Monday, April 28, 2008

Virginia Camp - Day 4/Wrap-Up

28.0mi, 5300ft vert, 2:11hrs
Heavy rain and thunderstorms moved in late Saturday. It was iffy whether it would move out by Sunday morning. Brett and I had long drive back and needed to ride early if we were to ride at all.

The rain was gone, the roads were dry when we got up. Plan was simple - ride up Love Gap, traverse on Blue Ridge Parkway to Reid's Gap, descend other side, then hit 3000ft climb to summit of Wintergreen Resort. Brett hadn't done this biggie yet, like I did on our first day. There's actually a time-trial up this on the same weekend as Jiminy Peak. I'd like to try it some time. Fastest times are comparable to Equinox Hillclimb in Vermont, in the 30's minutes. The skies were heavy overcast starting out, and long sleeves were required for this early morning ride.

After 15hrs, 33,000ft of climbing the last three days, our legs were tapped out. An upper tempo pace was about the best we could muster up Wintergreen. The switchback section in the middle was awful. I really needed my triple. Cresting the summit on Devil's Knob Loop, I realized there is a scenic lookout there. I missed this my first time up. It is the best view of the whole trip from 3800ft. It wasn't all downhill back after reaching the summit. We still had the bulk of Reid's Gap to climb over to reach our cabin. This entails about 2 miles of 15%. My cadence must have dropped to about 40rpm.

For the four days, I logged 17.2hrs in the saddle, covering 276 miles with 39,000ft of climbing. This was the most focused four days of training I've ever done. Of the many mountain bike trips I've gone on, the vertical doesn't add up as fast, and it is harder to achieve long, uninterrupted climbs like you can get on the road. Riding in Arizona for six days two weeks ago was a nice prep for this extended training weekend. I would like to come back here again next year.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Virginia Camp - Day 3

66.7mi, 9340ft vert, 4:09hrs
Today we had Reids Gap for breakfast, Tye River Gap via Montebello for brunch, and Tye River Gap from Vesuvius for lunch. Hitting Reids first thing early in the morning was a rude way to shock hungover legs back into action. My low gear is 38x27, and this is not nearly low enough for a spinner like me. I was in that gear the whole way up, out of the saddle much of the time. My legs surprisingly felt better than yesterday morning, so I lit this climb up pretty good.

Reid's, Brent, Tye River (both ways)

After regrouping, we bombed down the other side of Reids Gap past Wintergreen Resort. Broke 50mph here. Most of these descents get you going that fast, but some are downright risky. We picked up Rt 151 south, heading over Brent Gap. This mini-gap gains over 600ft moderately steep with long run-out on other side. We took Rt 666 (with church on the corner) across to Rt 56 to begin the Tye River Gap climb from the east. When we popped out on 56, we screwed up hitting Pharsalia Rd next. We went in the upper side and popped out on the lower side, so we had to re-ride a portion of Rt 56 again. Pharsalia Rd rolled through vineyards, blooming orchards, and pastures. It was barely a lane wide and the wide open scenery with BRP ridgeline high above was incredible.

Looking west from roughly mile 22 on BRP

Once back on Rt 56, we had many miles of gradual climbing before getting to the meat of the climb. About 2-3 miles of this rises at 8-9% grade. At first it is rolling. Tom and I rolled away from Brett and Mark here. Tom hammered each short wall, and I had to work to regain his wheel when it would level off or dip. Eventually, it stays steep for two miles, and I was able to roll Tom off my wheel. I thought I pretty much blew myself on Reid's Gap, but my legs were still firing. I hadn't planned to hit this one so hard too. The general store in Montebello was a welcome sight. We stopped to refuel here, despite it not being the summit at the BRP. But it did conclude the persistent steep grade. There aren't that many options to refuel out here, so you take what you get. We were spread out over several minutes coming to the store and soaked. It was very hot on this side of the ridge.

Switchbacks on Brent Gap

We went easy the rest of the way to the BRP. Brett and Mark were content calling it a ride at this point and headed back to our cabin along the BRP. Tom and I descended down the other side of Tye River Gap to Vesuvius. This was last major climb in the area I hadn't done yet. We descended it yesterday. I am now quite fond of this descent. It is very technical in that it is steep with numerous blind curves. An error here will no doubt result in catastrophe. After spinning our legs out at the bottom for a bit, Tom and I headed right back up the way we just came down.

This climb nearly killed me. It's also very steep, probably 8-9% for the last couple miles. My tired legs had trouble turning the 38x27 gear. Once back up top, we had a few rolling climbs on the parkway before many miles of descent back to the cabin.

Finishing Reid's Gap climb from our cabin on west side

The rain held off until late afternoon, hours after we finished riding. We really lucked out on ideal riding conditions this week. Tom and Mark come here often around this time of year and sometimes hit cold, wet weather. I've used only summer riding clothes. I'm humbled riding with these guys. Each has infinitely more knowledge and racing experience than I. Tom Luzio (18th/45+) and Mark Luzio (8th/50+) both placed well at US Nationals last year. Tom's (Deno's Wonder Wheel) and Mark's (Cycle Fitness) teams have some of the region's strongest masters riders. I'm learning much.

