Sunday, March 26, 2017

Around the Bend 400km Brevet

Ride Report
March 2017

The third installment of the 2017 AZ Brevet series featured the return of Around the Bend 400km, with a twist, or rather a reversal. Its the same Tom Baker route run the past several years, but to change it up, the start was moved to Sun Lakes (from Casa Grande) and the direction reversed. We would head west toward Buckeye and Goodyear, then south to Gila Bend. From there, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Florence, Queen Creek, and finally back to Sun Lakes.

15 or so riders arrived at the start, and after an informal rider brief; Tom Baker says, "OK its 6 am, you guys can get started" and before a photo could be taken, we were off. 5 riders and a Tandem formed a fast group and that bolted westbound on Riggs road.
Fast movers on Riggs/51st Ave
The group fell into a fast pace, but with calm winds and a pancake flat course we maintained a 21+ mph pace. Paul and Jennifer on a tandem would get gapped at traffic lights, but for the most part we stayed together to the informational control in Goodyear.

Tom was there with water, snacks, and signed our control cards. With the temperatures rising, we stowed the layers and reflective gear and rolled out toward old US 80.
Lush farmland in the Gila River basin
Rollers just before Gillespie Dam

Gillespie Dam Bridge
After a couple of short rollers we crossed the 'Gila' at the Gillespie Dam Bridge. More pancake flat riding on mostly recently repaved roads meant our pace stayed well above 20 mph!
100 miles under 5 hours!
Just a few miles from the control, the route leaves US 80 and takes a back road loop on a rough patch of pavement. Paul flatted along here and Mike and I continued to the control stop. We arrived before Carlton, and a little later the Fast Canadians arrived after two flat repairs!
Gila Bend Control with Carlton
Figuring that the group would catch me on the climb to Maricopa, I set out early to ride at a easier pace and to investigate the unusual noise coming from my rear derailleur. After stopping to check it on the edge of town it was clear that the chain was installed incorrectly (my fault) and was rubbing on a stop in the cage. Not wanting to waste time, the repair would have to wait until next control in Maricopa. The plan, to either find a bike shop or make the repair on my own (it would require 'breaking the chain,' reinstalling the chain, and connecting with a fast-link).

Mike caught me outside of town and just after we crested the climb 20 miles later the Fast Canadians flashed by (they had suffered another flat!). We hopped on that train, but after a pull at the front, it was clear my time with this group was over. Dropping back and rolling into Maricopa I would find the group at a Circle K.

No bike shops in town, but the good news was the necessary parts and tools were in my repair kit. After procuring some food (chicken soup and chips) the repair was easy and quick in between bites! The group was ready to leave and offered to wait, but not wanting to maintain their pace and I bid them farewell.

15 minutes later the chain was repaired and I was on my way. (Editor's note: After the ride Mike Cox of Curbside Cyclery showed me how to make this repair without breaking the chain. Simply remove the lower pulley, twist the cage, and reroute the chain, about a 3 min repair!)Winds were light and road conditions were good. After checking in at the control in Stanfield, the route rolls along familiar roads through Casa Grande to Coolidge. With the sun starting to set, hot dog and lemonade cravings set in, all items that can be procured at the Circle K in Coolidge!
Dinner in Coolidge!
Just a short break at Chez Circle K, and after getting the reflective gear on, it was on to the next control in Florence. Another Circle K, another Starbucks Frappiccino, and it was off into the night for the final run through Queen Creek and the finish in Sun Lakes.

Tom Baker was there at the finish and checked me in. I finished in 14 hours and 43 minutes, 10 minutes faster than my previous best 400 km time. Special thanks to Stephen, Paul, Steve, and Mike for dragging me along for the first 200km!

Steve Atkins

Click here for GPS data

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gila Monster 300km Brevet

Ride Report
February 2017

16 riders lined up in the Coolidge Arizona Walmart parking lot for the 2017 edition of the Gila Monster 300km brevet. Roger Peskett (who provided support at Oracle Junction) and Bob Larsen pre-rode the route the previous week to check out the road conditions be available for SAG support during the day.

