With this year’s “snowmageddon” carrying on in Toronto, it was time to get out. With a pick-up of the new bike, Orcus (in Roman mythology the Punisher of Broken Oaths), and then the pick up of a new last minute bike box, followed by a scurry to the airport, it was finally out of winter and back into summer. Or at least back into early spring with a few moments of summer and a few more moments of near winter.
After some marveling at the new bike, followed by a few minor sizing adjustments, and then a little more marveling, we finally got on the road at 5pm in Borrego Springs. We’d decided this time around that we needed quality miles, not quantity, and that meant time on the course in an attempt to increase our familiarity in order to decrease our lack of being European, and that our miles needed to be at speed, no more slow miles for the sake of miles.
Right. Through the night we rode until about 10am, following the course to Salome and then veering to Phoenix, where Jiles, Orcus and I were treated to some wonderful hospitality from Dave’s grandparents. The next morning after a huge breakfast still courtesy of the Dave-grandparents, we rode north to Congress, did an interval up the Yarnell Grade, and then continued backwards on the course to Brawley. Did I mention that it was 1C overnight. That’s not super warm. Jiles also learned the lesson the second night shortly after passing through the heaving pavement that is Blythe, that one shouldn’t chew the nicorrette like it’s double bubble. Amusing to watch him scramble out the car though, and it certainly did wake him up...how many other crew chiefs out there spend two full nights doing direct follow support solo?
With two 300mile rides acceptably within range to hold pace with them crazy European skills, we took a couple of shorter days, riding Box Canyon, and doing a bit of work on the Palm Springs Tram access road. And yes I hear you all saying, but guys the race is 3000 miles, not 300, anybody can ride fast for 300 miles...but who says there isn’t glory in being that first day hero.
For the next real ride we picked up Brandon “the Homie” and headed to the coast, sat about the surreal atmosphere of the Pier start-line, marveled at the all the passer-bys marveling at Orcus, and then got underway. Brandon had come with us this time last year for a 24 hr ride, but this was his first trip in a true support role, and it was obvious from the get-go we had our solid 4th, doing before needing done and thinking before being thought-of, we be in good shape. We zipped up to Blythe, then transferred over to Salome to shelter from the cold, took a few hours sleep and then got up renewed to carry on at “speed”. Along the way Jiles and Brandon were pulled over twice for providing follow support, once shortly after Borrego, and then again at dusk as we cleared the dunes. Luckily Homie took the lead and told first the Sheriff and then the Dunes Park Ranger what was what, and we headed off without much delay.
So back to day two, when it’s not an inferno that last 24 miles of rough road to Congress is still equally rough, but the Yarnell Grade is much more enjoyable, as is the quick flight up to Prescott, where we began to find a bit of snow. Upwards to 7000 foot Mingus mountain and more snow, a few yeti tracks - no seriously, there are Yeti tracks on the descent there, as Orcus showed me what he can do on the most fun drop in the whole race. Much better than the previous day’s Glass Elevator with crosswinds of 30+mph causing every left hairpin to be a fight against the ever nearing guardrail. We were also treated to perhaps the best vantage of the race, the view from the first overlook coming off Mingus, with the huge red wall that is the Coconino plateau upon which Flagstaff sits, and aside the 14,000 ft snow covered Mount Elden. Apart from the getting hit, dragged and run over by a car last year, Arizona is definitely an amazing state to ride, searing low Mojave, repetitive climbs to 7,000 ft with equally repetitive mountain descents, crazy rock mesas, the high desert in there too, pretty nice place.
After Cottonwood it was time for the painful drive home back to Palm Springs, a hot-tub and beer to plot the next four months and reflect on how far we’ve come since this time last year, and then another short sleep before getting up for the airport.
We ended up covering about 1100 miles in the week, took some thought and effort to get away from the old adage of ride ourselves into the ground with endless riding, but interesting to see what kind of speed can be held TS to TS with a bit of effort. Also found out that if a big ol’ dog has the jump on you and is coming from a forward position, just accelerate right at him and stopped this particular dog in his tracks. Unless you’re in WV, at the bottom of Cheat Mountain, then you ride for your very life. That still-dog is dynamite.