May 2010


The weather has been pretty unsettled all year so far but I think that our blustery Spring may be about over!  I took a spin on my Battaglin road bike this morning in some of the best conditions we’ve had all year. Sunny, warm, light winds, it was great.  My Sunday rides generally include coffee at our only open local coffee shop, Starbucks.  There were lots of other riders out, some locals and some tourists but all enjoying the day.  Sunday is the best day to ride in southern Utah, traffic is light and most riders are friendly.  It seems like Saturday riders have their heads down, are breathing hard and won’t even take the time to wave let alone chat, but on Sunday it’s different. Maybe it’s a different group, anyway it was a great day to be out on the bike!

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Was it an “Epic?”

The forecast was for blustery conditions expected to last all day. We seem to be getting a lot of that this year, which I guess is typical for an El Nino year in southern Utah.  11 riders would enjoy mild temperatures and a tail wind to start but all of them knew that for each hour of easy cruising early on there would be 2 hours of hard work to pay for it later. It seemed that only a miracle could change that.  It could be an “Epic” day!

The route is one giant loop starting in Bloomington and continuing on through Sun River, St. George, Washington, Coral Canyon, Sand Hollow, Hurricane, La Verkin, Toquerville, Pintura, Ash Creek, Kolob Canyon, Kannarraville and Hamilton Fort before arriving in Cedar City. There is a lot of local color embodied in these place names which riders will recall when they hear them mentioned again. For others who are not familiar with these places they still conjure romantic images of a great western landscape.

At the 5 am start in St. George temperatures were in the upper 60’s, but as riders began to climb it cooled off some. By late morning when riders arrived in Cedar City it had dropped to 55 degrees.  It wasn’t going to get any warmer up here.  The route to Cedar mostly followed Old Highway 91 and where the road skirted the edge of Ash Creek Reservior the high water extended across the road and was several inches deep at the crown.  After a few more days this route might not be passable due to high water.

Party crashing a local running event at Ash Creek.

 

It’s not an “Epic” until I say so!

Departing Cedar City the route continues by Quichipa Lake  Pinto Junction, Irontown, Newcastle, Enterprise, Mountain Meadow, Central, Veyo, Gunlock and Santa Clara before returning to Bloomington.  Leaving Cedar City is where the fun would begin however. The route turned southwest, right into the teeth of the wind.  The wind had been building all morning and was now blowing pretty steadily at 20 to 30 mph with some higher gusts.  Riders would be grinding into this ill wind for the next 45 miles!  It was starting to look like an “Epic” day to some!

The high point of the ride was reached around mile 110, and riders surmounted the last major climb at mile 140.  The total elevation gain is about 7500 feet with the high point being about 7000 feet in altitude.  Now that the route had turned downhill the wind became a little more shifty even providing an occaisional but brief tailwind for some.  At least it wasn’t constantly in your face anymore.  Canyon crosswinds required riders to stay sharp on their descents or get blown off the road.  Fatigue and failing light were additional challenges and there was more talk of  “Epic-ness”.

The final leg of the route from Veyo had riders dropping down to the upper Santa Clara River.  This beautiful canyon was the highlight of the ride for many and is great way to finish a ride.  It brings you right into the old historic district of Santa Clara, then on in to St. George and back to Bloomington then finally the finish control.  There was a navigational challenge for everyone near the end of the ride. Recent construction and some street name changes left an error on the route guide.  Our clever randonneurs figured it out though and finished properly.

 

“Epic” status is determined.

 

First, I would like to congratulate all the riders who participated in this ride.  Weather conditions were tough to be sure and relentless!  Everyone who started the event successfully finished on time and on course.  Riders were well prepared and overcame mechanicals, flat tires and took care of themselves very well during the day.  Never once did I hear a complaint, or a mention of not finishing the ride.  As for “Epic-ness”, although this ride was tough-tough-tough, it falls a little short of reaching “Epic” status.  That designation is reserved for the truly remarkable adventures. I will say however that this group of riders, these randonneurs are “Epic” riders and I grant them status as “cavaliers épiques”.  Perhaps in the future this label will be a badge of honor and noted in my results.

Full results are available here.

This is the big ride that I have probably done more times than any other, this year being my 10th.  I was only able to do it this year because a conflict cleared up at the last minute so I jumped on the opportunity. Late fees paid and a hotel secured I was off.

