Saturday, April 22, 2017

Scorpion 600km Brevet

Ride Report
April 2017

The final brevet of the 2017 spring season is the aptly named Scorpion 600km. This was the second running of this Mike Sturgill designed course that provides an outstanding sampler of Arizona road riding. With Arizona's territorial capital (Prescott) to the north, Saguaro Lake to the east, and a healthy slice of metro Phoenix (Phoenix, Sun City, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills, Scottsdale, and Mesa) in between, it is quite a route. Throw in the sting of 15,000 feet of climbing over 375 miles, and it rightly earns its moniker of Scorpion 600!
Bob Larson, Roger Peskett and Mike Sturgill at the start
As is typical with the brevet season, as the distances increase, the number of riders decrease. This brevet was notable in that not only was is lightly attended (three riders); the pre-ride (ride organizer and several volunteers) that occurred the previous week, actually had more riders!

The brevet day riders were Bob Larson, Roger Peskett, and yours truly. Mike Sturgill, organizer and Trail Boss, met us at the start/finish line at the Days Inn at I-17 and Deer Valley Road to provide our brevet cards and rider brief. He joined us for the run up to Carefree/Cave Creek. We were treated to a glorious sunrise, and spectacular desert scenery to the first control in Carefree. The route continued through Cave Creek and descended to the Carefree Highway. Somewhere along here Mike, flatted on a descent while riding fourth wheel. Our momentum quickly carried us out of earshot. We thought he had dropped off to head home, but we had inadvertently dropped him!
Bob and Roger on AZ 89 toward Congress
Thankfully lake traffic was light and with a slight tailwind we headed east to US 60 and the second control in Wickenburg AZ. After a quick reload we headed north toward AZ 89 and Congress AZ. Leaving Wickenburg, we crossed Vulture Mine Road, last year my brevet season ended abruptly with that ride. Bob said, "Hey Steve, Vulture Mine Road, isn't that where you crashed last year?" "Yes, yes it was (2016 ride report)!"

The real climbing on this ride starts at the Yarnell Hill (6 miles at 6%) and you can see the road cuts in the mountain from miles away. Congress AZ is at the foot of the hill, and as we entered town, my Garmin computer froze. While resetting it, I ran up on Roger's realwheel for a bit of a scare and flashback to last year!
Desert in full bloom on Yarnell Hill
The trio worked well together all the way to the base of the hill, but alas, the legs were not there to keep up, so Roger and Bob slowly disappeared in to the distance!
Roger and Bob on the climb!
Roger and Bob waited in Yarnell, and we rolled through Peeples Valley together and a reload at the convenience store there. The next official control was 30 miles away at the turn around in Prescott, but as the climbing resumed on the road to Wilhoit, we separated again.

The high desert grass and scrub soon disappeared and was replaced with Pondersosa Pines as the climbing continued to the high point of the ride at 6200 feet. With a little snow in the shadows, and expansive mountain views, it was quite a scenic section of road. The only drawback; a constant stream of motorcycles (mostly loud Harleys) on their way to Historic Whiskey Row in Prescott!
Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott
The Prescott control is any establishment on the Town Square. Spotting Roger and Bob finishing a slice at Bob's Pizza, the decision was easy where to stop. A slice of meat-lovers pizza washed down with a Mountain Dew (and a receipt) hit the spot nicely. Roger and Bob were off mid-slice just as a few sprinkles threatened a potentially wet departure from Prescott. Luckily, the sprinkles stopped before the road became wet.

The route climbs out of Prescott for a few miles back to the 6200 foot summit, then generally descends all the way to Phoenix. However, the winds, which had been favorable for the whole day, were now right on the nose and especially heavy in Peeples Valley!
Just a little windy in Peeples Valley
Lush farms and outstanding scenery
The convenience store in Peeples Valley was a great place to get some relief from the wind and reload some calories. A half-pint of potato salad washed down with an Ensure shake provided a quick 600 calories and it was back into the wind and the short climb to Yarnell and finally the payoff of 6 miles of 6% descent. The descent was tricky with the constantly changing winds due to the many twists and switchbacks on the road!

