Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 Gila River Valley 200km Brevet

Ride Report
February 16, 2013

Tom Baker leading the rider meeting
Tom Baker added this great route to the AZ Brevet Calendar along with the Around the Bend 400km last year. I rode them both last year and enjoyed the new routes, especially with the start only 20 minutes from the house! Both are on the calendar this year, but I was planning on riding only the 400 in two weeks. With the 400km only two weeks away, and my schedule keeping me off the bike last weekend and next, I needed to put in a long base ride.

Lonnie "Epic" Wolff was in town with his wife for the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and managed somehow to slip his bike into the horse trailer and signed up for the ride. Dick Wiss and Carlton van Leuven were on the rider list, so this really was going to be just a long training ride with a few friends. That was my story and with my kitchen pass secured I signed up on Wednesday and was at the Basha's Shopping Center at Power and Chandler Heights Roads at 0630 Saturday morning.

On the Hunt Highway - Tom Baker Photo
Everyone was ready to go with a few minutes to spare so Tom went over the route, controls, and warned the group that our route would be sharing the road with a cycling race for a few miles on AZ187 outside of Sacaton. At 0700 the group rolled out to get this one started. The pack rolled out as one group and I settled in with Lonnie, Carlton, and Dick happy to cruise along at an easy pace with the rest of the group. There were three fast recumbent riders and they came around and picked up the pace. So after a mile or so of 17-18 mph warm-up riding, the group accelerated to 20+ mph and held that pace for the first hour of riding to Sacaton. With the large group, even at the fast pace, we were able to enjoy great conversation. The best was the discussion surrounding the term "Epic" when describing a ride. Lonnie "Epic" Wolff pointed out that only a certain level of suffering, injury, and/or duress could make a ride an "Epic." While many rides may be remarkable, only a few are true "Epics." With that settled, most of the group stayed to together, all the way to Sacaton.

Rolling out of the Casa Grande Control
The group shattered on the small climb out of Sacaton. Carlton, Mike Barbour, and Clint Wisdom went off the front while the rest of the group spread way out on the road. Carl sat up and waited for me and I bridged us up to Mike and Clint. By the time we reached the 187 Dick Wiss had joined us and the five of us formed a line on the much busier than normal 187. Stage 2 of The Valley of the Sun Road Race was also on the road (running the opposite direction) and we saw two or three groups of riders heading in our direction. AZ387 was closed for the race which put most of traffic on 187.

A fast descent had us at the second control in Casa Grande. Tom was already there to sign our brevet cards, so we checked in and rolled over to the McDonalds for some drinks and an opportunity to shed some layers. Another group was only a few minutes behind and rolled in for the same routine.

Tom at the Florence Information Control
We rolled through Casa Grande on one of the Brevet trade routes, Trekell Road. It is a direct shot through town, but most of the road surface is in bad shape. So imagine twelve or so riders dodging in and out of traffic, potholes, and simulated pave! A left turn puts us on AZ84 for the 12 mile run to Eloy and the next Control. Trains, traffic, and a building headwind again split the group, but we regrouped to reload drinks and answer the control question on our card (for proof of passage) at the Eloy Circle K.

Dick and Carlton at the Florence Control
The building headwind on 84 became a nice quartering tailwind for the next 12 miles toward Coolidge. Dana Lieberman flashed by on his disk-wheeled recumbent and Mike, Clint, Carlton, Dick, and I hopped on as he took a 6 mile monster pull. We held a great pace between 22-25 mph on that section, but all good tailwinds come to an end! The wind shifted from the south-east to due east first becoming a strong cross-wind, then a block headwind and the route turned east! We dialed back the pace as we pressed into the wind. The 5 upright riders organized into rotating pace line, with Dana behind us. But with the gusting wind we had difficulty holding a consistent pace so he dropped off.
Florence Control - Tom Baker photo
We finally turned north for the slight downhill run to the next control at the Old Florence Highway. Traffic was light and we were able to form an echelon to combat the crosswind. The ever-present Tom Baker was at the fourth Control to sign our cards. With a HUGE tailwind, we were soon among the security fences and guard towers that is the Arizona State Prison at Florence!
Carlton and Dick, happy to be on this side of the fence!

We stopped at the Circle K in Florence to reload our bottles and have a snack for the final 36 miles of this one! The Circle K was rocking with the noon Saturday lunch rush! Dana rolled in while we were there and we rolled out together.

