I counted 75 people in the parking lot of the Appleton Wheel & Sprocket before the start of the 55 mile Wheel to Holland ride. That’s pretty good for a group ride on April 2nd, but then attendance at all of our rides in the Wisconsin Spring Classic Series have been surprising given this is only the second year. It has helped that we have Lowlands Group (Cafe Hollander, Benelux, Cafe Central, etc.) as a series sponsor to help spread the word. It is also a testimony to the strong base of riders in the Fox Valley, but we did have quite a few folks travel from other parts of the state for the ride.
The weather at the start of the ride was mostly sunny and 42 degrees with light 6mph winds, but the clouds rolled in about 5 miles down the road and the wind picked up to 9mph. While it cost us some bonus Flanders Points, I’m still thankful the rain held off until after we finished. These Spring Classics are supposed to run no matter what mother nature dishes out, but I think even Philippe Gilbert prefers not to ride in the rain if given the choice.
The group was great at keeping the pace below 20 mph, but with some people pretty new to group riding, we split off a smaller group pretty quickly. Then eventually we split that group again. Conor from Wheel & Sprocket was able to lead the front group. I had the route on RideWithGPS, so I stuck with the second group. Our Fox Valley Ambassador Michelle Bacchus knows the area well, so she and another rider stuck with Aja, who was struggling, but determined to do the entire 55 miles.
I was super impressed with Aja for her positive attitude the entire ride. Pretty new to serious cycling, she happily accepted tips about drafting and shifting. It reminded me of my early days adjusting to clipless pedals when I saw her unclip one foot a hundred yards or more before an intersection with a stop sign. I was also impressed with the other riders in the group who were happy to give Aja a boost up a climb and ride slower to keep her company.
The route Conor came up introduced me to a number or areas I have never ridden around Appleton. I typically either stuck to the Race the Lake route or ridden out to High Cliff State Park and around that area. I was super stoked to finally get to ride by the giant windmill in Little Chute, which only opened in 2015. I definitely plan to do another ride there when I have time to tour the Van Asten Visitor Center and stop for coffee and schnecks at Seth’s, which looked pretty good.
I had to drive back to Milwaukee after the ride, so I was not able to participate in any of the post-ride liquid carbo loading, but it was nice of Wheel & Sprocket to pick up some beer. They also had coffee, juice and bagels before the ride, but the real deal was calling for Le Prince Crepes food truck to be there are the finish, YUMMY! I planned to get a savory traditional crepe and then order a Nutella and strawberry, but they are so big, I was too stuffed for desert.
For those keeping track of Flanders Points, you get 59.5 for the Wheel to Holland ride (59.5 = 55 x 50/42 + 0 + 10 – 9). You can order a passport online and we will pick it up at the next ride you do, or buy one at the start for $5. Thanks to Conor and the crew from Wheel & Sprocket and to everyone from the Fox Valley and beyond who came out for last week’s ride. Next week we join George and the Broken Spoke Bikes crew in Green Bay for their ride to Luxemburg. If you have plan to ride with us, remember to sign the waiver online. You only have to do this once even if you do multiple rides.