Reaching Congress and turning south, the winds shifted off the nose to a crosswind, a welcome improvement! The sun set as the road continued to Wickenburg and another control and more food at the Burger King! As the lights of Phoenix eventually came into view, the route continues southeast to Sun City and another control before heading north and back to the control at the Days Inn.

Rolling into the motel at 11:30pm, the plan was to check-in, eat, shower, and get a 4-5 hour nap and be back on the road by 5 am. After a Denny's Grand Slam, quick shower, it was 'lights out' as my head hit the pillow.

Waking before the alarm went off at 4 am, and wanting to get this one done before it got hot in the afternoon, it was back on the bike with lights blazing into the morning darkness. Again treated with an awesome sunrise, the route heads east to Pinnacle Peak and the fun 9 Mile Descent to Fountain hills.

The Fountain of the Hills
The route continues along the Beeline Highway to the Saguaro Lake/Bush Highway exit. Winds were relatively light and favorable, and unusual for a morning ride along the Beeline. The route continues past Saguaro Lake and the Salt River Recreation area to the steep but short climb up King Kong. Another control in Mesa before crossing the mighty Salt River to rejoin the Beeline Highway back to Fountain Hills. At the foothills to the Superstition Mountains, the expanse of the Valley is clearly visible, along with the realization that the finish is on the 'other side of town!'
Gilbert Road Bridge over the Salt River
The Gilbert Road crossing consists of two bridges, one that can withstand heavy river flow, and one that is designed so that the approaches 'wash out' before the bridge gives way. All traffic was diverted to the larger bridge as the lower bridge was stranded by the last flow of the Salt River!

Wind back on the nose for the last 30 miles of the ride!
The route generally heads west across the valley through Scottsdale and North Phoenix to the finish at I-17 and Deer Valley Road. BANG! Only 4 miles from the finish, a blowout. The tube had worked its way through a sidewall cut on the rear tire. After a quick stop, using a PowerBar wrapper as a boot (to prevent the replacement tube from the same fate), the tire was repaired and I was on my way to the finish.
At the finish
My faithful weekend companion!
33 hours and 35 minutes after the start, this one was in the bag! After last year's shortened season, it was nice to have this year's series completed. Thanks Mike for a great route and Roger and Bob for the companionship on the first 200km!

Steve Atkins

Click here for map and ride data

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Around the Bend 400km Brevet

Ride Report
March 2017

The third installment of the 2017 AZ Brevet series featured the return of Around the Bend 400km, with a twist, or rather a reversal. Its the same Tom Baker route run the past several years, but to change it up, the start was moved to Sun Lakes (from Casa Grande) and the direction reversed. We would head west toward Buckeye and Goodyear, then south to Gila Bend. From there, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Florence, Queen Creek, and finally back to Sun Lakes.

15 or so riders arrived at the start, and after an informal rider brief; Tom Baker says, "OK its 6 am, you guys can get started" and before a photo could be taken, we were off. 5 riders and a Tandem formed a fast group and that bolted westbound on Riggs road.
Fast movers on Riggs/51st Ave
The group fell into a fast pace, but with calm winds and a pancake flat course we maintained a 21+ mph pace. Paul and Jennifer on a tandem would get gapped at traffic lights, but for the most part we stayed together to the informational control in Goodyear.

