This past weekend Rapha put on one of their now legendary Prestige rides/races, it was once know as the Gentlemen's Race, out in the DRIFTLESS.  If you're unfamiliar (who are you), there are tons of videos on Vimeo.  To our surprise, we were contacted by Rapha, through some friends, to take part.  WUT??!!

We've spoken about this region of Illinois before, and even did our ILLmanzo ride out there.  Ten Thousand took place on many of these roads as well.  We're no strangers to this region or this type of riding, 115 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing on mostly gravel/dirt roads, in the middle of July.

Rapha specified that there would need to be teams of four.  Our team was Jon S, Joel H, Jon L, and dark horse Sean M.  None are strangers to adventures such as this.

Those of you living in the mid-west, know it really hasn't been summer yet.  Temps only reaching as high as 85, and rain that would rival Noah's nightmares.  Unfortunately, summer decided to get it's lazy ass outta bed for this event.  The night before the humidity was off the charts and temps into the 90s.  The morning of, at 6am, it was MORE humid and still in the 90s!

Fortunately we started early, second team to leave just after 7am.  The ride boasted about a 65/35 road to gravel ratio.  More than one team showed up on road tires.  We were all on some kind of file tread CX tire.  Really the durability and control on a 20%, loose, rutted out,  grade decents made the tire choice for us.  We saw lots of riders with flats, or went down on some gnarly gravel riding skinnys.  Even a broken collar bone!  Great job Axletree for telling riders to slow and getting a hold of the medic in that situation.  Axletree really are the Green Lanterns of the cycling community, keeping peace and order.     Plenty of cloud cover in the morning, but by mid day we had full sun.  Temps exceeding 100 and still humid as hell.

This played a HUGE factor for all teams involved.  Many teams had riders abandon.  Even us.  Labok was having a trouble early on.  The climbing and the humidity took it's toll on him.  He finally reached a point where he was no longer sweating, but still drinking alot.  It wasn't a good sign. We hung out until the medic picked him up.  It was hard to see him so battered by the weather and the course.  Miles later we saw Half Acre and Axletree with riders in trouble from the heat as well.  

 At this point, the sun started to break through the clouds.  As the day went on, the sun would continuing to sizzle our brains like those old "this is your brain on drugs" egg commercials.  More than once we took advantage of the kindness of the local country folk.  Their garden hoses became beacons of hope to cool our country fried body's.  Finally after yo-yoing with  Half Acre for most of the race, we decided to ride together #radacre.  Unfortunately soon after Jen from Half Acre hit her breaking point, after sprinting up hill past us.  She pulled into a yard to make the now dreaded call to the organizers.  Sean pulled up next to me looking pale and beat, he was done too.  This pale young man was about to turn to ash, and I wasn't going to argue with him.

We were then down to four.  Two Stay Rad, two Half Acre.  We weren't far from the final check point, a gas station/Subway.  Those last few miles became a blur to me as I blasted down a really sketchy hill.  Some how I had gotten really far from the others and dialed it back.  I could tell Joel was reaching his limit.  I was beating him up hills, which NEVER happens.  Almost there we found a rider who had had his soul crushed.  Laying in the shade, he told us he was fine, and I high fived him.  The broom truck was right behind us to sweep him up.

Once at the gas station I had a plan.  Re-hydrate and EAT.  When you're this hot, it's important to keep eating.  Drink all you want, you'll need food in your stomach to absorb the water back into your body, and you need water to help digest your food to keep your energy up.  REAL food, not bullshit bars and gels.  I grabbed some water, Gatorade, cold coffee, and coconut water, sat down and started eating the last of my food.  Taking a glance out side, I saw Joel still sitting outside.  He was fried, he was done.  There were other riders making that call at this stop too.  It was a little heart breaking with only 18 miles remaining.   Half Acre was down to one too.  Axteltree had left another of their own there as well, I could see in his eyes he was conflicted about his choice.  I know a lot of people probably where, so close, but so HOT.  Heat stroke was a common discussion later that night.

The sag wagons had also all converged here.  Sean asked if I needed anything, and recommended that I lighten my load.  So I pulled a bag off my bike, dumped a bottle, and took off on my own.

It was fun at first, rolling paved hills.  The kind where you could keep your momentum to get you up the next side.  I was eventually caught by the last group of six/eight riders.  We hit a pretty big hill and leg cramps forced me off to walk.  SAG rolled up and asked if I was ok, "I'm fine, go away" I thought.  They hung out long enough to see me almost eat shit remounting CX style.  Whelp, now I know how tired I am.  I trucked along, got a little help from Abbey Watson in a sag car (they pulled my ass up a hill).  Seeing I only had 5ish miles left I turned on the gas and caught up to the Rapha team in green, Team Tall Corn on instagram.  We rolled in together, chatting about the day and our fallen comrades.

Finally done.  Stay Rad was waiting for me...still looking beat.  

"Harder than DK", asked jokingly.  Shit yeah, I think this was harder.  I don't like warm weather, I don't like summer or the sun.  Sure the course was hard as hell and was 90% gravel, but the weather was the true villain of the day.

Nice work Rapha, Axeltree, Chad, Half Acre, and everyone else.  

Smiles for miles or something.