Sunday, November 3, 2013

Heart of Arizona 200km Brevet

Ride Report

The Heart of Arizona, presented by the Bullshifters Bicycle Club, is actually three rides in one! This year about 18 riders signed up for the RUSA sanctioned 200km Brevet (124 miles), 75 rode the traditional Century (about 100 miles), and 20 rode the 44 mile 'Fun' ride up Yarnell Hill to the Kirkland Junction SAG and back.

Last year we miscalculated the drive time to Congress AZ and arrived more than an hour before the start. This year, I arrived just 10 minutes before the start of the 200km Brevet! I quickly checked in, collected my swag (great wool socks that match last years wool arm warmers - Thanks Bullshifters!!), assembled the bike, and rolled to the start with 3 minutes to spare.

Mike Sturgill was the RUSA trail boss today and the brevet riders rolled out at 7 am. It seemed like only about half the riders were ready, but with a slight quartering tailwind we rolled out for the 6 mile run to US 93.

Looking forward to a great day on the bike
While we rolled out together, the group didn't organize, and with a few riders way out in front, I settled into a nice solo pace. The temperature was perfect (low 50s) and winds were forecast to be light. The plan for today was to enjoy some scenic riding at a base pace. My only other goal was to try and minimize my time at the control/SAG stops. After a nice 6 mile warm up, the route turns north on to US93, aka. Joshua Tree Forest Parkway. The road lived up to its nickname as soon the highway cut into a forest of beautiful Joshua Trees.

Joshua Tree Forest in AZ!
Traffic was light, which was good, because a few times the narrow shoulder disappears. The wind was building from the right, so with a cross wind from the right, traffic gusts from the left, and less than 12 inches of shoulder to work with for much of this section, it was a relief to reach the descent to the first SAG at the Santa Maria River!

The Bullshifters break out the best for the SAG stops on this ride. At SAG #1 in addition to the regular fare, one of the members, Nana served hot roasted potatoes, perfectly prepared according to Jim Pettett's recipe! I ate a few and put more into an empty Carbo-Pro baggie for some hot yummy pocket food to enjoy later!
Nana's Hot Potatoes
As I rolled into SAG #1 another group of about 8 riders was rolling out? At first I thought it was from a different ride, but later figured out they were on the Century ride starting early. In any case, I was out of the SAG in 4 minutes and with a warm pocket I started the long climb to the Control #1 in Bagdad. Turning east on AZ97 the winds picked up to a full headwind. Mix in steep rollers and the group that was in front shattered, and I eventually caught the lead riders just before turning on AZ 96 to Bagdad.

Copper Wire Sculpture at Bagdad AZ
With the change in direction, and the venturi effect of riding up a drainage, the headwind became a nice tailwind and I was soon at the Convenience store in Bagdad. I reloaded my bottles and asked the clerk for her autograph on my brevet card. I stripped off my base layer and knee warmers, slathered on another layer of sunscreen and rolled out in under 10 minutes! The group of century riders must have decided to visit Bagdad since they were regrouping across from the store.

Rolling back down AZ96 I waved at the other brevet riders heading up to the first Control. A few of the century riders passed me on the descent and we played leapfrog to SAG #2. Being only 8 miles from Bagdad, and with full bottles, I rode through.

On the 7.6 mile climb toward Hillside AZ

With a bunch of folks stopped at the SAG#2, I had the road to myself for most of the climb to Hillside and the next SAG. A century rider caught me near the top and we visited as we rolled into SAG#3. With one bottle empty, and 28 miles to the Control at Wilhoit, I decided to stop and refill.

Happily, this SAG was stocked with Mountain Dew, so while a helpful Bullshifter volunteer held my bike, I quickly mixed a Carbo-Pro/Mountain Dew bottle, I was out in under 3 minutes!
Huge winds, great views outside Kirkland AZ
The route descends toward Kirkland AZ and turns south. The winds continued to build and the next 20 miles were right into it. There were a couple of century riders up the road and picking up the pace, I bridged up and joined them. We each took a couple of pulls but they were riding too hard for my taste, so I dropped back into my pace and let them go. With the headwind, my goal of riding base pace was out the window, because to keep any momentum in these conditions a tempo pace was necessary (like riding up a long hill). At least views were awesome, the cottonwood trees were just starting to turn and the craggy mountains gave me something to think about other than the wind!

I caught the two riders I let go and few others over the next 15 miles. With one mile before the Brevet route turned toward Wilhoit, I noticed a train had formed behind me! I let them pull through and headed north east for the 5.8 mile climb to Wilhoit. With the turn, a nice quartering tailwind pushed me toward the control at the Wilhoit Grocery Store. It was quite busy with locals. The owner was there and she was very interested in the ride and what riders might need at the store. I purchased a gallon of water, Mountain Dew, and a Starbucks Double Shot. I explained that my Carbo-Pro/Soda mix and pocket food (Shot Blocks and Potatoes) was working well today. On longer rides, or where things weren't going so well in the digestion department,  I went through my list of typical convenience store fare: Campbells Chunky Soup, chocolate milk, baked beans, Starbucks Frapachinno, potato chips. She confirmed that all of those items were in stock! She wished me well and I rolled out in under 10 minutes.

The route descends 800 feet in under 6 miles, so even with the wind, I made great time. Just before rejoining the main route, I waved as the other brevet riders were starting their climb to the control.
Ranch in Peeples Valley
The last SAG is at the bottom of the hill where the brevet route rejoins the century route. I stopped to say hello to Jim Pettett, but he was too busy making Root Beer Floats! Did I say the Bullshifters have the most awesome SAGs!

Leaving the SAG, it was back into the wind for the climb to Peeples Valley. Named for a prospecter from the 1860's this beautiful valley promises an afternoon headwind for the 5 or so miles to Yarnell. This year did not disappoint!  Glancing down at the computer while tucked into my areobars, my heart rate was at anaerobic threshold and riding on flat ground, I was going at a blistering 13 mile per hour pace!

The steep rollers outside Yarnell provided some respite from the wind, but built again rolling through town. Finally, reaching the downhill warning sign, I pointed my trusty steed downhill for the 6 mile 1800 foot E-ticket descent. Winds were fierce and my speed was held back because of it, but the road surface was good, and even with the fun turns, I was able to keep my speed above the posted limit of 35!

After ride barbeque
I rolled into the finish at 3:32 p.m.,  8 hours and 32 minutes after I started, Mike Sturgill signed my brevet card and said I was the first brevet rider to finish.

It was a great day on the bike, but I was very happy to put this one in the bag! I rode at a harder pace than planned because of the wind, but was able to keep the total stop time at 26 minutes for two control and two SAG stops.

I slipped out of my shoes and helmet, grabbed a plate and enjoyed the hospitality and company of the Bullshifters Bicycle Club! Thanks again for a great event!

Steve Atkins

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