Tom was there with water, snacks, and signed our control cards. With the temperatures rising, we stowed the layers and reflective gear and rolled out toward old US 80.
Lush farmland in the Gila River basin
Rollers just before Gillespie Dam

Gillespie Dam Bridge
After a couple of short rollers we crossed the 'Gila' at the Gillespie Dam Bridge. More pancake flat riding on mostly recently repaved roads meant our pace stayed well above 20 mph!
100 miles under 5 hours!
Just a few miles from the control, the route leaves US 80 and takes a back road loop on a rough patch of pavement. Paul flatted along here and Mike and I continued to the control stop. We arrived before Carlton, and a little later the Fast Canadians arrived after two flat repairs!
Gila Bend Control with Carlton
Figuring that the group would catch me on the climb to Maricopa, I set out early to ride at a easier pace and to investigate the unusual noise coming from my rear derailleur. After stopping to check it on the edge of town it was clear that the chain was installed incorrectly (my fault) and was rubbing on a stop in the cage. Not wanting to waste time, the repair would have to wait until next control in Maricopa. The plan, to either find a bike shop or make the repair on my own (it would require 'breaking the chain,' reinstalling the chain, and connecting with a fast-link).

Mike caught me outside of town and just after we crested the climb 20 miles later the Fast Canadians flashed by (they had suffered another flat!). We hopped on that train, but after a pull at the front, it was clear my time with this group was over. Dropping back and rolling into Maricopa I would find the group at a Circle K.

No bike shops in town, but the good news was the necessary parts and tools were in my repair kit. After procuring some food (chicken soup and chips) the repair was easy and quick in between bites! The group was ready to leave and offered to wait, but not wanting to maintain their pace and I bid them farewell.

15 minutes later the chain was repaired and I was on my way. (Editor's note: After the ride Mike Cox of Curbside Cyclery showed me how to make this repair without breaking the chain. Simply remove the lower pulley, twist the cage, and reroute the chain, about a 3 min repair!)Winds were light and road conditions were good. After checking in at the control in Stanfield, the route rolls along familiar roads through Casa Grande to Coolidge. With the sun starting to set, hot dog and lemonade cravings set in, all items that can be procured at the Circle K in Coolidge!
Dinner in Coolidge!
Just a short break at Chez Circle K, and after getting the reflective gear on, it was on to the next control in Florence. Another Circle K, another Starbucks Frappiccino, and it was off into the night for the final run through Queen Creek and the finish in Sun Lakes.

Tom Baker was there at the finish and checked me in. I finished in 14 hours and 43 minutes, 10 minutes faster than my previous best 400 km time. Special thanks to Stephen, Paul, Steve, and Mike for dragging me along for the first 200km!

Steve Atkins

Click here for GPS data

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gila Monster 300km Brevet

Ride Report
February 2017

16 riders lined up in the Coolidge Arizona Walmart parking lot for the 2017 edition of the Gila Monster 300km brevet. Roger Peskett (who provided support at Oracle Junction) and Bob Larsen pre-rode the route the previous week to check out the road conditions be available for SAG support during the day.

Carlton leads the Rider Meeting
A relatively civilized start at 0700, but with sunrise at 0721 and temperatures in the 40's, extra layers and reflective gear were the order of the morning. A large contingent of fast riders formed at the start, and happily we settled into a reasonably fast pace and headed out of town toward the first control at Oracle Junction.

Its about 12 miles to the right turn onto AZ77, then its a long 'false flat climb' (2000 feet over 32 miles) before a 5 mile descent to Oracle Junction. With such a large group, each person only needed to take 2 or 3 pulls before we had the top of the hill in sight.

With a change up front about a mile from the top, the pace quickened and I dropped off, too early to burn matches! I was able to keep the group in sight on the descent and arrived at the control just a few minutes behind the lead group.
Carlton and Roger at Oracle Junction
After a quick reload, and peeling off a layer, I left the control and resumed climbing toward Oracle. The lead group was already out of sight and I settled into my own pace. Its another 12 miles of gentle climbing to Oracle, and with the sun out and recent rains, the air was crystal clear with stunning views.
Grassy desert!
Hitting the top at Oracle the road tilts down for about 10-12 miles of 5-7% downgrades, very fast and fun, and with the morning warming up, not too cold. After rolling through Mammoth, I stopped at a paved pullout for a break and to eat some snacks and check in with Debby. It was about this number of miles (different route) where I crashed in last years Vulture Mine 300km Brevet! For some reason Debby requested more frequent check-in texts/calls for the balance of the day.
Nearing Winkelman AZ
The smokestack from the old smelter is visible from nearly 10 miles away, and at its base would be Carlton and the lunch stop.