Pharsalia Rd

Tomorrow will be a short day, as Brett and I have to leave in the morning for a 10hr drive back home. Brett and I plan to summit Wintergreen Mtn, a 3000ft climb as part of a short ride. Tom and Mark will go longer.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Virginia Camp - Day 2

105mi, 12,600ft vert, 6:00hrs
We were trashed getting up this morning. Hitting most of the climbs in threshold zone yesterday did this. Brett and I didn't know how we were going to ride, let alone ride 5+ hours with thousands more feet of climbing. Mark's brother Tom was coming in late in the morning, so our plan was Brett and I would ride out on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) to mile zero and back, hopefully meeting Mark and Tom on the way back without having to descend all the way into the valley. We rode up to the BRP at Love Gap, a gentle 900ft climb. Climbing to the BRP on Reid's Gap, the gap we are staying on, is not an ideal way to begin a ride on tired legs. It has sustained 17% grades.

Views along the first 17 miles of the BRP are phenomenal, probably much like those from Skyline Dr in Shenandoah NP. The high point is 3200ft, about 1800ft above the valley. Several dips along the way pile up accumulated vertical. We nicely met Mark and Tom coming up to the BRP as we reached Love Gap. We had 40 miles and over 5000ft of climbing in our legs by this point, a warm up to the real ride.

The deal was, Tom was coming down somewhat fresh. Mark didn't do the first 40 miles with us (but he had already logged 20 hours out here this week). Brett and I were feeling cooked already. I had early signs of cramping coming on. Now the four of us were heading out to do another 100km with some serious climbs. We rode south on the BRP to Tye River Gap and dropped down to Versuvius. What an amazing descent. We hope to climb it in the next two days. Non-stop curves, all fairly steep, cliff on one side, stream/guardrail on other. Kind of scary actually, as rocks that fall from above are scattered across the road around blind corners.

I was completely cooked, out of water, long out of calories at this point. There were no stores along 10 miles of Rt 608 on our way to the next climb. Brett was in need of replenishments too, and Mark and Tom were gracious enough to continue south on Rt 608 with us into Buena Vista to look for food and water even though they were pretty much just starting out. What a difference a bag of Frito Lay Corn chips (640 calories, but more importantly, 640mg of sodium) and a Starbucks Frappacino makes. I was now good to go for Irish Gap.

Irish Gap is reached via Irish Creek Rd, paved, very gently climbing for about 10 miles. Then at fork, we go right on Pedlar River Rd (Rt 605), which climbs more earnestly on dirt. Brett seemed to find his legs back on this one and rolled away from us. I was getting my legs back too. Eventually we catch Brett and I ratcheted the pace up a notch. This strung us out over a couple minutes for the two mile dirt climb. The gap is reached at a really cool stone arch and passes under the BRP.

The climbing doesn't stop after reaching the BRP. There's still another 1000ft to go or so over 3 miles. We kept a pretty rigorous pace on this, and Brett paid for his earlier surge here. After several more fairly big rollers (hundreds of feet each), we reach an amazing 4 miles of BRP that we climbed yesterday. It is the descent down to Love Gap. It is giant sweeping switchbacks that can be ripped at 40mph and no brakes. I don't know who started it, but we all took turns attacking on this descent. It hurt worse than the hour of climbing it took to get up here. We also knew the ride was essentially over, all down hill back to the cabin. What a fantastic way to end 6hrs in the saddle.

The weather cooperated perfectly today. A little cooler than yesterday, probably staying below 80F in the valleys, and 60's up top. No rain either, but we hit a little heading out for local Mexican joint for supper. The BRP is an amazing place to ride this time of year. There is minimal traffic on it. In fact, it is common to ride 10 minutes at a time with no cars in either direction! It is like a 20ft wide bike path through the woods on a ridgeline. Just amazing. Cyclists on the BRP probably out-number cars 5:1. Many groups are here on spring training. Lots of recreational riders too. Another epic day, and two-day total climbing is 24,000ft. I believe this is a two-day PR for me, but not Brett, as he finished the Everest Challenge last fall with 29,000ft in two days.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Virginia Training Camp - Day 1

76.0mi, 11,790ft vert, 4:54hrs
It's late, so brief report. Mark, Brett and I hit a lengthy portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) as an out and back to start our ride today. We went out to Irish Gap from Reids gap, then back to Tye River Gap for a marvelous descent through Montebello to pick up Cub River Rd over Ramsey Gap. Ramsey is gravel, it had just been graded, and was pure torture for three miles. It was loose as marbles, maybe worse than the Battenkill climbs this year. I was sure I would walk the last bit to the summit, but all three of us cleaned it. The descent to the final climb of the day was paved. This was the infamous Wintergreen climb. The local club runs USCF time-trials up this beast. From Rt 151, the summit is gained in nearly 3000ft of vertical. It is steep. I did not bring nearly low enough gears for these hills. I'm using the Dean still set up for the Battenkill race with 42t x 27t min gear. Some of these climbs contain 17% max grades or 14% for two miles.

Weather was warm, 80F+ in the valleys, significantly cooler on the ridgeline. Felt about four drops when we passed under a dark cloud. Roads stayed dry.

Had one mechanical. Coming down from Montebello, I could not keep rear derailleur from skipping around. Multiple adjustments did not remedy the problem. This could mean only one thing - failing cable. Sure enough, I had TWO strands left at the derailleur cable clamp! I brought spare cable in tool box, but not on ride. I was screwed with 4000ft of climbing to go, or so I thought. Mark Luzio carries a spare Campy cable which worked with my Shimano setup and saved my life.

