April 2010

It’s been 3 years since I had ridden this route and I was looking forward to doing it again. This time I was accompanied by two of my riding friends from Utah, Joe and Lasse.  Both are excellent riders but neither had ridden this distance before. It should be interesting!

At the start it was great to see the usual suspects, Susan our tireless RBA, Steve and Mike who are members of the “Secret Society of Arrivaca 06 Survivors” (I’ll have to come up with a better acronym for this),  Richard from Utah and our friends in the Bullshifters. It always feels like I’m at home when I ride the Arizona Brevet events.

Morning at Marana, Control #2

The route is well known by many so I may not describe it in the full detail that others may have done, but it went something like this:

Start in darkness, ride the flats, sunrise and then stop for a snack at Circle K.  More flat roads, some tailwinds, see the “Wolf”  then some rolling climbs. A little downhill brings us to  Tucson, more traffic now, stop at Circle K for some chow.  Crappy Mission Road, start some climbing, warming up now, descend to Green Valley, stop at Mickey D’s for some chow.  More flat road to Sahuarita, start some climbing, Road Runner Market for some eating, the endless climb, rodeo in Sonoita, arrive at the Elgin Club for a loiter.  Susan’s wraps, take a break, gotta go, tail winds are not a downer, dark again at Mustang Corner.  Easy spin to Tombstone, several riders now returning, getting cooler, Circle K checkpoint is the bomb, tatoos and piercings and the prom.  Turn around and head back, calm winds on the climb to Sonoita, getting cold now, finally the Elgin Club.  Change clothes, eat chicken and rice, then sleep……………………  Don’t wake Susan!

Departing from Elgin, Sunday morning

5 am group wake up call, eat breakfast all, sunrise come, continue towards home.  Big rollers then a bigger descent, warming up now, turn left, stop and pee, breakfast burritos at Road Runner Market and Deli!  Easy spin down the hill, with no shoulder, road construction drill, start the climb up Helmet Peak Road, getting hot now, hit the top, take a photo op, start downhill on crappy Mission Road, checkpoint at Diamond Shamrock in Tucson.  Continue on through Old Tucson, the last climb, headwinds now, Picture Rocks and ice cream, take your pull, here’s the Marana control.  It’s still hot, gotta go, headwinds make it slow, Picacho Peak sucks, I hate the Eloy dream, I love ice cream, more crappy road wants to make me scream, just keep spinning and maybe we’ll get there.  I see Walmart, I see Susan, I see beer!!!

Ghost rider or real man, you decide!

The Wolf:

They say that when you see him it is a good omen.  He has appeared for riders here over many years, and it is said by the Tohono O’ Odam people that he must ride forever in Saguaro National Park.   A guardian spirit that watches over the park.  He appears to us as cyclists because we are cyclists ourselves. I have seen him on many occaisions.

My Wing Man Joe:

Joe is a stronger rider than I am. He often pulls me along on the longer rides. Yet he is less experienced than I in many ways so I am never sure who is actually helping who.  He refuses to leave me so perhaps it evens out.


Sadly, in his quest for the ultra lightness of breveting he has shunned any backup for his equipment.  He can ride like the wind and climb like a mountain goat but he has zero margin for error.  Usually he will win any event he enters, when he does not win he will DNF, usually with great suffering.  Lasse was “winning” all day but when darkness came he had a light failure. He was saved by the Border Patrol and other riders and finished the ride but was DQ’ed for riding lightless. Congratulations on the finish, even if it was not official.

Top of Helmet Peak Road on the way home

My own perspective:

I had a good ride this year, it was a longer overall time than in previous years but a faster average speed than some.  The real difference this year was the full nights sleep that I got in Elgin. I would have to say that it made the ride more enjoyable for me even though I finished later.  So what, I’ve finished this ride in 30 some hours and now in 37 hours.  I enjoyed this one more, does that make me less of a rider?

Apologies to Bruce for using his photo of “The Wolf”. If any complaints I will remove it.


Sushi on a brevet!  We’ll get to that later.

The forecast was for 86 degrees and light winds. It sounded almost too good to be true, and who would believe it after the crappy winter we’ve had. We’ll, much to the delight of 14 brevet riders on Saturday that’s pretty much what it was. About half of the riders were new to brevets so I guess it took a nice day to lure them into the sport. Winter has been pretty wet this year in southern Utah and as a result everything is green and the streams are full of water.  Cruising the backroads of red rock country on a warm spring day with a backdrop of snowy peaks is a fine thing to do.

Water water everywhere.

Matthew Campbell

 There is a surprising amount of water in this area. Riders start off crossing the Santa Clara River almost immediately, then ride across the Virgin. The route continues along the Virgin River for a few miles then wanders through irrigated alfalfa fields before crossing the Virgin again. Over Quail Creek and around Sand Hollow Reservoir then through the fruit orchards on the way into Hurricane. Cross the Virgin again on the way into La Verkin and North Creek before Rockville and then you pretty much follow the Virgin River all the way to the head of Zion Canyon where it issues out from the side of the mountain in a slot called “The Narrows.”

Free Park day!

This day just happened to be free entry day into Zion National Park. All visitors entered for free! I would like to claim that I had planned it this way but I cannot say that honestly. Good luck trumps good planning any day though. Another plus is that after April 1 each year there are no private vehicles allowed in Zion Canyon. The free shuttle buses were running but other than that cyclists had the roads to themselves. It is amazing how quite the canyon is during this time.

Sushi on a brevet?

Joe Lansing

Now, I know there are lots of events that offer great support but even I am surprised by this one. I provide pretty basic services on my events, nothing fancy. Water, drinks and a few snacks most riders can expect to get at some point. The routes are designed however so that there are good opportunities to access shops and services at many points. At Sol Foods Market at control #3 while I was sitting in the sun watching for incoming riders, I was surprised to see one of my riders come strolling out with a plate of sushi! I guess I never really thought about it but it would make a pretty good brevet food. You probably won’t find much sashimi or makizushi at the typical gas stations or minimarts where you stop on most brevets but on the Zion Canyon 200k it’s no problem!


Near perfect weather, spectacular scenery and gourmet food, there was hardly anything one could complain about. There must have been some problems however because we did have a couple of DNF’s. Riders finished up along the shores of Quail Lake and finally following the Virgin River bike path back to the start/finish. Congratulations to all those who rode today. Even some of those who did not finish did accomplish a personal best for distance. 13 official starters, 11 finishers.

Results are here