Carlton carving portions off a 6-foot submarine sandwich
Temperatures were rising, and Carlton suggested picking up an extra water bottle in Kearney since the next water would not be until Superior. After a sandwich, chips and a Coke I was on my way. After a stop at the Dollar Store in Kearney for a water refill, the climbing starts again at the Ray Mine and continues to the 'End of the World' climb.
The Ray Mine
After a short steep punch the climbing eases off and continues up and past the Ray Mine. From this section of the road you can view the vast and colorful Ray Mine works. Not an low impact business by any stretch!
Wash at the base of the EOW climb
The climb is a double dip, so after reaching a false summit the route drops steeply for about a mile before tilting up at 10%+ for a little more than a mile of uphill suffering to the End of the World!
Weavers Needle in the distance, at the EOW summit
Head down, lowest gear, and 20 minutes of uphill grinding are rewarded with a great view of the Superstition Range and the next stop in Superior AZ.

Due to construction on US 60, the route heads into town and down Main Street. I stopped at a grocery in Superior looking for some salt and calories. Chips; check, Starbucks Frappaccino; not stocked but I grabbed a Dunkin Dounuts coffee drink instead.

Leaving Superior, the construction zone only extended a mile or two, then we were treated to the new and improved US 60, divided highway with ample shoulders all the way to the turn around/checkpoint in Gold Canyon.

This was an 'open control' meaning a receipt from any business would suffice. I was craving fries and Coke so it was the Jack-In-The-Box restaurant for me! They must have been gourmet fries, because they took nearly 20 minutes to get! No worries, time to reconfigure the layers, check lights and don the reflective gear for the final run back to Florence and Coolidge.
Fries and a Coke to go!
I rolled out as the sun was nearing the horizon, and was treated with this fantastic sunset at Florence Junction.
Sunset with 25 miles to go
The Coke and fries were a good start. Mix in a Starbuck's Frappaccino from the Florence Circle K (control) and finally I was starting to feel strong again, I was able to hold a strong pace for the last 10 miles of the ride and find Carlton at the finish in the Walmart parking lot. Rolling in about 8:15 PM; that put my total time at 13 hours 15 minutes. Not my fastest time, but after a year off, it was good to get the 300km Monkey off my back!

I grabbed a sandwich for the road and was happy to have this 300km brevet in the books! Thanks Carlton for the great support and putting this route back into the rotation!

Steve Atkins

 Click here for GPS Data

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Saguaro Lake 200km Brevet

Ride Report
January 2017
Mike Sturgill gives the rider brief
Back in the saddle! This is the first brevet on the 2017 Southern Arizona Brevet Series. It also marked my return to brevet riding after last years season ended unexpectedly about about a third of the way into the Vulture Mine 300.

About 45 riders gathered in the Fountain Hills Safeway parking lot for the start of the 100km and 200km events. Many of the usual suspects were at the start. Mike Sturgill, the Trail Boss for the events noted in the rider brief that the start list included RUSA member number 4 (RUSA was founded in 1999) and RUSA member number 11733 (possibly the newest member), a nice mix of experienced and new brevet riders. Mike also introduced Alan Johnson, who would be providing support on Bush Highway and the Cashman park control.

The group rolled out at 7:30am and by the time the riders reached the Beeline Highway, several groups had formed. The lead group was riding at a pace that was a little too hot for my pleasure so about half-way to the Bush Highway turn-off they were off the front and disappearing out of sight.

We were treated to fresh pavement from the Beeline to Saguaro Lake. While still only a two-lane highway, the new surface had 1-2 feet of pavement on the outside of the fog line, and with the sometimes heavy lake traffic, it was very welcome indeed.