Carlton leads the Rider Meeting
A relatively civilized start at 0700, but with sunrise at 0721 and temperatures in the 40's, extra layers and reflective gear were the order of the morning. A large contingent of fast riders formed at the start, and happily we settled into a reasonably fast pace and headed out of town toward the first control at Oracle Junction.

Its about 12 miles to the right turn onto AZ77, then its a long 'false flat climb' (2000 feet over 32 miles) before a 5 mile descent to Oracle Junction. With such a large group, each person only needed to take 2 or 3 pulls before we had the top of the hill in sight.

With a change up front about a mile from the top, the pace quickened and I dropped off, too early to burn matches! I was able to keep the group in sight on the descent and arrived at the control just a few minutes behind the lead group.
Carlton and Roger at Oracle Junction
After a quick reload, and peeling off a layer, I left the control and resumed climbing toward Oracle. The lead group was already out of sight and I settled into my own pace. Its another 12 miles of gentle climbing to Oracle, and with the sun out and recent rains, the air was crystal clear with stunning views.
Grassy desert!
Hitting the top at Oracle the road tilts down for about 10-12 miles of 5-7% downgrades, very fast and fun, and with the morning warming up, not too cold. After rolling through Mammoth, I stopped at a paved pullout for a break and to eat some snacks and check in with Debby. It was about this number of miles (different route) where I crashed in last years Vulture Mine 300km Brevet! For some reason Debby requested more frequent check-in texts/calls for the balance of the day.
Nearing Winkelman AZ
The smokestack from the old smelter is visible from nearly 10 miles away, and at its base would be Carlton and the lunch stop.

Carlton carving portions off a 6-foot submarine sandwich
Temperatures were rising, and Carlton suggested picking up an extra water bottle in Kearney since the next water would not be until Superior. After a sandwich, chips and a Coke I was on my way. After a stop at the Dollar Store in Kearney for a water refill, the climbing starts again at the Ray Mine and continues to the 'End of the World' climb.
The Ray Mine
After a short steep punch the climbing eases off and continues up and past the Ray Mine. From this section of the road you can view the vast and colorful Ray Mine works. Not an low impact business by any stretch!
Wash at the base of the EOW climb
The climb is a double dip, so after reaching a false summit the route drops steeply for about a mile before tilting up at 10%+ for a little more than a mile of uphill suffering to the End of the World!
Weavers Needle in the distance, at the EOW summit
Head down, lowest gear, and 20 minutes of uphill grinding are rewarded with a great view of the Superstition Range and the next stop in Superior AZ.

Due to construction on US 60, the route heads into town and down Main Street. I stopped at a grocery in Superior looking for some salt and calories. Chips; check, Starbucks Frappaccino; not stocked but I grabbed a Dunkin Dounuts coffee drink instead.

Leaving Superior, the construction zone only extended a mile or two, then we were treated to the new and improved US 60, divided highway with ample shoulders all the way to the turn around/checkpoint in Gold Canyon.

This was an 'open control' meaning a receipt from any business would suffice. I was craving fries and Coke so it was the Jack-In-The-Box restaurant for me! They must have been gourmet fries, because they took nearly 20 minutes to get! No worries, time to reconfigure the layers, check lights and don the reflective gear for the final run back to Florence and Coolidge.
Fries and a Coke to go!
I rolled out as the sun was nearing the horizon, and was treated with this fantastic sunset at Florence Junction.
Sunset with 25 miles to go
The Coke and fries were a good start. Mix in a Starbuck's Frappaccino from the Florence Circle K (control) and finally I was starting to feel strong again, I was able to hold a strong pace for the last 10 miles of the ride and find Carlton at the finish in the Walmart parking lot. Rolling in about 8:15 PM; that put my total time at 13 hours 15 minutes. Not my fastest time, but after a year off, it was good to get the 300km Monkey off my back!

I grabbed a sandwich for the road and was happy to have this 300km brevet in the books! Thanks Carlton for the great support and putting this route back into the rotation!

Steve Atkins

 Click here for GPS Data