Parking near the start is sometimes scarce so I decided to just leave the car at the hotel and ride to the start. I was about 5 miles away so I left a little early. It was dark dark dark when I left my hotel but I have good lights. Soon I approached the line of departing riders and joined in the stream. Many people leave early on this ride so there were many riders already out on the course ahead of me. The blinky lights stretched out before me so navigating was irrelevant. I settled into a warm up pace but soon a couple of riders overtook me. They were Bullshifters Jim and Allen from Arizona. We chatted a bit and then rode together to Farnham Ranch, the first rest stop. The sun was just rising and there weren’t many riders here yet so getting our business done was easy. This location is also a rest stop on the return and I thought I would probably be back here well before sunset.

Mile 30 just at sunrise

Allen, Jim and I departed again, maintaining a nice 20 mph pace through the flat farmland. A large group overtook us doing probably 23 or 24 mph and we jumped on board. It was nice speeding along like that but after a short while we started getting  a little nervous. The group was surging a lot and riders near the front were not steady. We started leaving a larger gap between us and riders ahead. People weren’t paying attention and a little voice told me that something was about to happen. Sure enough, shortly after that I heard shouting, then screaming, followed by crashing and crunching. I couldn’t see what was going on but I could hear it and it was close! I instinctively moved to the left and within seconds passed by 6 or 8 riders all balled up and still tumbling down the road. It seemed to be happening in slow motion as I rode by. We decided to let their friends take care of them so we did not stop.

We soon started up Putah Creek which marks the beginning of the climbing. As I’m a pretty slow climber this is where I settled into “my pace” and my friends went ahead. The early climbs are not difficult and it was a beautiful day. The route was new to me this year so I enjoyed some new roads and scenery. After the Middleton rest stop the route started the climb up to Cobb Mtn. I knew nothing of this route didn’t know what to expect but when I heard other riders groaning when we reached the base of the climb I had a bad feeling. At mile 100 the road turned upward, averaging 10 to 12% for about 3 miles followed by several miles of less steep road. This just kicked my butt! I didn’t seem to have good climbing legs on this day but I hung on as best I could, finally arriving at the Cobb Mtn rest stop.

Cobb Mtn Rest Stop, Mile 110.

After a quick rest I finished the climb and descended to the lunch stop at mile 117. Lunch is always good at Davis and this year was no exception. It was a short lunch then I was off again. Resurrection Hill was the next obstacle to surmount but with the almost perfect weather this year it was no big deal. Over the top down the hill and turn onto Bear Creek road. This is almost always a favorite section of the ride for me. It follows alongside Bear Creek to the junction of Cache Creek. It probably averages a 2 to 3 percent downhill grade with a few rollers. It is generally easy to cruise along at 20 mph or so for 25 miles to the next rest stop. It is a good place to get a bit of a break while still covering plenty of ground. This year there was a bit of a headwind but it was still good.

The Guinda rest stop at mile 165 is a welcome sight. It has food, shade and a small pool to soak your tired feet in. It is amazing how refreshing a quick foot bath can be. This stop had the usual sodas, V8 and water but I really wanted something different to drink. I looked around before leaving but there was nothing else to be had so I headed out. I had not gone very far when 2 riders I had been chatting with at the stop passed me and invited me to jump on. I said I would try it for a while but I was tired and might not be able to hang on. Their pace wasn’t that bad and I found that I recovered quite a bit behind them. They weren’t rotating so I had a good ride behind them. The pace started creeping up and after about 15 miles we were rolling along at 22 mph. We picked up a few other riders in this stretch until we were 8 or so. Suddenly ahead I saw an open convenience store. What a tough choice, either continue with this free ride or stop and find the drink that I craved. Damn!!! I really needed to get a different drink, so I thanked these guys and pulled out of a 22 mph paceline at mile 175.

The store did have just what I wanted however, chocolate milk! It felt so good going down, I couldn’t believe it. I savored every drop and then headed out again. I rode solo from here, just keeping a cruising pace. I pulled back into the Farnham Ranch rest stop about 30 minutes before sunset and stopped at the Firehouse rest stop just in time to turn on my lights. I rolled into Davis and the finish a bit before 9 pm.

Even though I’ve rarely had better weather at the Davis Double it wasn’t my best ride here. I think the climb up Cobb Mtn really took it out of me and I never fulled recovered the rest of the day. Still, it was a great day and another great double!

Bonus Feature! Amgen Tour of California, Stage 1.

As luck would have it, on the Sunday after the event the Amgen Tour would begin. This stage began in Nevada City and finished in Sacramento. It would be right on my way home! I researched the route and picked a great spot to watch the event from.

The peloton, leaving Auburn.

All I can say is that watching a race like this in person is spectacular. It is so much bigger than it looks on TV. The whole entourage is amazing, the CHP presence and the team cars, WOW! If you ever have the opportunity to attend you should DO IT!!!