The last climb up Wintergreen killed us. As we turned into the resort access road, first Mark bailed, then Brett bailed, leaving me to summit solo. I had known about this climb for many years, and I was not going to let potentially my only opportunity to ride it slip away. I reached high point. I could not find where to get water up there and ended up asking at a nature center of some sort. The gave me a free bottle of water and I supplemented that with a Mountain Dew from a machine in the back room. I was good to go to finish the ride. It wasn't all down hill. I still had to climb 800ft of Reids Gap with some heinous grades to cross the BRP and descend other side to our cabin. Ride was epic, scenery awesome. Starting to look like summer in the valleys but still early spring on the ridgelines.

Yeah, Baby!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring Training Camp - Phase-II

Teammate Brett Rutledge and I are meeting Mark and Tom Luzio down in Virginia for four days of hill climbing nirvana. We'll be staying just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and near Wintergreen Mtn, an awesome area to put some great rides together. Weather is looking ideal other than a chance for some rain on Saturday. I've never ridden the Parkway or in that area. It should be greening up by now. Normally I travel only with MTB, like Arizona a couple weeks ago. This will be my first pure roadie cycling trip. We probably won't have Internet access, so don't expect any blog updates until next week.

This run of stellar weather we're having is phenomenal. While several Battenkill competitors competed in other events Sunday, I hopped on my mountain bike and hit 34 miles worth of trails from home. This included hitting everything in Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro state forest, a loop along the Merrimack River in Hudson, and a loop up and over Seavey Hill behind my house. GPS says I did over 4000ft of climbing. It appears mud season has been cancelled this year. In 11 years I have lived here, I have not experienced going from so much snow to dry earth so quickly. I've logged over 450 miles on mountain bikes already this year. I hope to finish at least one 100 mile mountain bike race, possibly the Shenandoah 100 later this summer.

Sunday's Trail Ride

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tour of the Battenkill Race Report

Masters 40+
Approx. 55mi, 2:32hrs
9/80ish starters

We had stellar weather all week. A God-send actually, after one of the longest, snowiest winters on record. But could it have been too much of a good thing? For Battenkill this year, I think it was.

This was my third BK race in three years (the BK is only four years old). It has quickly become a northeast region classic. Nearly every field max'd out with waiting lists, and on race day, there were over 1300 competitors pre-registered. My field was limited to 125 riders, but it looked more like 80-100 were at the starting line.

The night before, the forecast was calling for high of 74F. But it was almost this warm already driving over in the morning. It was going to get much hotter. I packed three water bottles, and I knew I was going to have trouble. Heat is my Achilles heel. Additionally, it hadn't rained in over a week. The previous two years, the gravel parts of the course were well packed, even moist in spots. But I do plenty of road cycling on unpaved roads to know that a week of sun can turn most gravel roads into a bed of marbles. Reports before the start of the race weren't encouraging.

The beginning of our race was uneventful. The pace over the first small dirt climb before coming back into town was manageable. No giant craters with water bottle mine fields this year. Then we hit Juniper Swamp Rd. The first portion of this double hump climb is paved. The pace went to very hard. I stayed with top 10 guys. After a brief descent, we get to phase two of this climb, a steep wall of loose as marbles sand and rocks. We had already overtaken Cat 4 stragglers here, and they were walking all over the place. Master's riders were having trouble too, one guy spinning out right in front of me, causing me to lose several positions cresting the hill. This was enough for John Funk (Cycle Fitness), Jonny Bold (Corner Cycle), a CCC/Keltic rider and one other to break clear of our field. Catching them would prove tough. A large portion of our field was shelled on this climb, less than 10 miles into the race.

After a sketchy high speed descent, we pick up pavement again. The covered bridge was back in the race. I wonder if anybody bites it turning on to slippery wood deck? The break was putting good distance on us heading down Rt 313. The deal was, teams represented in the break were very effectively blocking. It is so frustrating when this happens, as teams not represented in the break often don't step up to the plate. Both teams and individuals think it's the next guy's job to do something about it. You can sit back, rest, take a gamble somebody will do something about it, but your race might just ride up the road away from you too. In this case, knowing who was up there, I chose not to gamble. I still had one teammate with me, Richard Barnwell (IBC/Global), and we both put in disproportionate amounts of work closing the break down. We got a few other riders to jump in a few times, but Corner Cycle and CCC/Keltic guys kept the interference factor high. Just as were were about to close in on the four-man break, the CCC/Keltic guy in the break went down. Apparently he clipped a wheel. But he was back on his bike and chasing before we overtook him. Moments later, however, we were one big happy family again, maybe 40 riders strong. Richard and I both burnt way too many matches on this effort. We'd pay dearly for this later in the race. Of our other two teammates, one flatted on Juniper Swamp, the other got caught behind the split.

We head through Cambridge, then begin the long, gentle climb up Rt 59. There were a few half hearted attacks here, and I actually found myself off the front on the descent. I wasn't ready to go for it though. As we made the turns to pick up the infamous Meetinghouse Rd, I waited for the field. Meetinghouse Rd is a barrage of steep climbs, mostly on gravel. Shortly after the suffering began, Jonny Bold and John Funk got away again. I didn't see Jonny go, but John's move was decisive. I doubt anybody could have matched it. They joined forces and developed a substantial lead to the finish. The rest of us stayed together for the most part through this rocky purgatory. One section was particularly brutal, littered with sharp, fist-sized rocks. I heard two tires go Pfssssssssst right by me. There must have been a dozen riders from other fields either fixing flats or walking bikes with flats here. By this point, I was running out of water and felt early signs of cramping coming on. I secretly prayed I too would flat to end the suffering now.

