Sunday, November 4, 2012

Heart of Arizona 200km Brevet

Ride Report
November 3, 2012

Leaving Bagdad AZ
I really enjoyed last year's Heart of AZ 200km Brevet so this year's edition has been on the calendar all year. The Bullshifter's Cycling Club puts on this awesome event. There are three rides held on the same course, a 44 mile up and back to Yarnell, a 100 mile Century, and the 200km (124 miles) Brevet. All are on a great course, with outstanding support. Last year, the event was held in the midst of a winter storm. This year the weather was perfect!

Carlton van Leuven called earlier in the week looking for a carpool partner to share gas and keep each other awake on the drive to Congress AZ. I told him that I planned on riding an easy pace, and if he didn't mind waiting around for me at the finish, I would love to join him.

Carlton likes it!
Carlton arrived at the appointed time at 4:15 am, we loaded my bike and gear into his van, and we made great time to the race headquarters at the Sierra Vista motel in Congress. We arrived earlier than expected (light traffic at 4:30 in the morning!), about an hour before the start time of 7:00am. We picked up our brevet cards and this year's event 'swag;' some toasty wool arm warmers.

17 Riders signed up for this years brevet and most of us rolled out at 7:00 am. We started 30 minutes before the 60-70 century 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 follows SR96 toward Bagdad then heads east to Kirkland and Wilhoit. Finally heading southwest back to Congress via Yarnell.

Russ Cummings in Bagdad
Russ Cummings, Carlton, Louisa (a century rider and USAC racer that needed to start early) and I formed a small group off the front. Russ flatted in the first few miles and dropped off. The first 28 miles are generally downhill and winds were light, so it was easy to average over 20 miles per hour! The three of us worked well together and arrived at the first SAG stop at the base of the climb to Bagdad. This stop featured some tasty roasted potatoes that Jim Pettett prepared for the event. It was too early to eat, so I put a half dozen in a baggie and tucked them in my jersey pocket for later!

Kurt Smith in Wilhoit AZ
We rolled out of the SAG just as another group of riders rolled in. Once the climbing started I excused myself from the group as Carlton and Louisa powered away. Russ flashed by to join them and I continued at my own pace to the official control in Bagdad. To my surprise, Carlton and Russ were still there, so I quickly checked in, mixed a bottle, and joined them. On the descent I was able to eat half of Jim's pocket potatoes as we rocketed down past the second SAG stop. We stayed together until the climb to Hillside. Again I settled into my own pace and watched as Russ and Carlton headed up to the next SAG with some century riders in tow.

Descending from the first Checkpoint in Bagdad
When I reached the SAG, and Carlton and Russ were enjoying a sandwich. I was looking forward to the last of those potatoes, so I mixed a bottle and headed out of the SAG to enjoy my lunch on the road. A few minutes later Carton rode up and we headed toward Wilhoit. The wind was picking up, and with Carlton doing most of the work on a very rough road, we rode through Kirkland AZ and soon reached the base of the 6 mile climb to Wilhoit. The brevet course again leaves the century route and we made our way up to the last control at the Wilhoit general store.

We rolled in and picked up up some water and drinks, and enjoyed the very comfortable porch benches as Kurt Smith and some other USAC racers rolled into the checkpoint. We left together for the descent back to the course and the last climb to Peoples Valley and finally Yarnell. We shared the work, but once the climbing started again, I dropped off to continue at my own pace.

Last Checkpoint - Wilhoit General Store
As usual the wind picked up in People's Valley on the approach to Yarnell, but it was nowhere near as strong as last year and I was able to generate good power and enjoy the climb into Yarnell. The best part of this brevet route is the DOWNHILL finish descending Yarnell hill. Even with the headwind, it is easy to exceed the posted speed limit of 35!

I caught Kurt Smith on the descent, he was held up by a driver that was being especially cautious on the tight corners. Luckily, we reached a passing lane, made our way around the slower car, and continued our descent. Once the hill flattens out, it is just a few short miles to the finish. We rolled in at 3:00 pm, exactly 8 hours after we finished.

The Bullshifters know how to add an exclamation point to a great event. Cold beer, drinks, and hamburgers hot off the grill are provided to riders and volunteers at the finish. We enjoyed our meal sitting in the shady yard of the Sierra Vista Motel. Russ and a few of the other brevet riders rolled in, we share stories, completed and turned in our brevet cards, and headed back home.

Good friends, fantastic weather, and a great ride!

Steve Atkins