Sunday, May 30, 2010

400k Checkout Ride a Blustery Success!

The 400k checkout ride proved both useful and adventurous! After taking the dirt road detour on Monarch, I see that the new bridge on Niwot and 55th is open, so that will be nice for the actual event.

A warm upcanyon wind wafted up Lefthand Canyon. A good hint of heat training. At Ward, I find we'll need a new info question, as the old question has not survived the winter. Mild, comfy conditions on the Peak-to-Peak, with a snowy view of Mt. Toll:

An hour short of Wellington, a cold front comes through ... like last Saturday on the 600k! A dozen miles of stiff headwind are rewarded by the sight in Wellington of the flag blowing in what will be our direction:

Part of that mix, however, would be succession of showers, some pea-sized hail, and some lightning (largely confined to the clouds). It turned "refreshingly cool" meaning your rain jacket came in handy for warmth, and ditto for the showercap under the helmet.

Soon enough, the sun peeks through as sprinkles continue on verdent green fields:

... and a fine sunset on 95th St. adds a picturesque wrap-up:

Join us for the "real" 400k next weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Windy Time on the "Early" St. Vrain 600k!

Strong, gusty, toasty SW winds accompanied the 12 starters on this "special," early 600km, a month earlier than our traditional 600k. The winds "enhanced" the climbing workout up St. Vrain Canyon and the hydration requirements even on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, where the traditional resorts had yet to open and riders had to be resourceful finding water. (Cathy Cramer took advantage of Crystal Springs in Allenspark.)

Good thing there was lots of scenery to go around, and at this season the traffic was light , too. Here are Michelle Grainger and JLE looking towards Meeker Peak (Steve Le Goff photo):

The tailwind up to Owl Canyon Road caused many a dour reflection about how much wind fighting there would be after the Wellington turnaround. Then just before 5pm, a cold front blew through, raising dust and tumbleweeds, but lowering temps to air conditioned levels and wafting riders homeward.

The dust and blowing cloud set up a silvery sunset above the mountains:

Steve and Michelle are happy enough with that NNE tailwind however chilly it had become:

The next day started off chilly, in the low 40's, but the mild temps were welcome and the winds generally favorable. That plus burritos at Kersey made for a pleasant second loop. And you could avoid most of the chill entirely if you were like Paul Foley and Vernon Smith and slept in until 6am, after a full night's sleep:

Here's hoping all the finishers had a cheery finish, and that those of you riding the June 19 600k will, too!


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Painted Turtles Breeze Through the Flèche!

by Tim Dodge, Captain

I thought I’d take a moment to recap our ride during the last weekend's Fleche. We managed to fill the team with myself as captain, Bob Bruce, Tim Feldman, John Flanigan and Tom Knoblauch. While I’d like to think that our smooth ride was a result of great route planning, the reality is that we were very fortunate with weather, a lack of mechanicals and good team riding.

The Painted Turtles rarin' to be let our of their coffee shop start and be on their way!

Our route took us from central Denver west to Morrison, then up along the foothills past Boulder, Lyons and Ft Collins to Wellington. We headed due east to Nunn, then down through Greeley and out to Keenesburg. Finally we headed west again to Longmont then south to the finish in Louisville.

Tom Knoblauch wins the prize for most suitably attired, in his sea-turtle jersey!

We covered a little less than 250 miles, and we had one flat tire to show for our efforts… I guess the math for our 5-person team works out to one flat in roughly 2,450 tire miles (2 tires per person, right?). There was also a small incident half an hour into the ride when John hit a bump and the bracket holding his light snapped in half. Nothing a little electrical tape couldn’t solve, courtesy of Bob.

Here's the team heading through Red Rocks:

Our worries turned out to be for naught. In years of riding in Colorado none of us had ever experienced tailwinds for a full 24 hours. As we headed south from Nunn, riding easily with two abreast and talking about whatever came to mind, we realized how different it could have been. Instead of cruising conversationally at 25mph we could have been wheel-to-wheel in a paceline grinding out 12mph.

One of the happy benefits of our luck with the weather was ample time to eat. If we had known about the tailwinds ahead of time we probably would have chosen a longer route. But we didn’t, so we ate instead.

Heading towards Boulder we made an unscheduled stop in Louisville for bagels. In Ft Collins we found a Subway. At least one rider couldn’t pass up Burger King in Wellington. In Greeley we sat at Old Chicago’s eating pizza, oblivious in our bike gear to the crowd around us. We took refuge at Love’s truck stop in Hudson as the temperatures dropped early Sunday morning. Then we finished with some coffee at McDonald’s in Longmont before rolling to the finish. (As I write this I realize we sampled some of Colorado’s finest haute cuisine. We also proved that randos can be pretty adamant about keeping the tank full.)

When we pulled through Louisville towards the finish, we saw Beth and Brent Myers sipping coffee. We all had a few minutes to spare before the finish, so we decided to take one more break and pose for a team picture.

