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

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