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