We get on pavement again and get a reprieve from hills, dust, and rocks. We're down to maybe 20 guys out of 80 or so that started with 2 guys up the road. We snake through the town of Greenwich next, overtaking what surely must be the last of the Cat 4's. I was several guys back at this point. I see Eric Pearce (Bethel Cycle) roll off the front. He was making his move. Nobody does a thing. I should have been more careful and stayed on his wheel, as I knew this was coming. By the time I came to the front and started to pick up the pace, Eric had maybe 5-10 seconds on us. I was hurting though from the huge chase effort earlier in the race, an effort Eric benefited from (but didn't help with). Nobody else would come up to chase. We just pretty much all sat up. Eric was gone, just like last year when he won, but this time he would likely not finish better than 3rd with Funk and Bold way up the road.

A while later, a few of us did get a bit of a chase effort going, but it was too little, too late. We erroneously thought a rider in a white jersey just up the road was Eric. When we realized it wasn't him, the chase was deflated. My prospects of finishing well were now long gone. I had been out of water for a while, and my throat was so dry I thought for sure it would crack and bleed. If I stopped pedalling or pedalled too hard, many muscles would go into spasms. Despite spending a week in Arizona riding recently, it was nothing like the heat today. I ride outdoors and ski all winter, so I really don't have a chance to sweat until it gets hot out.

We get to the final climb with about 20 riders in pack, Funk and Bold way up the road, Pearce between us and them. This climb starts gravel, then paved, before a long fast paved descent about 4 miles out from the finish. It's not too steep, and unlike last year, what was left of our field went surprisingly easy up this climb. I fully expected to get shelled here, but had no trouble staying with them despite every muscle in my legs firing randomly in fits of pain. Even with the gentle pace, we seemed to whittle our pack down to only a dozen or so riders at the top. I guess there were a few guys hurting even more badly than I. It was essentially all downhill from here.

Two riders bolted well before the finish, maybe 1.5 miles out. I somehow missed the 1km to go banners, so the finish line caught me by surprise. I was just following the train home at this point anyway. As things wound up, I passed a couple guys that went early, just taking wheels that appeared in front of me until we were over the line. Surprisingly, this sad effort was enough to get me in the cash which goes 10 deep. $25 for 9th place.

I immediately drank two large water bottles after getting back to the car. While discussing the race with teammates and Dave Penney, Dave's rear tire pretty much just exploded standing there. He had a large shard of rock or glass wedged into the sidewall. How he ever finished the race on that tire is beyond me.

So it was a decent race for me. Of course, I had hoped to do a little better, but I did better than last year and there may have been more heavy hitters there this year. I think the chase effort early in the race and not being able to stay hydrated did me in. It is hard to say how the race would have played out if Richard and I just sat in and let others (maybe) pursue the initial break. That left us both cooked. But chasing down a break of the strongest riders in the field is fun. Hydration would still have been an issue. Car thermometer read 85-87F leaving Salem. As always, Battenkill was an epic race, one of the most challenging in the northeast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BK Prep

After being down seven pounds in body weight for a couple days, I'm starting to bounce back. I wouldn't wish the weight loss program I experienced on anyone. Haven't gotten results back from lab work yet, but my body seems to have dealt with the pathogen intruder on its own without going on antibiotics.

Tuesday was my first training day in almost a week. The week before that, I got in only one intensity workout before becoming sick. Then for eight days prior to that, I logged major miles in Arizona, but no intensity work. I was worried about the impact the trip alone would have on training. I rode 40 miles at lunch on Tuesday. I had no top end heading up Chestnut Hill. On a good day, my speed does not drop below 10mph. Tuesday, I struggled to hold 8mph. My weight was down to 159 lbs, so there was no doubt I was still dehydrated and probably had little fuel in the glycogen tank too. But still, with well rested legs, I at least expected to have some punch on the first climb of my ride.

Next up was Uncanoonuc Mtn. This gains nearly 1000ft from the low point, the last 600ft steeply to the summit. Normally I struggle to hold 6mph on the steepest parts of this beast. But surprisingly, I held 7+mph nearly all the way up. Now maybe because I was lack luster on Chestnut, I had more punch left for Unc, but maybe I was just starting to come around too.

I felt so good after Unc, I decided to descend the other side all the way down to Goffstown then climb back up Wallace Rd to add miles and more climbing. I held a nice threshold+ effort up this and tempo pace all the way back. Normally I don't finish this climbing loop that is chocked full of intervals very strongly, but Tuesday I did. I expected to have top end starting out and fading, but just the opposite happened.

Today, a group of us went out for a brisk paced ride. We dropped two riders immediately, so it was just Steve, Dave and I. Steve was on his fixie. I expected to just tag along, start tapering for Battenkill. But Steve always sets the bar high when group riding on his fixie. Our loop entails numerous stop signs, traffic lights, and hills later in the ride. Rolling into Amherst, we had 24.3mph avg. WTF? We didn't give much of this average up through the hillier parts either, finishing the 23 mile ride with a 24.0mph average. I almost felt guilty finishing a lunch ride in less than one hour. Strangely, I felt stronger today after yesterday's 2+ hour hammer hillfest. Goes to show what a forced recovery period during illness can do for you. Now I only have two days to taper for BK.

