Okay, I am back in Arizona again! I haven’t done this event since 2010 and I kind of like the route so here I am. The weather forecast looked good with forecast temps in the mid-70’s and there are 44 riders signed up for the event; it should be a good day!

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Susan Plonsky our esteemed RBA and Master of Ceremonies gave the pre ride meeting and did the traditional lead out of town with the familiar brevet-mobile, getting us under way. Once on the open road the usual suspects formed an elite group and went off the front while I stayed with the very large but not so exclusive B group.

snp-300kaaOur sub-elite B group stayed together almost until we reached the Pinal Pioneer Parkway when it just started to fall apart. I was happy to get out of it by then anyway since it had become surging and unstable. People were starting to eat and make adjustments and it got a little sketchy. A few of us went ahead and formed a smaller more stable group. Just when we reached the parkway I noticed a problem with my cleat and had to pull off to repair it. I would ride alone for the next 70 miles.

snp-300kbbI felt pretty good on the long climb up the Pinal Pioneer Parkway. The downside is that even though you can see much of the route ahead, you can never seem to see the top until you are there! The descent into Catalina is always great fun even if the road is a little rough.

Oro Valley has some of the nicest roads for cycling in the region with little traffic and wide shoulders. It had also reached about 70 degrees by now and I had to shed more clothing, I was now down to just shorts and a jersey. I can’t remember when I had my last 70 degree day on a bike!

This route could be nick-named El Tour de Circle K since several of them make convenient stops. I hit my first of three such stops here on Tangerine Road in north Tucson.

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The route mostly skirted around Tucson on the west side before starting our climb up Gates Pass in Tucson Mountain Park. Even though it has some steep sections I usually enjoy this climb. Today it seemed there was more car traffic than usual and the shoulder is quite narrow but once you get over the top you can take the lane and it is a fast descent. A few more turns brought us to our next control point where Susan greeted us with some sandwiches.

snp-200kdI finally met up again with some other riders here. First Jack and Kathy on their tandem who I rode with to Marana where we hooked up with Joey. From there we teamed up to tame the frontage road past Picacho Peak. In all the previous times I have ridden this section of road I can say that this may be the first time I actually enjoyed it! Even with a light headwind our small group kept up a good pace, each rotating with one mile pulls.

snp-300kccIn the fading light we passed the dreaded Picacho Peak and left it behind. Darkness descended on us before we reached Eloy and we donned our night gear and lights. The Circle K store in Eloy is not a control but offers the last supplies on the route. Fellow rider Ronaele was here with her pink bike and was about ready to leave. We made it a pretty quick stop and all departed on the final leg together. Our band of four was very well lit front and rear and I’m sure made quite a sight for other drivers.

Our newly formed club of 4 bikes and 5 riders pulled into the finish just at 8pm, making it a 14 hour day for the 187 mile route. In spite of a mechanical and other issues which caused me some early delays it turned out to be a good day. Sometimes it is funny how a delay at one point can put you in a better spot later. Riding the last 70 miles with my fellow riders made it a better ride!

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