Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gila Monster 300km Brevet

Ride Report
February 1, 2014
Registration at the Coolidge Walmart 
46 riders from 8 states and 2 countries lined up for the inaugural running of the Gila Monster 300km brevet. It was Carlton Van Leuven's birthday (Arizona RBA); and his family volunteered to man controls (Ruth Ann, Stassja, and Nate) and help out today's trail boss, Paul Layton so he could join the peloton for this ride.

Paul gives the riders last minute instructions
This is another new route for the Arizona Brevet series. It is based on Paul Layton's permanent, although at the rider briefing, he said he suggested the route as a joke, and if you don't like the route, its Carton's fault!

We rolled out as one large group at 0700 and headed past the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument into to downtown Coolidge. Several of the riders noticed and appreciated the new pavement on Arizona Boulevard, but turning east on Kenilworth Ave, it was back to the rough stuff to the Pinal Parkway. This section of the route was also part of last year's 300.

Long pace line on Pinal Parkway
The 'climb' up Pinal Parkway is traditionally the place where the big paceline splits apart. It is a steady but gentle grade that goes for about 30 miles. Passing the Tom Mix monument, the grade picks up and generally this is where the pace picks up and the group thins out. As riders were spit out the back one by one, I found myself behind Stephen Kinney of the Speed Theory Team from Alberta Canada. It was his turn at the front, with me in the second position, he turned up the heat. I was hanging on for dear life!

Normally when someone finishes their pull at the front and make their way to the back, I like to say 'nice work' or 'great pull.' When Stephen finished his, all I could say was 'thank God you're done killing us!' I took my turn at the front, and returned to the back of the paceline. Trev Williams flatted shortly thereafter and the Speed Theory team dropped off, much to the relief of us mere mortals.

Traffic was heavier than normal, and after navigating a construction section, we soon reached the control at Oracle Junction. Paul Layton was there to sign our brevet cards and provide water and refreshments. I was in and out of the control quickly and started the next climb to Oracle Arizona. This was a new section of road for me, and it was spectacular. The pace line did not reform as everyone was climbing at their own pace. A few miles out of the control, the Speed Theory team flashed by on the climb and disappeared into the distance.

Oracle, the high point of today's Brevet
The route leaves AZ 77 and continues to climb on American Avenue through the business district of Oracle. I didn't really notice the decrease in the temperature because of the climbing. But once you hit the center of town, the route descends back to AZ 77. In just a few miles I was shivering from the cold, made worse by sweat generated from the climb! I pulled off AZ77 to put my vest, arm warmers, and warm cap back on. Just as I was zipping up Tom Baker flashed by.

Tom Baker on AZ 77 
We were treated to 11 miles of a 7% downgrade. I bridged up to Tom and we worked together all the way to the next control. Work on a downgrade? Yes, the wind was strong and really held us back, especially after reaching Mammoth AZ.

Yes, I have every item of clothing with me on!
Shortly after leaving Mammoth, the route enters a large valley. While Winkelman was still 10 miles off, we could clearly see the large smoke stack from the old Winkelman copper smelter works. The air was crystal clear from the rains that had passed through earlier in the morning. A few miles from the control, we passed the Speed Theory team. They were again on the side of the road repairing a flat, we slowed to make sure they were good and continued to the control. I later joked with Stephen at the next control that his team had hit a least 3 of the 4 stop sticks we put out last night! Flat tires were the only thing that slowed those guys down today!

Ruth Ann and Stassja Van Leuven at the Winkelman control 
Quite a few riders were there enjoying the ample refreshments provided by Ruth Ann. From homemade sandwich wraps to the Starbucks Frappachino's there was something for everyone. I quickly reloaded my bottles and slammed down a Frappachino. Carlton rolled in just behind me, but he wanted to take a long break.

Speed Theory guys at the Winkelman Control
I left and as I was chowing down a Honey Stinger waffle rolling through Winkelman, a small group formed (Roger Peskett and Toby Jones from Tucson, and Tom Baker). We worked together into the wind to the base of the climb at the Ray works. I dropped off for a natural break and settled into my own pace as the rest of the group headed into the distance.

ASARCO Ray Works
The End of the World climb is a 'double dip' affair. After 6 or so miles of climbing and the passing the Ray mine, the climb tilts up to 10% for a mile, crests a saddle and drops again at 10% for another mile. After coasting through a small valley the road turns up and left for a little more than a mile of 10-14% grades! Nate Van Leuven set up a water stop and warning signs for drivers to watch for bicyclists on the road. Nate flashed a thumbs up as I passed through.

Roger waiting at the top!
I made up some of the distance on Toby, Roger, and Tom on the first pitch, and with my triple chainring, I was able to finally bridge up to them as we reached the top of the climb. It was back on Tom's wheel as we rode into Superior. Tom said that it was 36 years ago that he won the Mining Country Century by cresting the climb with a three bike length lead and 'whipping it with everything I had to hold off the field' to the finish in Superior. By the time we rolled into Superior we were again freezing and stopped at the Circle K for water and to put layers back on again!

Gonzales Pass, last climb of the day

Roger and Toby flashed by while we had stopped, so Tom and I worked together up and over Gonzales Pass and into Gold Canyon for the control at the Basha's store.

Superstition Mountains from US 60
We arrived at Bashas' to find Roger guarding their bikes while Toby pulled receipts and purchased supplies inside the store. Tom and I also did a quick reload and we rolled out in time to catch them at the light at US 60 for the return to Coolidge. We formed a 4 man pace line and made good time out of town. While the shoulder is relatively new, the designers did not seem to account for guardrails placed over washes. They were place such that every half mile, or so it seemed, the guard rails 'pinched' the riders off the shoulder and back onto the main road. We would hug the fog line and jump back on the shoulder when the guard rails ended.

As we neared Florence Junction, Roger and Toby dialed up the pace, Tom dropped off first with some stomach problems and I backed off to a more comfortable pace. About half-way to Florence I saw Roger and Toby roadside fixing a flat, I continued on and soon rolled into Florence.

After missing a turn in downtown Florence and returning to the route, I reached AZ 287 for the last 8 miles of the event. I was heading due west into the setting sun. The shoulder was rough, but I was able to switch on my lights and put on my reflective vest back on without stopping. With a few miles to go, the faint outlines of the big box store that was the finish came into view.

I was greeted by Paul Layton and his daughter and hot pizza! Tom rolled in a few minutes later followed by Toby and Roger.

It was a great day on the bike. Thanks to Carlton, Paul and their families for organizing and putting on a great ride.

Next month: Around the Bend 400km!

Steve Atkins