Mike, Dick, and Clint in Florence
We were still enjoying the strong tailwind, as we left town, but with it would soon become a strong cross wind on some narrow busy roads. With no where to hide and with Dana, Mike, and Clint picking up the pace, I told Carlton and Dick I was going to let them go and we agreed to dial back our pace. Soon we were in the Anthem development in Queen Creek where the roads widened to allow us an echelon again, but the route turned east, for one more pull into the wind!

Stopped at the last information control
The rest of the route 'sawtooths' north and west to the finish. So we would have a couple miles of tailwind, followed by a couple miles of crosswind on mostly rough narrow farm roads.We left the farm roads and entering Chandler, we came upon Mike and Clint fixing a flat, they had everything they needed, so we pressed on.

Thankfully the last 6 miles were westbound, so we had a gentle push to the end of the route. Dana was already there, and Tom was manning the final control. Clint and Mike rolled in a few minutes behind us.We signed our cards, complained about the wind, packed our bikes, and headed home.
All smiles at the end!

It was another great day on the bike, riding with old friends and meeting new ones. The conditions were good and the company was excellent! We made great time, 7 hours 31 minutes. A few minutes faster than last year. (Ride with GPS Details) Also, my nutrition plan (Hammer SE/Pepsi, Shot Bloks, and Honey Waffles) worked great. I was able to ingest 395 calories per hour during the ride, a personal best! No bonk and plenty of power at the end.

In the parking lot, Carlton noted we'll be back in two weeks for the Around the Bend 400. Yeah, just think, at this point in two weeks time, we'll only be half finished!!

Tom says,  "I didn't have anything to do with the wind!"
Here are Gerry Elam's , Lonnie "Epic" Wolff's, and Dana Lieberman's blogs for different viewpoints of the ride.

Steve Atkins

Monday, February 4, 2013

2013 Saguaro National Park 300km Brevet

Ride Report
February 2, 2013

Susan Plonsky gives the rider briefing
The truck and bike were packed Friday night and all my gear was ready to go. The alarm went off at 0405, coffee made, dressed and I was on my way to pick up Carlton van Leuven at 0420. He was ready to go and we arrived in Casa Grande a short 40 minutes later. After a stop at the 24 hour Wal Mart we arrived at the Round Trip Bike Shop in plenty of time for the start of the 2013 edition of the Saguaro National Park 300km Brevet.

The first order of business after checking in is to decide how much clothing to wear/carry on the bike. The forecast was for mild to warm weather later in the day, but the predawn temperature was still in the low forties. Plus it is always colder outside Casa Grande, and especially in Coolidge. I decided to go with shoe covers, leg warmers, base, jersey, vest, arm warmers, and long gloves. I almost passed on the shoe covers, but Carlton convinced me to put them on and I was glad I did. It was the perfect combination for the first segment to the Tom Mix controle on the Pinal Parkway.

Lonnie 'Epic' Wolff
Susan Plonsky, RUSA Brevet Administrator provided the rider briefing a few minutes before 6 am to 40 plus randonnuers that were ready to go at the Round Trip Bike Shop. The owner opens his store early to provide a base, rest room, and meeting hall. And by the number of brand new reflective ankle bands I noticed (required for a pre-dawn start) on a few riders, a chance to pick up a last minute cycling need or two.

Many of the usual suspects had gathered for this one and it was great to catch up with Lonnie Wolff from Utah and Dick Wiss from Colorado, and other riders from previous brevets. Scott and Ryan were leading a group of Extreme Picnickers, but we rolled out before I had a chance to say hello!

At 0600 Susan fired up the Brevetmobile and provided the lead out that includes a loop south to pick up a few miles before heading north out of town. A very thoughtful route design, because adding a few mile loop before you get started is no big deal. Having to ride past the finish at the end of a brevet would be almost as mind-bending as having to ride the I-10 Frontage Road!

A group of 7 or so formed and we were off the front by the time we reached McCartney road at the edge of town. We rode at a reasonable pace and were soon over the 'pass,' riding past the dairy farms, and descending into Coolidge. As usual, it was cooler than Casa Grande but hardly noticeable with the spectacular pre-dawn sky we were treated to! Coolidge passed by in a flash and we continued to work well together to the first controle at the Tom Mix Monument on Pinal Parkway.