I haven't been out on my new Ridley at all except for a 6 mile test ride in the neighborhood. The crank is wrong length (172.5mm), and I need to get this swapped out for a 175mm crank. Since I haven't worked out the bugs and dialed in the fit, I will not be able to use the Ridley for BK. This is a real bummer. I'll use my heavy, non-aero Dean, which is still equipped as I raced it last season. I've gotten emails asking how to equip for BK. Here's a few highlights:
Gearing: 53/38 crank with 27/12 cassette. I won M35+ two years ago with triple.
Tires: 23mm Pro2 Race. I don't see wider tires in lead group with 10 miles to go.
Bottle Cages: Elite's, heavy gauge aluminum with gell grippers. Leave your gram weany stuff at home.
Wheels: Rolf Prima Vigor RS. Dainty carbon rims are risky.

I lost a water bottle the first year, but surprisingly it was not through the artillery sized craters in gravel. It was over the tracks in Cambridge. I suspect with long dry spell going into this year's BK, the gravel will be much looser than the last two years. I hope I'm off the front when we reach the first 40+mph descent on marbles!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Remnants of Arizona

I should be writing a Turtle Pond race report right now. I had no choice but to bail on the race. Apparently I took home more than enhanced tan lines and red dust on my MTB from Arizona. Less than 36hrs after we got back, I was fighting an intestinal bug of some sort. Most of the time, these things go away in a day or two. Not this one - four days and counting. My weight is down more than five pounds already. Looks like I'll be visiting the doctor first thing Monday.

I went for late afternoon ride. Legs felt snappy, as I tapered for a race. But I had no sustainable energy. I might have done tempo pace first hour, but was cooked going into second hour. I would have been dropped first time going over the hill at Turtle Pond. I'm really starting to bum out over this. This past week essentially became a rest week, which was not planned. The Battenkill race is next weekend, and I wanted to get liberal doses of intensity in today and early this coming week before backing down. Now it looks like I could end up with back to back rest weeks, which would be a huge hit in training as intensity is supposed to be ramping up this time of year.

The last time I had a bug like this, it took 10 days to get out of my system, and that was after going on Cipro - a pretty nasty antibiotic. That was in 2003, and I missed the Mt Washington race with $400 sunk into it. I lost at least 14 pounds in that episode, but since it was near the end of the racing season, it was not a catastrophe. I have no idea what I picked up or where I got it in 2003. There are dozens of common viral and bacterial bugs that can cause diarrhea. The present case, maybe something from the airplane? Last meal in Phoenix at Chinese joint? Who knows.

So the MTB made it back fine from Arizona. I picked up a new XTR rear derailleur from IBC yesterday to replace the one sheared off at Otis a couple weeks ago. I used a temporary XT derailleur to get me through the trip. Now I notice the front brake lever bottoms out, not on the bar, but the plunger before there's appreciable stopping force. These original Hayes disk brakes are about eight years old now, so perhaps it is time to replace them. I've had near flawless performance over those eight years.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Bike

After a three year hiatus in bike building/purchasing, I finally decided it was time to upgrade my primary road race machine. I've been racing my Dean El Diente for seven years now. It has been a fine bike. But in those seven years, carbon has really taken off. My Dean titanium bike was heavy. I specialize in hilly road races, where weight might actually make a difference. Plus the Dean had no aerodynamic features built into the frame. It is constructed of straight gauged (non-butted) round tubing.

A couple riding partners convinced me to join another team this spring. This meant new sponsors and an opportunity to get a really good deal on a custom ordered bike. I went down to International Bicycles a few weeks ago looking at TT and road bikes. I had a Cervelo in mind at the time, but they also presented Argon and Ridley options. Even though they did not have any Ridley's in at the time, the features looked particularly attractive to me.

I wasn't sure how many pure TT's I would do. I am sure I'll do many road races each season. I decided to compromise and get a road bike that can double as a TT platform, although not quite as optimally as a dedicated TT frame.

I ended up ordering a Ridley Noah, their flagship model. Ridley also markets this frame in TT builds. With a short head tube and reversible seat post clamp, one can come close to achieving an efficient TT position on this frame. With the frame, I ordered full Dura Ace build, my preferred Speedplay pedals and Terry Fly saddle. The frame has an integrated seat mast system, something I'm a little queasy about, but have no doubts about the integrity or benefits of such system. The queasiness arises from the fact you have very limited adjustment range once you cut the frame. No problem for me (I had the shop err on the tall side), but if I ever choose to resell the bike, somebody with a much taller inseam might not fit with all the spacers added.

The Ridley weighs in at 16.4 lbs (as pictured above), more than two pounds lighter than my Dean. This weight will get me more in line with my competition in the road scene. I expect more performance gains from the aerodynamic features, however. Some of this comes from the frame, a bunch more from the aero wheels. I think my riding position will be rotated slightly further forward on the Ridley too. Generally, my only chance for winning a road race is to get away from the field, and these features in my new Ridley will give me just a bit more of an edge.

