. If that weren't enough of a challenge, she also experienced vexing bike-mechanical issues, and yet through all the struggles she doggedly kept going. Her determination, and the loving support of her husband, ready to stop every instant she needed, were incredible. I know I am going to think of her while I am on the road in France.

If the opportunity to participate arises again next summer, I will. I hope I'll get to ride with a similarly amazing and diverse group of women. I have been in the gender minority on so very, very many rides that you might think I'd be used to it, but given a choice, I always appreciate a good chance to hang with the ladies. So thank you, Rapha, for making this happen. I still can't afford your fancy bike clothes, but I'll look upon them a bit more favorably now.

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Comments

( 7 remarks — Remark )
jamesfduncan
Jul. 29th, 2015 02:12 am (UTC)
Mud
That one photo of the mud is incredible! Hat's off to ya! Jim Duncan
rebeccmeister
Jul. 29th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Mud
Thank you!

Yup, a rare sight for a place like Arizona, eh? It has been so wet around here that most of the gravel rides/races have included similar slogs through mud.
randomdreams
Jul. 29th, 2015 04:59 am (UTC)
I loooove the fatbikes.

Man, fenders and mud are the worst combination ever. I've had to pick up a bike and carry it. Still, awesome overall, and woo hoo champagne at the end of the ride.
rebeccmeister
Jul. 29th, 2015 08:18 pm (UTC)
I had a great time chatting with the fatbiker who made it through the whole ride. She said she likes it better for rides in the summer, even though they got their reputation for being good winter bikes. They definitely look like a good way to feel like a kid again. :-)

The fenders and mud really weren't as bad here as they were in Big Bend, much to my relief. It's really challenging to carry the Jolly Roger for more than ~10 feet, even on stable ground, but sometimes ya gotta do what you gotta do or whatever.
randomdreams
Jul. 30th, 2015 04:20 am (UTC)
My experience was in Moab, where they have clay dust everywhere. A light rain and everything stops: even high clearance four wheel drives load up to the point they can't move. Diamondback mountain bike with extra coverage fenders were a nightmare.

Fatbikes do look like a lot of fun. This is the first time I've seen one used on a longer ride.
bluepapercup
Jul. 29th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
That is a heck of a ride!! Looks like you were in excellent company and the camaraderie was fine. Brava for making it through the mud. :)

As an aside, I really feel for your new riding friend with Lyme. If she ever needs a supportive ear I'd be glad to email with her.
rebeccmeister
Jul. 29th, 2015 08:15 pm (UTC)
When she started talking to me about her experiences with chronic Lyme, I mentioned that I had another friend who'd experienced it, too. I'll pass along your message of support.

It was eye-opening to hear everything she'd been through, including the two years prior to diagnosis when her body was really falling apart and she didn't know what she could or couldn't safely do. She said it took herself and her husband lining up all of her symptoms with descriptions of Lyme to get the doctors to test her for it and get a proper diagnosis, which is what made it finally possible for her to start exercising again.

It was hard to hear about her experiences with memory loss and neuropathy, but again, amazing to see how strong and determined she is - such a gift.
( 7 remarks — Remark )

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