Saturday, March 14, 2015

Around the Bend 400km Brevet

Ride Report
March 7, 2015

Rider brief in the Wal Mart parking lot

At the beginning of the week, sign ups for the Around the Bend 400 were light, with only about 12 riders registered. Many of the usual suspects were on the list, so it was looking like it would be a fast, fun event. As the week went on, the rider list grew, and finally on the last day of sign-ups 18 riders had registered, including our Canadian friends; Stephen Kenny and Paul Anderson. I mentioned at the rider brief, 'its all fun and games, until the Canadians show up!' So much for a leisurely pace.

Just outside Sacaton at dawn
A large fast group formed (12 riders) and soon we were rocketing along at a brisk but comfortable pace. It was lucky for us that Trev 'Venturi' Williams did not make this trip from Calgary to Casa Grande, because fellow Canadians Stephen Kinney and Paul Anderson seemed content fall in with us desert dwelling mortals.

With Stephen and Paul taking long strong pulls, we covered the run to Sacaton in no time and soon were rolling along Casa Blanca road with a slight tailwind toward the first control in Maricopa. As we headed west, we were overtaken by a crop duster that was working a field 500 meters up the road. It made a couple of passes as we continued on a pace to arrive at the first control when it opened.
This crop duster was working near Casa Blanca Road

We hoped they added some EPO to the pre-emergent!
We made the turn on Maricopa road and Stephen Kenny picked up the pace and with nearly perfect timing we arrived just minutes after the control opened. Tom Baker was there and checked us in. After a quick reload, we were back on the road with Stephen and Paul Anderson taking long pulls at the front. As we continued west, the tailwind picked up so that we were easily rolling up the 1% grade at 20-25 miles per hour!
Tailwind entering Sonora National Monument
Michael Mooney had a handlebar cam and here is some footage::

Reaching the saddle for the long downhill run to Gila Bend the pace again quickened and the pace picked up to 30+ miles per hour!  Stephen and Paul continued to drive the pace, taking full advantage of the tailwind. We arrived in Gila Bend 13 minutes before the control opened!

We obtained signatures for our brevet cards, reloaded our bottles, and headed back out. It was payback time, as the route takes a u-turn and we figured we would have a strong cross wind. We soft pedaled through Gila Bend, but when the route turned northeast on Old Highway 80, the cross wind picked up considerably.  The group worked well together with Stephen and Paul continuing to take long pulls into the wind. Slowly the group dwindled down to 7 riders as the wind and the Canadian pace took its toll!

The group of 7 on Gillespie Dam Bridge (photo by Tom Baker)

The Group of 7 (L to R) Paul Anderson, Steve Atkins, Roger Peskett, Mike Sturgill, Thomas Altemus, Michael Mooney, and Stephen Kinney.

Just beyond the bridge, the route includes some short steep rollers as the terrain transitions from desert to farmland. Crossing the bridge, I wondered if those rollers would spit out another rider from the group. POP, that would be me drifting off the back of the group. Reaching the top, the group was already 300-400 meters up the road. Stephen noticed and slowed the pace so I could bridge up and rejoin the group. Once back on board it was a battle to stay with the group after the matches burned to bridge up, so I dangled on the back until feeling recovered enough to take a pull in to the Buckeye Park control and lunch stop.
Tom Baker, trail boss extraordinaire at the lunch stop
Chairs, shade, cold drinks, and sandwiches, all cheerfully served up by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Baker, made this a stop to remember. The group was itching to get moving so we were off, back into the wind moving at a pace that was just a little too fast for me. By the time we reached Tuthill drive, I was cooked and excused myself from the group.
Riding at my own pace, even with no relief from the wind, the miles started to go by more easily. Shortly after passing Phoenix International Raceway, I noticed two more refugees from the Canadian Express at the Circle K. Tom Altemus and Roger Peskett were taking a break. Happy to have some comrades for the wind battle, I quickly jumped in and refilled a bottle and we were off as a group of three.
About 20 miles later we re-entered the Gila River Indian Reservation and I told the group I needed to stop and cool off, Roger was feeling good and went on, Tom was happy to take a break. We bought some snacks and sat in the shade for a bit before heading back out on 51st Avenue/Riggs Road.
Soon we were at Carlton's water/soup stop at Maricopa road. Hot soup sounded good earlier in the week, but with the temperatures still in the high 80's and sun high in the sky, it didn't go down so well. Adding a fuse to the already ticking time bomb in my stomach, I made the mistake of adding some Gatorade to my CarboPro for flavor. Tom was suffering as well, but we rolled out together and continued our easterly trek through Sun Lakes, Chandler, and Queen Creek. Somewhere along Riggs road, I told Tom to go ahead, and I pulled off for the inevitable stomach explosion.
Back on the road, and starting to feel much, better I caught Tom checking his cue sheet to see if he was still on the route. We rejoined and continued to the control at Combs and Gantzel Road. Its a Frys grocery store and strip mall, with a Burger King and a gas station. We decided to fill up at the convenience stand at the gas station. Fried, I purchased some water, snacks, and plopped down on the pavement in the shade.
Leaving the control, Tom Baker had modified the route to use Gantzel Road and a few other route changes that avoided some rough farm roads from the previous version of this ride. A nice change! The sun set and we donned our reflective gear and turned on the lights for the final run to Coolidge.
Tom with lights blazing into the sunset!

Traffic was light in Coolidge (except for Main Street in front of the Circle K), and soon we were on the last 'climb' up Martin Road and the gentle descent into Casa Grande. We rolled into the Wal Mart Parking lot at 2053, 14 hours and 53 minutes after we had started! Tom and I congratulated each other, and as we were packing up Roger Peskett and Mike Sturgill stopped by to say hello.

We packed up and headed over to the Denny's to turn in our paperwork and check in with our Trail Boss, Tom Baker. Riding with strong skilled riders, on an awesome route, with even better support, it was another great day on the bike. This was my 10th 400km brevet, and my fastest, beating my previous personal record by nearly 1 hour.

Oh, the Canadian Express, Stephen Kinney and Paul Anderson pulled in an hour and a quarter earlier than us, with Arizona Strong Men Michael Mooney and Robert Larson still in the group!

Steve Atkins

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