Gerry Goode was one of the volunteers manning this stop and it was quite enjoyable catching up with him. Over the years, Gerry and I have teamed up on several brevets and he rode the Casa Grande 200 on both occasions that my sons Mark and Michael joined me for this nonsense. So as I busily checked in, reloaded my bottles, and stripped off a few layers and my shoe covers, I gave Gerry a quick update on how the boys are doing.

Carlton at the Tangerine Circle K
After being left behind at this controle, and having to chase down the group on more than one occasion on previous brevets, I have learned to move fast at this controle! I was just putting my bottles on the bike as the first few riders rolled out, I jumped in and four of us were off. We sat up and waited for Carlton, Karl, and Mike to rejoin us. A few miles from the controle we were groupo compacto and the 'fun' began. The road steepens and the cross-winds picked up as the strong men in the group picked up the pace. Mike was the first to go, and as Carlton and I hung on by a thread; Stephen Kenny thankfully dialed back the pace and we formed a double pace line to work through the wind.

Steve Kenny contemplating Gates Pass
Wrap Time at Kinney Road
We reached the 'top' just as I was about lose contact from the group, but was able to hang on and recover somewhat on the descent into the Rancho Vistoso area. Once we hit the rollers on the wide roads of this planned community, I started to yo-yo off the back. Just as I lost contact, a motorist made a U-turn in front of the group as they were turning onto Moore Road, causing everyone to stop. Being safely behind the group, I was able to roll through chaos and in an act of sheer desperation, went to the front of the group to take a pull and try to cool the pace down a little! Carlton and I shared pulls to the Circle K a few miles later and we stripped off layers, reloaded our bottles, and slathered on some sunscreen!

Susan's Brevetmobile
We were rewarded with some easy descending on Twin Peaks road until we reached Silverbell road. Much of the Silverbell has been improved over the years, but some sections are quite rough and traffic was heavy. The pace seemed to pick up and I worked hard to hold on and stay with the group,  but decided to drop off and climb at my own pace when we turned on Sweetwater and started the climbing to Gates Pass.

Carlton noticed I had dropped and fell back to keep me company on the climb. The weather was perfect and once I dialed it back to my own pace it was a very enjoyable climb as we admired the awesome views of saguaro cactus and awesome desert mountain views. Traffic seemed quite heavy on the last climb up the pass, but luckily no cars overtook us as we cleared the summit, so we had a unobstructed downhill blast to the next controle at the Kinney Road Parking lot.
No sammy for me today

We rolled in while the rest of the group was already into their first sandwiches provided by Susan Plonsky. I decided to pass on the sandwiches, but refilled my water bottles and grabbed a Coke. After visiting and catching up with Susan I was ready to go before my legs got too stiff! Calton joined me and we rolled out, figuring the strong men would catch us before we got to Marana.

Mark Mandell caught us as soon after we left the controle, and Brian McQuire caught us while we refilled our water bottles at the Circle K in Marana. We decided to take 1 mile pulls into the building headwinds, and with our 4 man group working at a steady pace we soon were passing Picacho Peak and looking forward the fresh pavement that was ahead of us.

At this pace we figured we would be in before sunset, and with a shot of finishing under 11 hours, Brian and Mark picked up the pace a little, but that was a little too hot for Carlton, so he dropped off. The banana I ate in Marana was not sitting well so I was more than happy to dial it back a little as I dropped back to join him as Brian and Mark headed off to shoot for a 5 pm finish. Carlton and I figured we could easily get in under 12 hours, so we backed it off and started trading pulls.

We were there!
With Carlton doing most of the work, soon we were at the Circle K in Eloy topping off our bottles for the final run to Casa Grande. The winds were not particularly strong, but were generally right on our noses from Marana to Eloy and quite annoying. Combine that with rough road, heavy freeway and train traffic, and enjoying scenic Eloy by day; it all adds up to 30 miles of severe brain damage!

With an unremarkable 8 miles to the next controle, and 11 more to the finish, we each took one mile pulls into the cross-wind and pulled in to the Round Trip Bike shop at 11 hours and 24 minutes after we started. We packed the bikes, signed our cards and were ready to go a few minutes after we arrived. A passer-by asked to borrow Carlton's cell phone to arrange a ride to 'a meeting' and he obliged. She wrapped up her call and we pointed the Suburban back toward Phoenix and headed home.

It was a great day on the bike with strong riders and good friends. We both wished that somehow this route could be done without the I-10 Frontage Road of Brain Damage!

My trusty steed, and a daytime finish!