Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 Around the Bend 400km Brevet

March 2018
Ride Report

Riders assemble at the start
17 riders were on the start list for this one, and with two riders checking out the course earlier in the week, that made for a small group setting out from Sun Lakes AZ Basha's parking lot! Tom Baker would be the Trail Boss with pre-rider Roger Peskett helping out at the lunch control in Gila Bend. The forecast called for a perfect winter day in AZ in the mid-70's with light, potentially favorable, winds during the day.
Tom Baker provides the pre-ride brief
We were all checked in and with a short a pre-ride brief, Tom Baker says, "well its 6 a.m., you guys should get going!" And we were off.

We rolled out in the predawn darkness with temperatures in the low 40's, but just a few miles in we riding through irrigated fields on the Gila Indian reservation. What started as a reasonable warm-up pace became a race for warmth as the temperatures continued to drop (the Garmin recorded a low of 30 in this section) and the pace continued to climb. The course continued through wide-open desert on Beltline road until reaching Laveen with more agricultural sections interrupted by random housing developments until we reached the next control in Buckeye Arizona.
At the first information control in Buckeye
The first control was an information control (answer a question on the brevet card), but since Tom Baker was already there, and there was a taco food truck across the street, the peloton rolled over and refilled bottles and soon we were back on our westward journey toward Palo Verde.
Straight, flat, and with a tailwind
The winds had been quite favorable, but began to shift from the east to south causing some cross-wind. Just past Palo Verde and before the rollers leading to Gillespie dam, the pace was too hot for me and leaders disappeared into the distance!
Gillespie Dam Bridge
Gillespie Dam marks the spot where the road turns south toward Gila Bend, and the winds were right on the nose and would swirl from the west or south for the remainder of the day.
Just add water!

The route follows Old US 80. The highway was resurfaced in recent years, has relatively light traffic, and wide-open views. The views are mostly agricultural as we are following the path of the Gila River, but a few solar farms, one planned community (including gate and entrance with no visible homes), and the Arizona Shrimp Farm add some variety and distraction from the headwind!

Solar farm: Less water, more power!
Just a mile before Gila Bend, the route heads due west on a secondary road that included about 500 meters of hard packed gravel. No flats here, thank you, and with a few more turns, it was back on the pavement and the lunch control at Gila Bend.

Tom Baker and Roger Peskett were overseeing a great lunch spread in the shade and on the picnic tables at the convenience store. Time to strip off a layer, lather up the sunscreen, reload the bottles and grab some calories.

Pushing back out on the road, the route heads up through the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The road parallels the Santa Fe rail line on a steady 1-2% grade for about 20 miles. The wind was favorable, especially when the freight trains rolled by (about every 30-45 minutes or so). Finally reaching the top, a slight downgrade carries you to Maricopa.
On the Climb toward Maricopa
The shoulder disappears but with the tail wind it was easy hold 20+ mph on this section. Several groups of motorcycles passed by, some giving more room than others! Glancing in the rear-view, it looked like another group, so preparing for the next burst of Harley noise, it was surprising to hear the familiar "ding-ding" of a bike bell. It was Paul and Jennifer Danhaus on their tandem taking full advantage of the wind and downgrade, blowing by at 25+ mph. They were gone before I even thought of jumping on board that train!

Rolling into Maricopa, it was time to reload the bottles and get some food. Paul Foley pulled out just as I arrived at the Circle K to pick up some water and a Frappuccino. Not an official control, but at about 150 miles, a good place for a break.

The route heads south, and the friendly quartering tailwind alternated to a quartering headwind for the next 15 miles to the informational control at Stanfield. The route is flat, straight, and once outside of Maricopa, there is one Indian Casino and lots of agriculture all the way to Stanfield.

Information control in Stanfield
The control at Stanfield was another informational control so no receipt was necessary. Paul Foley was there and suggested we ride together. He had some extra water, so I topped off the bottles and we headed right back out targeting our next stop in Coolidge.

It was great to have some company and share some stories as we made our way through Casa Grande. This was Paul's first time on this course, so with him taking most of the pulls, and me providing the local route knowledge we kept rolling.

Coolidge is less then 10 miles from the Florence control, but with empty bottles we stopped for a quick top-off and were back on the road for the quick run to Florence.
Paul Foley on the Adamsville road to Florence
The sun was setting as we hit Adamsville road, just outside of Florence, featuring contrasting views of the Superstition Mountains in the distance, old Florence, and the Arizona State Prison!
Sunset from our 'table' at Chez Circle K
The Florence Circle K was our planned dinner stop. I was craving a hot dog, and even though they were out of buns, I still procured the tubular delight, protein style, with some chips washed down with a Mountain Dew. As we were getting ready to head out, Paul and Jennifer Danhaus rolled in on their tandem. They had taken a long break at the Starbucks in Maricopa!
Paul Danhaus and Paul Foley get reflective
We used the break time to don the reflective gear, arm and leg warmers, and set out for the final run through Queen Creek to Sun Lakes. While a little warm at first, as we headed back into the rapidly cooling desert, and then the even cooler farms of Queen Creek, it was the right call.

Back into the urban sprawl for the last 12 miles on Riggs road, we hit about half of the traffic lights, but with the slight downgrade, and little or no wind we made great time to the final control at the Sun Lakes Basha's grocery store.

We arrived 14 minutes after 9 pm, putting this one in the books at 15 hours; 14 minutes. With no volunteers in sight, we congratulated each other on getting this one done. It is always great to have some company for the night riding and companionship to keep up the forward momentum. Thanks Paul!

After grabbing a receipt at the closest store, this one was officially in the books!

Next up is the Scorpion 600!

Steve Atkins

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