Sunday, November 6, 2011

Heart of Arizona 200k Brevet

Ride Report November 5, 2011
Steve Atkins

As usual for an Arizona Brevet, a cold front moved through the area a few days before bringing wind, dust, rain, and a temperature drop of about 20 degrees!

This was my first ride of the Heart of Arizona 200k Brevet hosted by the Arizona Bullshifters Cycling club. This event has two options; the Heart of Arizona Century and 200k Brevet. There were about 50 Century riders and 10 Brevet riders.

The basic route is a heart-shaped loop that starts in Congress AZ joins the US93 Joshua Tree Parkway and heads north past the Santa Maria River. The route joins SR96 toward Bagdad then heads east to Kirkland and Wiloit. Finally heading southwest back to Congress via Yarnell.

US 93 heading toward the Santa Maria River
I left the house at 5 am for the drive the Congress (just north of Wickenburg) and arrived at the Sierra Vista Motel and checked in with the Bullshifters. Traditionally included with the entry fee is some 'cool swag.' This year's swag was a Jersey Bin with a custom Bullshifters logo. Very cool.

The Brevet riders start at 7:30 and with a relatively informal start (announcer says: "OK brevet riders, its 7:30 you can start!"). I head down the road, I barely clipped in my pedals when one of the zip ties that holds the speed sensor for my bike computer snapped and the sensor proceeded to get tangled in the front spokes. I pulled off and was very happy I packed my brevet repair kit that includes among many other things, three spare zip ties! So ten minutes later with a secure speed sensor, I was on the road with several brevet riders off in the distance.

I decided to settle into a brisk tempo pace and by the time I reached US 93 I had caught and passed all the brevet riders that did not have mechanical problems in the first 100 meters!

The temperatures were quite cool and the road surface was very wet. As the morning went on, however the clouds cleared and sun dried out the road and warmed the riders. The route is along the Joshua Tree Parkway. Here is a little video:

I reached the first SAG stop just across the Santa Maria River and was welcomed with loud cheers by the Bullshifter volunteers. They had plenty of food and supplies, but all I needed was some water and a Coke to mix up some Sustained Energy and I was out of there. Jim and Robin Pettit, who provided great SAG support on last years Route 66 300k Brevet were there and again providing great support.

SAG stop #2
I was under a little time pressure for this ride. I needed to be back home for the State Marching Band Preliminary competition in time for the Corona del Sol HS warm-up and performance at 7 pm. So while I would have liked to stay and visit, I made all my SAG stops very quick bottle reloads. I was out of the stop in less than 5 minutes and back on the road.

The route heads east on SR97 to the next SAG at the junction with SR96. Here the Brevet route heads UP 4.5 miles to Bagdad. I reached the junction skipping the SAG and turned left to Bagdad and rode into the mining town and checked in at a convenience store and headed down for a very cold descent back to the SAG. Nearing the SAG I waved at the other brevet riders heading up to Bagdad and stopped at the SAG. Now quite busy with a bunch of the century riders.

Hillside descent with snow capped peaks
The route continues east and up to the top of the 'Hillside' climb. With 70 miles in, this was a great place for a SAG. Dick Wiss was there, he pre-rode the course the week before with Mike Sturgill.

On the descent, Sugarloaf Mountain came into view. It was covered with a fresh dusting of snow from the storm that passed through on Friday. The views were great, and the sun was out, but the temperature did not really warm up. Even with wool socks, I don't think I felt my toes much during this ride. Of course as the day wore on the winds continued to build out of the southwest.

A little snow still on the ground in Wilhoit!
The next SAG is 4 miles past Kirkland junction, just before the brevet route turns left for the 6 mile climb to Wilhoit. I stopped for a moment at the SAG but decided I would reload my bottles at the General Store in Wilhoit. It is a deceptive climb to this little village. Even with a strong tailwind I was really working to maintain a good pace. This section of road reminded me of the high plains near Sonoita Arizona. Since the whole landscape is tilted up, you can't really perceive the incline, other than the amount of work it takes to head up.

I reached the store at 14:05, bought a water bottle and a Coke to reload my bottles and headed back to the road. This descent was probably the coldest of the day. Of course it magnified by the sweat produced climbing into town! Even with the headwind, I reached 30 miles per hour on the descent back to the main route, quite a testament to the grade heading to Wilhoit!
Your faithful correspondent, leaving Wilhoit

I rejoined the main road to Yarnell and saw a few riders on the Century route along the way. The route continues about 12 miles up to Yarnell passing through Peeples Valley. With the wind and the climb I thought I would never get to Yarnell. But soon I was on the 6% downhill grade toward Congress. Normally on a grade like this I would easily descend at 45+ mph!. Today, with the buffeting headwinds, I think my maximum speed was 32! At the base of the hill, its a nice 3 mile ride to Congress. I rolled in at 3:55 and Jim Pettit was the RUSA official that signed me in and collected my proof of passage (receipts from the stores at Bagdad and Wilhoit). I turned in my brevet card and packed the bike away in the Mini.

Did I mention the awesome SAG support the Bullshifters provide on this ride? All the SAG stops were staffed with very gracious volunteers and had plenty of snacks and drinks (although SAG #2 did not have Coke!). The best stop of course is the finish. The Bullshifters were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and generally having a great time. Wanting to stay and visit (chatted with Susan Snow who rode this years PBP); I grabbed my hamburger 'to go' and headed back to Tempe for the State Marching Band Competition. Corona was rated Superior with Distinction and will march in next week's State finals. Even better, the Corona drumline (my son Michael is the center snare and section leader) scored the highest drumline rating in Arizona!

Yes, my bike fits nicely in the Mini!