Mike Sturgill set up the first checkpoint at the top of Usery Pass, 28 miles into the ride. With cloud cover and a stout breeze from the north, it was quite chilly. Paul Danhaus and his stoker Susanne Stack rolled up on their tandem bike. Paul is from Wisconsin, but participates in many AZ Brevets. We would see each other quite often during the remainder of the day. After a quick bottle reload and visit with Mike and Paul it was back on the road.

The route loops around the Las Sendas Development, descends the world famous King Kong hill and heads northeast along the Salt River to Saguaro Lake and back to the Beeline. This is my favorite section of this route with fantastic mountain, lake and river views. The improved pavement was an added bonus!
Four Peaks in the distance

Hiking/Equestrian trail along the Salt River
Salt River, near Water User access area
Saguaro Lake
Alan set up his SAG stop at the Butcher Jones turnoff, about 48 miles into the ride. Carlton van Leuven was waiting at the stop, he had dropped out of the lead group and was waiting for me so we could ride back to Fountain Hills together.

Once on the Beeline, the wind was at our back and we made quick work to the next control at the Safeway where we started. This was the half-way point for the 200km route, and the finish for the 100km. Included in the entry fee for both was a coupon for a Subway meal deal. Carlton had signed up for the 100km so he packed up and headed back to continue his weekend chores. After checking in with Mike, grabbing a sandwich, chips and a drink, and changing into lighter clothes, it was back on the road.

The route continues through Scottsdale and Phoenix. After the beautiful scenery of the Saguaro Lake area, the many turns, traffic lights, and city traffic, is a little hard to take. The fourth control at Cashman Park is at the north edge of town, and at 89 miles is a welcome stop.

Earlier in the ride Carlton had mentioned that Stephen Kinny's bike had a bottom bracket/crank failure and he had dropped out. Just before arriving at the park, a rider appeared in my rear-view mirror. In no time, Stephen shouted out a hearty hello! In true randonnering spirit he had hitchhiked to several bike shops, found a rental bike, and even more notable, secured the rental without an ID or credit card! He was powering through the field on his way to the finish.

We rolled into the park, expecting volunteer support. Alan was not there and Stephen walked up to table that a mom that was setting up for a girls birthday party. Not noticing the Barbie Birthday cake and thinking the water bottles she was setting out were for us, he walked right up to the table and started to grab a water. She looked horrified, until we shouted out, hey Steve, that is not our SAG!

After apologies and a great laugh, we rolled out together, but Stephen was on a mission to catch up to his mates, and was out of sight in a couple hundred meters!

After a few more turns, the route heads east for about 10 miles of gentle climbing to the next control at the Shell Station/Grocery at Pinnacle Peak. Rolling into the control, Roger Peskett was standing near the door. Roger was with the fast movers and it was surprising to see him there. The surprise disappeared when he showed me his sheared off crank arm. It had failed shortly before the control. He was waiting for another rider to complete his brevet and return to pick him up!

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Roger's failed crank arm
This control required 'proof of passage' so after purchasing a coffee drink, noting the time, putting the receipt in my brevet card, and biding Roger farewell, it was back on the route for the final 21 miles of the route.
Almost there!
Just past the control, the route heads down 9-Mile Hill (Dynamite Road) to the Rio Verde Development before heading south to the finish in Fountain Hills. The wind was really pressing, and normally it is easy to descent at 30+ mph. With a strong crossing headwind from the northeast, it was real work to hold 20+ mph. No complaints though, because at the bottom of the hill where the route turned south, is was easy to hold a strong pace to the finish with a great tailwind!

Rolling into the Safeway, it was surprising to see a half-dozen bikes parked outside. I added my steed to the herd and went inside. Stephen Kenny and his Merry Band of Fast Canadians were holding court with Mike Sturgill at the instore Starbucks. They were giving Stephen the requisite grief for 'making them wait for hours' for him to finish! After signing my brevet card and thanking Mike for another great brevet, it was time to head home.

After nearly a year away from brevet riding, it was good to be back in the saddle and looking forward to the 300km Gila Monster Brevet next month.

Steve Atkins

Click here for Ride with GPS route data