Scalloped seat tube

1.5" lower, 1.125" upper integrated headset bearings

Integrated seat mast

Monday, April 7, 2008

Arizona Day 6: More Sedona Trails

Llama, Broken Arrow, Submarine Rock, Templeton
23.0mi, 2:30hrs

We got a one hour extension on hotel check out to 12 noon. This gave just enough time to get a respectable trail ride in and shower afterwards. The women dropped me off in Oak Creek and shopped there. Last spring, I rode Llama and Broken Arrow with Dave and knew I would have to ride them again some day. That happened this morning. These are the premire riding trails in Sedona, and one guide book says if you only have time for one ride, hit these. Sedona trails were much looser and dustier this year. I was dabbing and hike-a-biking more sections than I recall last year. Having a completely bald rear tire was partly to blame. Dry conditions were another part. And becoming a soft roadie was the rest.

Templeton Trail

We left the hotel in such a hurry early this morning that I forgot to grab the camera and trail map. The Bike and Bean shop was already open at 8am, so I picked up a basic map, not nearly as detailed as my large, plastic topo map. Most bike shops wreak of Triflow chain lube, but Bike and Bean smelled of gourmet coffee.

I hauled-A on the first few trails, I'm sure hitting the highest HR's of the trip. I wouldn't be riding the next day, and time was short. Dave and I skipped Submarine Rock last spring, so I decided to check it out. It's a half mile or so singletrack out to a large slick rock formation that resembles a submarine.

After I finished Broken Arrow, I wanted to ride as much of Templeton around Cathedral Rock as possible. This would be new to me. I cut in from the Cathedral Rock hiking trail head, rode out to switchbacks that descend to Oak Creek, then started working my way back to village of Oak Creek. The riding around the lower rim of Cathedral Rock was mostly slick rock with little elevation change, presented some exposure to steep drops, and offered great views. It was a great way to wrap up several days of riding.

Cathedral Rock Hike
1.6mi, 45min, 800ft vert

After checking out and boxing bike, we decided to hike Cathedral Ledge. This is probably the most popular hike in Sedona, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is hands and feet climbing most of the way. The hard part is coming back down, as you can't see where to put your feet at times. Slipping is not an option in several places. Neither Cathy nor mom were willing to give it a go, so they hiked out and back on Templeton Trail that I biked a couple hours earlier.

Back side of Cathedral Rock hike

The view from gaps between the spires was spectacular, one of the best in Sedona. From some angles, Cathedral Rock looks like a single monolith of sandstone, but it actually consists of multiple spires that you can climb in between. Upon reaching the high point, one climber immediately called a friend on his cell phone to say how amazing this hike in was. After capturing several photos with the Canon SLR, I had to hurry to get back down. I had to stop and dwell on several sections about how to navigate them. It is way easier to hoist yourself up with hands than it is to let yourself down the same section. Any fit person not afraid of heights can do this climb, although it was the most technical hike I've done.

That's a wrap for this trip. I now have well defined cycling tan lines. We had sunny or mostly sunny weather every day with temps into 70's and 80's and zero precip. No crashes or mechanicals on the trail, although a minor tangle with a Cholla in Tucson left me with a flat tire the next time I rode. We fly back Tuesday, back to work on Wednesday. The three hour time difference back to the daily grind will be hard to handle.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Arizona Day 5: Mingus Mtn and Thumper Loops

51.8 miles, 6200ft vert, 4:38hrs
Sunny, 60's to 70's

I'm becoming such a roadie. It could turn out that my favorite ride from this trip will be a paved hillclimb. This ride almost didn't happen even. Logistically, it was hard to plan around what the women were doing. Mingus Mtn rises above the town of Cottonwood, just 20 minutes west of Sedona, and even closer to the Indian ruins that the women wanted to visit today. So they dropped me off in the morning and used the car for their activities.

Mingus Mtn is the last of the big Arizona hillclimbs for me to check off on my list. It rises about 4300ft in 19 miles. The first 16 miles from Cottonwood are paved on Rt 89A. The pavement is nice, but there is no shoulder. The last three miles are off-road on a decent gravel surface. In addition to Mingus, I have ridden Arizona climbs Mt Lemmon (6800ft, both ways), Kitt Peak (3700ft), Mt Graham (7000ft), and Mt Hopkins (5500ft). I've hit three of the five in this trip, with cumulative net gain of over 16,600ft.

Climbing Mingus via Rt 89A from Cottonwood reminded me a lot of the climbs in the Sierra Nevada's - open desert views, narrow road, twisty canyon topography. My legs were cooked from yesterday's 4.1hr ride, but climbing went well. I maintained steady tempo pace, pause only briefly to snap a couple photos. The steepest part was actually climbing through the village of Jerome, on very Old West-ish kind of mining town. Once above Jerome, traffic became sparse. There was only one significant descent on the way up. I reached the summit in 2:02hrs riding time. Cell phone coverage was good up here (Verizon), so I called Cathy to discuss rendezvous plans.

View of Cottonwood from Mingus summit

For the descent, I opted to take forest roads, aka 4WD jeep roads, back down to Cottonwood. I started on FR-413. This begins under dense canopy of large pines. Parts of this were utterly brutal. I began to wonder if the descent would take longer than the climb, as my speed in places was only 4mph picking my way through wicked ledgy terrain. There was nothing out here, so crashing was NOT an option. I passed a man and women coming up on mountain bikes. I started to think I should have done the loop in reverse, climb on rocks, descend on pavement. I caught up to two large 4WD trucks picking their way down and passed them.

