I’ve always enjoyed going to ride the Arizona Brevet events. This year there has been a change in leadership in the series with longtime RBA Susan Plonsky retiring and accomplished randonneur Carlton Van Lueven stepping up to take the reigns. The Arizona region is blessed not only with great brevet routes and great early season riding conditions, but also with a large volunteer base. It looks like the AZ Randos have a deep bench to draw from for putting on events! The future looks bright in Arizona!

GilaMonster300k-Map

The ride started with our event master Paul Layton and his pre-ride speech. I was a bit surprised when after mentioning local RBA Carlton Van Lueven, Paul introduced another rider to the group. A rider who is known to many of the days participants, Lonnie “Epic” Wolff! I am flattered and embarrassed at the same time but I was running a little late and had to rush to get ready. I guess the applause would have to wait until the finish line!

Old friends John and Liz Mazzola from New Mexico.

Old friends John and Liz Mazzola from New Mexico.

Once again I would be riding among friends, local riders Carlton, Mike, Jim and Steve Atkins, Jack and Kathy Twitchell from California, John and Liz from New Mexico on their tandem and David also from AZ. Of course I would not see the faster of these riders after the start but I did get the chance to ride with many of the others during the day.

az-300kb-0214The route turned out to be a challenging one and the weather would be cooler than normal which made it an interesting day for me. I chose to ride my Rawland Nordavinden for this event. It was built up specifically as a gravel grinder bike but it really goes well on anything. I don’t have a lot of miles on this bike, but it seemed like a good opportunity to see how it would do. We’ll just call it a 300 km shakedown ride!

I didn’t take a lot of extra clothing with me since we were riding in Arizona, but it should be nice right? Temps briefly got into the low 60’s for us but mostly it stayed in the 50’s. In the end I had enough gear but I did keep my leg warmers on all day and mostly wore my wind-shell. I had nothing else left to put on!

az-300kc-0214This ride would also be the first real distance ride that I’ve used my Brooks Cambium saddle on. My quick post-ride opinion of it is that it is okay. I know that sounds a little ambiguous but, it was not as comfortable as my Brooks Swift. More on this subject on my Cambium review page.

Everything went well for much of the ride. My lack of training time proved to be an issue as it always is in the early season. I had never ridden through Oracle before and the climb up to that point went quickly since I was chatting with David the whole way. Definitely, the highlight of the day was the miles and miles long descent after Oracle. Well, lunch at Winkelmann with the gang was fun too!

Top of the final climb, the "top of the world!"

Top of the final climb, the “top of the world!”

Of course, the crux of the ride was that climb up to the “Top of the World” after Winklemann. Sure it starts innocently enough, you make good time and think to yourself, I’ve got this! You hit the false summit and the 10% downhill and you begin to actually believe you are done. Then reality smacks you in the face with a mile or two of 14 to 18% climbing. WTF! I made it over the top with David but I was pretty much “toast” after this. We rode into the town of Superior for a rest stop in the failing light.

After some soup and a Red Bull, David and I got back on the bikes and had a good run into Gold Canyon and actually caught another group of riders. We were starting to feel like we had this thing in the bag. We were going good and feeling good! That should have been our warning sign but we missed it completely. On the next leg from Gold Canyon to Florence, David and I were still riding together when he got a flat tire. These things are harder at night so I stayed with him to help out a bit. Darkness, fatigue and a little chill made the repair much more difficult than it should have been. We eventually succeeded and got back underway, less than 20 miles to go! Then, CRAP! David had another flat with about 6 miles left! What are you going to do? Just fix it I guess, but this time was no easier than the last. The CO2 inflator failed (again) but we got the job done and finished up the ride. I think the two repairs probably cost us 45 min between them but at least we finished, in true Randonneur style!

I think that our official time for the 188.2 miles was 16 hours and 19 min. I noted that my computer indicated my moving time on the bike was 13 hours 2 min. That shows more time off the bike than usual for a ride like this, but I guess the extra repairs were the reason.

Thanks to Carlton and his family, Paul Layton and others who helped with this ride!