Going Back To College-De Ronde 2013

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So, I can neither confirm nor deny that this may or may not have happened. And you didn’t hear it from me since there is never an “official Ronde”. But , there may have been a ride to pay homage to the Belgian Classic race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

It is our annual “unorganized” ride, chasing nothing but the gold Lions of Flanders painted on the ground to guide our way.  The plan, to ride 47 miles (7800 ft of climbing) with a few of my teammates; Mary, Audrey, Kim and Beth F and maybe , oh, several hundred other adventurous types on the morning of Saturday April 20th.

Shhh. Don't tell anyone about this....

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone about this….

Unfortunately, I could not find my ladies outside of Portland Brewing in NW Portland. Instead, I found a few of the Team S&M guys. Judd Eustice (bike race reporter for BikePortland.org) and the Leritz brothers, Nick, Aaron and Andy. “Ride with us! We will wait for you at the top of the climbs,” they offer.  “Um, that is nice but I know you guys will drop me”  I respond. The boys insisted.  I agreed to their offer as De Ronde creator Brad Ross (Big boss of Cross Crusade) sent hundreds of lycra clad riders (and one recumbant trike) on our way.

The weather was perfect, mid 50’s and a bit of sun through the clouds. Climbing through Forest Park, Saltzman trail was unusually firm with very little mud for this time of year. My blue and orange band of men did stay with me for some time, true to their word. Arriving at Brynwood, the first of two climbs with more than 20% grade, it’s chaos. The long, narrow one lane road is dry but has moss on the outer edges. As we all try to cram ourselves on the road, men are sliding out on my right and left, rendered tractionless by the mossy pavement or tipping over and hitting the pavement due to the steepness.

Rider Down!

Rider Down!

Brynwood has many bail outs, or driveways. I took two bail outs this year but didn’t do any walking. Brad Ross (driving the course by moto) was standing on the side of the road heckling. “Mielle, if I whip you will you ride any faster? Your whole team is waiting for you at the top!” I stayed in the saddle and ground my way to  the final crest to join the boys.  By the half way point, I became detached from my group but I was never alone. Suffering was shared with many.

The second climb with 23% grade is by Portland State University and aptly named College. The field of riders had spread out so much that I only had a few people  in front of me. Two men started to ride but after a dozen grueling pedal strokes, dismounted and began the long push to the top. I churned, rhythmically turning the pedals in what felt more like leg pressing an elephant for 6 minutes than a hill climb. Passing the dismounted men,  I see photographer Dave Roth taking photos of the suffering from the sidelines.

Yup, a girl is beating you

Yup, a girl is beating you

Keep churning, no more elephants after this climb. Up ahead of me I see a West Coast Women’s Cycling rider pushing her bike on my right and another girl walking on my left. More motivation to make it to the top!  I got a bit of encouragement from another guy walking, cheering me on to beat him to the top, which I did.  I don’t have to win College, I just needed to ‘out ride’ everyone I could see. Done and Done.

I did make an unplanned stop when I rode past Brad Ross’s house, adorned with the Lion of Flanders flag and a keg of beer. A whole bunch of my fellow racers called me by name to come back and join them. I did accept the beer but only took a couple sips and passed it to the next rider so I could continue for the last 10 miles.

Beer stop at Brad's

Beer stop at Brad’s

Finishing my day at the top of Council Crest, I shared some photos with my friends on the Grundel Bruisers. Never did find my teammates. I found out later they too made the steep climbs without walking. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Les Femmes de S&M now would you?

Photo Credits: Dave Roth http://www.dmroth.com, Mary Fordham


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