FR-413 ledgy descent

Eventually I reached the junction with FR-493. The initial portion of FR-493 was a hairball plummet. It consisted of large, loose slabs of jagged rock, and it was so steep that I could not control speed without continuous skidding. I thought I was going to have to ditch the bike at one point. But FR-493 eventually levels out and transitioned into a well maintained gravel road. This is were you can really rip. The last 10 miles or so of the 20+ mile descent was pure bliss. The wide open views were fantastic.

When I got back to town, I called Cathy again. I had two options. One, ride back to Sedona via divided highway 89A, a great cycling route with wide paved shoulders but mostly up hill for 15 miles, or two, do a short trail ride at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood and get picked up. Cathy and Mom were wrapping up visiting Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in Oak Creek and would be available to pick me up. I pedalled a couple miles over to the state park.

Lower portion of FR-493 descent

After paying the $2 entrance fee, I talked with the ranger a bit. He's an avid singlespeed rider. We talked bikes (he liked my Ti Dean) for a bit and about the Thumper Loop. He mentioned record course time is 31 minutes. When I told him what I had already done and wouldn't be racing the loop, he was impressed. In general, I find people, including drivers, are very tolerant of cyclists in Arizona. When I first got down from Mingus and asked for directions to the state park, I had three people offer to help me, a skinny white guy in spandex. I have not yet experienced a hostile motorist incident on this trip, and I've ridden a fair amount of pavement.

The Thumper loop was a nice way to cap off a day of riding. Mostly buff singletrack, but there were some sandy areas and a few very technical spots that forced me to dismount. I passed one other rider out taking his dog for a ride. Shortly after passing him, I had to hike my bike down a cascade of gnarly 2ft drops. This guys was big, on a hardtail, and just rolled down the mess like it was nothing as he passed me.

This brings the total climbing from cycling and hiking on this trip to well over 30,000ft now. Aerobic activity for the week exceeds 20hrs. Monday, we have to check out and head back to Phoenix for Tuesday morning flight. I hope to ride Llama, Broken Arrow, and possibly Templeton trails in time to clean up before noon checkout. The weather could not have been more perfect thus far. Chilly mornings, calm, temp rising to 70's, brilliant sun, with wind picking up late afternoon every day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Arizona Day 4: Sedona Trail Riding

Munds-Huckaby-Jim Thompson Loop
30.0 miles, 4300ft vert, 4:05hrs
Sunny, 60's to 70's

Was really itching to try some new trails today. When I came to Sedona in March '07 with Dave P., we spent one day here and I immediately recognized I would have to come back soon. My legs were in a major funk from the two huge riding days earlier this week (13hrs, 20,000ft climbing) and yesterday's big hike into the Grand Canyon. My calves were in knots and knees were extremely tender. I think it was from stepping down hundreds, if not thousands, of big steps on the South Kaibab trail. I think my wife and mom had less trouble than I did.

The morning started rough. My rear tubeless tire was flat. Seems the Cholla I clipped two days earlier did a real number on the sidewall. I put a spare, nearly bald, 1.9" UST tire on the rim and could not get the bead to seat to begin inflation. I had to go to service station and fuss with schrader nozzle on presta valve to blast enough air into the tube to get the bead to seat. This tire would later prove to be woefully inadequate for the terrain I was about to encounter.

Top of Schnebly Hill overlooking Sedona

Plan today was to repeat a climb Dave and I did last year, then on the descent pick up new stuff we did not get too. The climb up Schnebly Hill Rd went well, but I didn't push the pace. Strangely, the road was gated half way up to the scenic vista that hundreds of tour Jeeps drive up to daily. Don't know why. Was nice, as I had the upper portion of the road to myself. The road was much rougher than when Dave and I did it last year. This was a sign of more things to come.

Huckaby in Oak Creek gorge

Rather than stop at the scenic vista where the Jeeps turn around (and lazy tourists don't even get out of the Jeep to shoot photos), I continued higher along the rim. I wanted to see what was up there. The trail at this point was not maintained in any sense. It was brutally rocky and loose, barely rideable. This went on for a long time. The view was worth it though. The additional hundreds of feet of climbing brought much more of Sedona into view.

I opted to return down to singletrack at this point rather than explore further up on the high plateau land. I picked up Munds Wagon Trail, as Dave and I did last year. It was rocky last year, but much worse this year. Seems to have been very dry lately, and the trail was essentially a V-groove filled with large, loose, sharp rocks. They would constantly flip into spokes, feet, frame and slide out from under you when braking or pedalling. Very frustrating. I reached a point where I had enough and popped back out on the Jeep road to finish the descent.

Jordan or maybe Jim Thompson

Huckaby Trail was next. I thought this would be mostly downhill to Oak Creek crossing and buff. It was NOT. It was heinously steep up and down, requiring many dismounts and hike-a-bikes. When I got down to Oak Creek, the trail completely disappeared. I stumbled around for what seemed like an eternity over car sized rocks looking for a way out of the hundreds of feet deep gorge I was in. Eventually I found it, crossing under the Rt 89A bridge. I thought that surely must be the end of hike-a-biking.

