Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saguaro Lake 200km Brevet

Ride Report
January 4, 2014

About 60 riders gathered in the parking lot of the Albertson's grocery at Desert Ridge Mall in north Phoenix for the inaugural running of the Saguaro Lake 200km Brevet. This was the first event run by Arizona's new RUSA Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), Carlton van Leuven. Mike Sturgill was the Trail Boss for this event, and today's route is based on his Saguaro permanent. Mike and Carlton pre-rode the course last week so they could organize and support the main event!
Mike and Carlton at the Start
It was chilly (for us Arizonans) at the start, about 45 degrees, as we gathered at the Albertson's parking lot at the Desert Ridge Mall in north Phoenix. Many of the usual suspects were preparing their machines for the ride and rolled to the sign-in area for the rider briefing. Carlton asked for a show of hands for those who would be riding their first brevet this morning, there were a few hands cautiously raised in the air! We rolled out as a group, lead out by Carlton in his brevet mobile at precisely 0730!
Carlton giving the rider briefing
As we rolled out, I glanced down at my Garmin computer and noticed it was not registering my movement, crap, it was set for my other bike! I quickly adjusted the bike settings and within a half mile, it was functioning correctly. I looked up to say hello to Paul Layton, but a fast group was forming and they were already off the front. I hit the gas. Luckily there were a few turns before we hit the open road and I was able to quickly bridge the gap.

About 15 riders were in the front, including Stephen Kenny, Trev Williams, and Paul Anderson. These fast Canadian riders ride from the Speed Theory racing team have come to Arizona for winter training the last several years. They say it beats training in the basement! But whenever they join the front group, the pace and suffering increases! Kurt Smith, a former teammate from San Tan Racing decided today would be a good day for a brevet. Dick Wiss from Colorado, Tom Baker from Chandler, and Roger Peskett from Tucson were also in the group.

We stayed together until we hit the first hill on aptly named Dynamite Road. Once we crossed Pima road, and the grade increased, the group blew apart. It was only a few miles to the control at the Shell Station at Alma School Road. Volunteers manned the control, so I was able to check in without getting a receipt in the store. Most of the group stopped, but since we were only 17 miles into the ride, I decided to head straight out and refill my bottles at the next control.

I caught Kurt Smith and Roger Peskett, just before we started the 10 mile descent to Rio Verde. Kurt had been giving me grief about not taking a pull at the front, and since neither Kurt or Roger had aero bars on their machines, I moved to the front, tucked into my aero bars, and pointed my trusty steed down Rio Verde Road. Winds were absent, so we were able to hold a steady 30+ mph pace all the way to the bottom. Once we made the turn at the bottom, the Canadians caught us from behind, wondering how we got in front!

Of course the pace quickened and I was able to hold on until the steep climbs into Fountain Hills popped me out of the back of the group. But with all the traffic lights, I was able to catch the group several times, before they would leave me on the next hill!

We pulled into the control at Fountain Hills only a few minutes after it opened. Mike Sturgill was there to check us in. So after a quick stop in the Circle K for a natural break, a Frappachino, and to peel off the first layer of kit, I was back on the road. I again caught a couple of riders including Roger Peskett on the descent to the Verde River. After a pull, I noticed my front tire started to feel a little mushy, then clearly it was FLAT! I pulled off and had the tire repaired in about 10 minutes. A number of riders passed by during the repair, but they all slowed down to make sure I was OK and had the necessary equipment. I had everything I needed, but I am sure that every one would have stopped if I needed help. That is the true spirit of randonneuring! 

Back on the bike I caught Dick Wiss and another rider from the Bullshifters Club. We started working together and soon swept up Tom Baker. Our group of 4 made great time up the Beeline and down to Saguaro lake. Dick flatted shortly after crossing the Verde river, he told us to go on and dropped off. He would have two more flats during the rest of the ride! We continued on to the base of the Usury pass climb. Once the climbing began we all settled into our own pace (translation: I dropped off and let the group go ahead). 

Mike Enfield and Carlton at the Usury Shooting Range control
The next control was at the top of Usury Pass at the shooting range. Carlton set up a control with water, supplies, and was checking in riders. Mike Enfield, a RUSA veteran out for a training ride was there, and I spent a few extra minutes catching up! Not needing any supplies, I completed the paperwork and headed to the next control at the Subway at McDowell and Power Roads.

Carlton and Mike had arranged free 6 inch Subway sandwich meals as part of the entry fee. Mike Sturgill was there again, so I checked in with him and refilled my water bottles. I decided to skip the solid lunch and head back out. Since the fast Canadians, and Kurt Smith were far out of sight, and a bunch of the other lead riders were enjoying a sandwich, I had the road to my self.

Solo Riding; Four Peaks, from the Bush Highway
I caught Tom Baker shortly after passing the Salt River Recreation Site, and we worked together to the next checkpoint at the Saguaro Lake Marina. We answered the control question, and headed back out to the highway. It was quite a steep climb back to the highway.
Saguaro Lake from the Marina control
Back on the road, some more steep climbing leads to a false flat that lasts for several miles. Just a few miles from the Beeline highway the road climbs and takes a couple of twists. I could see about a mile ahead of us a few cars were gathering at that spot, not a good sign. No emergency vehicles were there yet that we could see. Five minutes later, we arrived just as two Sheriff's Deputies pulled up to assess the scene. They quickly blocked both lanes of traffic.We continued past, riding quietly on the opposite shoulder of the highway. A motorcycle rider was laying on his back and bike in the ditch. We would find out later that he had a heart attack, was able to stop his bike, but he collapsed and died before help arrived. The Sheriff's Department closed the highway to traffic both ways, just as we were passing through!

Tom and I continued on and stopped at the Beeline Highway overpass to call Carlton and let him know that the road was closed. The closure trapped him and a group of riders for up to an hour at the scene.
Tom Baker on the Bush highway/Beeline Overpass
I love the descent on the Beeline, and even with a quartering headwind, the traffic draft and downhill allowed us to cover the miles back to Fountain Hill at 28-30+ mph! It was a good thing Tom and I were riding together, because I almost missed the turn off the Beeline. We worked together to the control in Fountain Hills. This was the only control that was not manned by volunteers, so we pulled a receipt at the convenience store. Tom decided to take a short break, and I headed out alone for the last long climb up Palisades Boulevard to Shea. From there it was mostly downhill, luckily the route exited Shea at 132nd street and made its way to Thompson Peak Parkway. Waiting for a light to change, Tom rolled up, and we rode the last 10 or so miles together to the finish.

It was great to have his company and a second opinion for all the turns as we picked our way past the TPC, Princess Resort, and the Mayo Clinic. Carlton caught us few miles from the finish in his Brevet mobile to encourage us on.

Tom and I rolled into the parking lot 7 hours and 57 minutes after we started. Mike and Carlton had set up the final control at the Einsteins Bagel Shop patio. The Fast Canadians and Kurt Smith were sitting around (they arrived about an hour before us!) and cheered us on to the finish. We pulled up chairs and shared tales of the ride.

Carlton and Mike at the Finish Control, just a bit warmer than the start!
It was a great ride! Carlton Van Leuven, our new RBA, and Mike Sturgill did a great job. Other RUSA volunteers were ever present to support this awesome event. Carlton warned us there would be more climbing on this brevet, but with the awesome scenery and perfect weather we hardly noticed the 6,500 + of climbing!

Looking forward to the next new Brevet on the calendar, the Gila Monster 300km. More climbing on some of my favorite roads, the brevet season is off to a great start! Join us!

Steve Atkins

Click here for my GPS details from the ride.

Steve Atkins