Monday, September 11, 2006
Velo du Cyclosportif apres 200 kilometers
Summer is over, My Gentle Reader. How do I know this? As a Randonneur and now self-proclaimed Cyclosportif or Century Rider, putting in the long miles under the blazing Tucson sun, and observing the slight changes in the stars, moon, and tempature or the air--I report now that Fall has begun--at least for me.
I rode to Casa Grande to meet Steve for breakfast at IHOP. It is 50 miles from chez moi dans Dove Mtn to Casa Grande--this is true. But its more like 60 miles because the IHOP is out East of town. When Steve and I finally crossed paths, we had both ridden about 65 miles--and when I started home, my computer didn't read 50 sweet little miles like I thougth it would, but 75 miles. Had I really gone that far? Yes I had. It would be a long ride home, and I knew a brutal one at that.
The morning started out with a tail wind one only dreams about. I was riding 23 to 24 mph North on the frontage road toward Phx. I fitted the LeMond with my commuter lights because for the 45 minutes or so in the dark, I wanted to see the rocks and sand and other loose gravel in the road from all the rains. I also carried a handle bar bag just to get used to the extra weight and to see how the steering would be. I think I will want to carry more gear this Brevet season.
18 miles out I got a flat--but was able to change the tube and be on my way.
I was riding very fast and pushing myself very hard. Maybe a little too hard. I had been recovering from a head cold--but that didn't matter so much--I had my iPod and was listening to all my favorite up-tempo tunes. Without Steve to ride with and keep me company--the road can get long. The iPod can keep one motivated.
The song, "Should or Stay or Should I Go?" by the Clash, played as I slipped into Eloy. I thought that was quite appropriate--since Eloy is a shithole.
Oh, and before that, in the town of Picacho, I was chased by the dogs that lurk among the wreckage of burned-out honky-tonks and no-tell motels...
And then Casa Grande--I by-passed the slums and headed for the other end of town to make my way to Hwy 587--and a 9 o'clock call from Steve to see where we each were over our course. We meet just as I rode over the I-10 overpass.
Breakfast at IHOP was not going to work--it would be 10 miles out of our way. We stoped to get water and asked the locals where to have breakfast. A place called Manuel's was recommended as that's where we parked our bikes.
I have to say that I was exhausted, mes amis. The food wasn't that great, and things were taking too much time. My insides were twisted and all wrong. I had to ride 75 miles back home to Tucson--rain clouds were brewing. When I thought about the headwinds I'd have on the way home, my heart sank. Steve's prospects for a good ride home seemed grim as well. You could see and smell the rain, but at least Steve might would have the tailwind so we both thought.
As I rode home, the wind changed and became a strong tailwind. This was a lucky break. Clouds were coming behind me, and lightening seemed to be reaching out testing for victims. This was no ordinary storm, mes amis. The tailwind this time brought sweet smells of fresh cut hay and a hint of wild flowers. The clouds were a brilliant purple and were like a blanket surrounding me. On the frontage road, birds, snakes, lizards, butterflies, and a rat-- were out for the big event.
Rain fell lightly and cooled me off... But soon the wind couldn't make up its mind and threw a tantrum--I had a headwind, then a tailwind, then a crosswind! And then like somebody threw a bucket of water on me--pouring rain.
Now I was soaked. And I started to get cold. Picacho Peak was hidden in a misty purple rain cloud--and I still had 30 miles to ride--and I was exhausted. Got to keep eating and keep drinking--got to keep the iTunes blaring in my brain--to take my mind off the fact that I've maybe tried to be too ambitious for a quick Saturday moring ride.
As I got sight of DQ the rain backed off, and I rolled into the new gas station and store that has been built. The DQ is to be avoided--unless you're Mike Alexa... Everytime I ride by DQ I can't help but think about the day I saw Mike Alexa stuffing chilli-cheese dogs in his mouth, and then washing 'em down with chocholate flavored Ensure. And this guy survived PBP?
I tried to make my way into the place without being noticed. I've ridden at least 110 - 115 miles. I'm soaking wet, grimy and sweating--plus exhausted. An older gentleman stops me as I'm on my way to get some ice out of the pop machines. People are a little off guard when they suddenly see us at places like this--because to them, we're in the middle of nowhere. Where did we come from? Where are we going? This man asked me the same. "Are you cyclist?" I aked him. "Why yes I am!" he replied, and he wanted to know the details of my journey. He himself had ridden across the continental United States a few times --and Canada to Mexico, once or twice. So he was delighted to see a "ultra cyclist" but he admited he didn't know about randonneuring.
I told him I had about maybe 20 miles to go--up Tangerine to Dove Mtn... "Oh yes! and that climb up Tangerine. How many miles is that? seven or eight?" "That sounds about right." I said.
"I know that road from when El Tour used to go that direction--oh yes, I know that road well..."
He wished me the best and was on his way. As I walked out to fetch the LeMond--the wind was howling the direction of Dove Mtn! I was so freakin' happy, Gentle Reader! Time to clip in and get my ass on the road.
The miles were dropping off and I could see--still pretty far away--Dove Mtn, where a cold beer and shower, and my bed I dragged myself out of at 4:30 a.m. awaited my return! Two Apache attach helicoptors flew low over me. I couldn't hear them at first because I was listening to Beck or Gorillaz on the iPod--but I could see the pilots glancing down at me. The Army Nat'l Guard airstrip is a few miles away... Its creepy when they fly over because you know they're tracking you with their cameras and weapon sites.
The six mile climb up to Dove Mtn is always, always brutal after 130 miles. Now it was hot and sweat was pouring out of me, like it always does on this ascent, so much so that I had to stop and remove my helmet. I put on my yellow "Campie" cycling cap and that kept the mixture of sweat and sunscreen out of my eyes. And what can I say, I was hurting and so tired I just couldn't go any faster. 10 or 11 miles per hour... I have just 4 or 5 miles and I'll have to fight like this for 20 or 30 minutes? Oh it is torture physically, but mentally you know its do or die.
Finally--the light at Tangerine and Dove Mtn. And one more mile to climb before I make the turn to my little house.
Finis! 135 miles... Its 4:30 in the afternoon. Holy shit, am I tired. I'm just shaking my head in disbelief that I've punished my self with lack of sleep, wind, rain, crappy food--I wonder how Steve is doing?
But you know? I think I've coughed and sneezed, and then sweated out this head cold. It seems to have had enough of the bike ride and abondoned ship. After a shower, a beer, a sandwhich--an hour or so nap--you know I'm up and feeling pretty good--feeling fit type of good.
Now I am ready to start my week with gusto!