What struck all of us was how much fun we had. The camaraderie of riding together for 24 hours was fantastic. We compared notes on lights, nutrition, clothing and other equipment in preparation for some of the longer brevets ahead. John even managed to qualify for an R5000 award that started with PBP in 2007. Then we had the perfect ending as all three Fleche teams came together for a finishing parade – tough to beat a 100% finishing rate!

See everybody soon,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring After All on the Stove Prairie 200k!

After repeated snows over the past weeks, May 1 bode a very iffy forecast, with a rain and snow-shower mix among the possibilities. A mere week before, this was the scene on the Stove Prairie Saunter 200k Permanent:

A plow had even made a snow wall convenient for bike leaning:

But for the brevet things cleared up and although temps were cool, we had a fair amount of sun. Tom Knoblauch had a good climb up from Poudre Canyon:

After the showery Drake Doubleback 200k two weeks before, many folks came equipped for anything. Eric Simmons topping out on the Stove Prairie summit:

Some of these grades are actually 12% ... but some are steeper!

Towards the base of the descent, a small waterfall offers another hint of spring:

We had a healthy turnout, over 40 riders, especially considering the forecast, and there were a lot of smiles at the finish, having surmounted the Horsetooth and Stove Prairie climbs. This included veteran randonneurs we haven't seen on brevets since PBP'07, such as ... Merle Baranczyk from Salida:

... and Charlie Henderson, giving some tips to Leslie Sutton:

Rounding out the PBP'07 returnees, Gary Koenig may have discovered the fun segments in this climbfest. Judging from the smiles at the finish, a rewarding time for the riders. Thanks for braving the forecast and joining in!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tammie Nakamura Rides the AZ 600K!

The 600K Casa Grande Tombstone brevet [April 24, 2010] featured sunny but breezy weather. We were lucky to miss the big rains and 60-70 mph winds that sometimes occur in the springtime in Arizona. The day started at 5 AM with 28 eager riders pedaling into the rising sun, past the Picacho Peaks State park. The first rolling climb through the Saguaro National Park ascended 1600 ft. The striking feature of this area is the astonishing vistas through the Sonoran desert extending all the way to the horizon.

At mile 75 begins a gradual but persistent 30 mile climb up Mission road through the Tohono O'odham reservation, ending at the Duval mines. The road ruts rattle every tooth and bone in your body. The border patrol buzzes around like angry hornets throughout the area. Passing through border patrol checks, the officers seem amused to see a steady stream of bicyclists out in the middle of nowhere.

The next climb of 16 miles on Sahuarita Road is followed by a steeper 22 mile climb up the Sonoita Hill for a total elevation gain of about 2800 ft. Occasional vineyards appear in scrub grasslands along the rolling descent to Elgin Lodge.

A surprise encounter with a foot long Gila Monster near Sahuarita!

The Grasslands of Sonoita

At the lodge we are warmly greeted by Susan Plonsky and her famous turkey rolls at the door! However, it’s getting dark and the temperatures are dropping rapidly from the 88 degrees in late afternoon to the low 40s. A quick dash down the hill and it’s on to a 70 mile loop in the dark to Tombstone and the mid-ride turn around control. The pitch darkness underscores the remoteness of the area. More border patrol officers are hidden near the top of hills, silently scanning the valley with night vision goggles.

It’s the middle of the night and the titanic forces of drowsiness begin to take hold. No doubt this is a very bad place to take a nap on the side of the road. For that matter, I wondered about riding by myself in the middle of the night so close to the US-Mexico border. I watched another rider weaving in the center of the road- he was sleepy too no doubt. I noted that he had no rear lights and no reflective gear on himself or his bike. The drivers clearly couldn’t see him until they were nearly on top of him and swerved around him in a panic. Good grief! Hope somebody has sharp words with him.

Getting back to the Elgin lodge was the most joyful moment of the day- WARMTH and the most cheerful greeting from Mike Allen who hands me some some desperately needed calories. The lodge was a great stopping point for a quick nap. Riders were very respectful to take off their shoes and talk in a whisper. The sleeping room was large enough to spread out so thunder snorers didn’t wake everybody up. Susan greeted everybody in the morning with a quick breakfast of cereal and coffee and it was back out the door to a very chilly ride.

Arizona RBA Susan Plonsky at the Elgin Lodge. Susan runs a tight ship and provides legendary support of the riders. Thanks Susan!!!

The return trip traced the same outbound route back to Casa Grande. The rolling climb back through the Saguaro NWR at mile 312 was surprisingly onerous- no doubt the 92 degree temps (and still dressed for a cool-weather ride) made for a shock to the system. It was a grand HOORAY to finally arrive back in the Casa Grande Walmart parking lot and to hand my card to Susan. The ride was a grand adventure- just the right amount of challenge, beautiful and unusual views of the desert and really good folks to ride with.

I have no pics of the riders of the 600K, but here are a couple of Irene [Takahashi] toughing the headwinds near the Buenos Aires Natl Wildlife Refuge on the way to Arivaca on the AZ 400K [March 27].

- Tammie Nakamura