The MS 150 is an annual fund-raising bike ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities. It is a two day ride that covers 75 miles each day. Day 1 begins in Proctor, Minnesota just outside of Duluth. The start is very early so most riders arrive the evening before and camp in a schoolyard although a few stayed in nearby hotels. Then, after riding the 75 mile route to Hinckley, Minnesota, everyone camps or stays in a hotel again. At the end of the second day, you eventually reach the finish in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
I recently started working for CH Robinson who has sponsored this event for many years. It is a pretty big deal in the company. They provided a bus ride and bike delivery to Proctor and hauled my camping gear both days. The ride was actually a lot of fun. Most people, including myself, brought beer for the trip and a few of the organizers got up and spoke. It was basically a party on wheels.
We arrived in Proctor and I met up with my friend and coworker Scott. We setup our tents and headed to the spaghetti dinner. I also met another gentleman on the bus ride named Jan and after dinner, we took a shuttle to Duluth to check out the local brewery scene.
The next morning Scott and I packed up our tents, threw them on the truck and went to get our bikes. I was furious to see my bike laying in the grass and soaking wet from rain. I toweled it off and we headed out.
The first part of the ride was crowded. Hundreds of riders on a narrow path and everyone wat riding slow. Scott and I stopped at the first rest area and I mentioned how frustrating it was to have to ride so slow and he said it would be okay if I road ahead. At around 10 miles in, the crowd was thinning and I sped up. I turned around after 15 minutes or so and Scott was nowhere in sight. I was riding solo. The conditions were pretty nice for riding and 20 to 22 mph felt like a comfortable speed so I just rode that for the remainder of the first day. It rained for about an hour but it did not affect my speed. I arrived in Hinckley around noon with an overall average speed of 19.2 mph.
There were not a lot of people there yet so I setup my tent in a field and took a shower. My bike barely fit in my small tent but I was not going to leave it in the public area again. All of the companies and riding groups had large tents and activities going on. It was like a big party although there were a few people getting a little too caught up in the fun. Playing drinking games when you have to get up early and bike 75 miles did not seem like the best strategy.
Day two began like day 1 except I was entirely solo this time. I brought my gear to the truck and off I went. The ride began on a highway so I hit it hard right out of the gate. I kept the speed at around 22 mph and was passing everyone. After about five miles, I was surprised to hear someone approaching. It was a group from Edina Realty riding in a double paceline so I merged in with them. I noticed that we were riding in the 24 to 25 mph range. We regularly tipped above 27 mph. Holy crap! One fellow wearing cut-off jeans and riding a fixed-gear decided to hop in. You could hardly see his legs because they were moving so fast. Not surprisingly, he bailed out after a mile or so. Eventually, it was my turn to pull. I was in the right-side line and the man pulling on the left told me to keep the speed around 24 to 25 mph. He also advised me to stay as close as possible to him to ‘give the boys a better draft’. After about two miles, I tapped out and rotated to the back. All the guys yelled stuff like ‘Nice pull!’, ‘Great job!’ and ‘Way to go!’. It was so friggin’ cool. The only bad thing was that the guys in the back did not want to pull so they had me hop in three riders back. This meant that I would not get much of a break. My second turn at pulling came quick but we were slowing down to 21-22 mph at that point. It was a lot easier and I actually pulled for a longer time the second time through. We decided to stop at a rest stop after about 20 miles. They were taking too long to get going so I headed out solo again.
About ten miles later, another group approached so I hopped in. This was a single line with about 15 riders. Another group from Optum caught up and our group latched on to the back. Now we were about 30 riders long and I could barely see the front. This line lasted about 10 miles until we hit another rest stop. I just rode through and was solo again.
Eventually, the Optum group caught up to me again. While they were behind me, I was helping signal cars and pedestrians. As they passed, one of them yelled, ‘Hop in!’ so I did. This line lasted a long time. We decided to stop at the 65 mile mark for the last break. While there, I ran into a group from CH Robinson so I asked if I could join them.
Unfortunately, they were wiped out and riding slow. I got up to pull and they said to keep it at around 18 mph. There were still guys unable to keep up so they said to slow down to 16. When they said that they were still having a hard time, I mentioned to the guys near the front that we should break off and speed up. One of them just took off. Woohoo! Another three of us just followed. I got to the front and rode as hard as I could. We passed a bunch of people who previously passed us. There was a giant, steep hill at the very end of the ride and we all raced up. I won the race but it took every ounce of energy that I had left.
I coasted to the finish and we all regrouped. One of the other CH Robinson riders asked me “Where the hell were you earlier? We need another puller.” Ha ha. The guys in the front were very strong riders and I really look forward to some CH Robinson group rides with them soon. My average speed for the second day was 19.9 mph.
Overall, the logistics were kind of a pain but the actual ride was fantastic. I can’t for next year.