Finding the Jim Thompson trail head proved challenging. The old two track/single track followed a stream bed and kind of disappeared and reappeared a few times. When I found Jim Thompson, I was greeted with more hike-a-bike, the really loose, steep kind that was even hard to walk on. The bald tire I had on back did not hook up with this loose-as-marbles stuff. Plus, I really needed about 6" travel front and back to properly ride this stuff. My hardtail has steep head angle and made the bony descents dicy. Jim Thompson eventually tames a bit and presented some fantastic secenery, stuff I hadn't seen last time.

Portion of ride: Schnebly climb, Munds descent, Huckaby in lower center, and start of Jim Thompson on left of image

The Jordan Trail was next, mostly rideable, but some dismounts required. I was getting tired at this point, having been on the trail for over 4hrs without a break. I hadn't yet seen another mountain biker either. Just hikers.

The final trail I rode was Tea Cup. It was the least technical trail of the day, and the only time I saw other riders. I still had to dismount a few times on this one, once after I spun my bald tire out on a steep dusty incline that caused me to bash a knee into the stem. I was ready to quit while I was still intact. My water was long gone, and I was only two miles from hotel by road. So I popped off trail and went back, a little ahead of planned rendezvous time with the women, who were shopping.

Tea Cup trail

The best part of this ride was the scenery. The climb was nice, but the trails were more challenging than I like. Of the four hours I was moving, I'd say at least one hour of that was off the bike. My brand new $400 Sidi shoes are nearly destroyed. The carbon soles are chewed up, the replaceable treads will have to be replaced. This ride was no Otis AFB ride. Not sure what's on tap for Sunday yet. Could be a road-ish Mingus Mtn climb in nearby Cottonwood, or maybe hitting more Sedona trails I haven't explored yet. When I do hit the trails, I'll be sure to hit some of the stuff Dave and I did last year, like Llama and Broken Arrow.

Arizona Day 3: Grand Canyon

South Kaibab Trail
Approx. 7 miles in 3.5hrs hiking time, 2050ft vert
Sunny, 46-60's (15F overnight low at South Rim)

Yet another day perfectly matched for the planned activity. Mom, Cathy and I headed north 2hrs by car from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, south rim. We planned to hike a portion of the South Kaibab trail that juts out on a finger ridge into the canyon.

I can't imagine that another hike I'll do will match this in awe-factor. You really have to visit the canyon to appreciate the magnitude of it. It truly is one of the wonders of the world. From your first step over the rim all the way out to Skeleton Point, you are immersed in majestic views. The switchbacks starting out set the tone for the rest of the hike. I wondered what it would be like to ride down into the canyon but soon realized it would be a suicide ride.

Mom has been having some knee issues, so she was content on playing it safe and stopping at Cedar Ridge. This was half way to Skeleton Point, and Skeleton Point is only half way to the river. The canyon is about 4600ft deep here, and Cathy and I hiked nearly half of that down. Going down nearly destroyed my knees. The hiking is non-stop big steps which is high impact. I found hiking back up much easier, although aerobically challenging due to the 7000ft altitude. Cathy did good too on the hike up, as we climbed back to rim from Skeleton Point in 1.5hrs with stops. The guide says round trip takes 4-6hrs, and most people take twice as long climbing out as going in. Not for the aerobically fit however. We found hiking up to be faster with less issues of slipping or rolling ankles.

Mom made it back to the market place well before we did using the park shuttle bus service (you can't park at most trail heads). This was first time for any of us to visit the Grand Canyon, and we were thoroughly satisfied with our visit.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Arizona Day 2: Fantasy Island and Mt Hopkins

Fantasy Island Trail Ride
Thursday morning, April 3
21.5mi, 1:46hrs, vertical - who cares!
Cloudless 70 degrees

After epic ride the day before, some chill'n on trails was in order. The Fantasy Island trail network was a short 20 minute drive from the hotel. I was going to squeeze this ride in before checking out, and the women were going to hang out at the pool.

Dodging Colla

I planned to do full perimeter loop, which means hitting each of the named loops. All the trails are unidirectional. The whole place is like an amusement park for mountain bikes. No fear of death stuff, but tons of wash drop-ins, table tops, gravity cavities, and other opportunities to get air with amazing flow.

As I worked my way around, I noticed named loops that were not there a year ago. I had to ride them despite being on a time budget this ride. The Snake loop and Rez loop were new ones added off the Bunny loop.

When I stopped to take a photo, I swung my bike around and clipped a Cholla cactus with the rear tire. Chunks broke off, and about 30 needles stuck in the tire. I tried to remove the balls of thorns with a sharp stone, but the more I tried, the more they rolled around and embedded more thorns into the tire. Eventually I got the balls off, but the thorns would not pull out. They would break before pulling out. Now I know why these things are the bane of a mountain biker's existence out here. You hit one, you go to the hospital. Glad I run tubeless tires with Stan's sealer. At least a couple of the thorns went through the sidewall and leaked a little Stan's.

Anyway, it was a great ride, energizing even, on uber trashed legs from the 7.6hr deathmarch ride the day before. Got back in plenty of time to check out and prep for ride two of the day.

Mt Hopkins Hillclimb
Thursday afternoon, April 4
38.5mi, ~6000ft vert, 3:28hrs
Pleasant 70's bottom, frigid up top

The women were nice enough to let me indulge in one more ride today. They dropped me off in Amado, just miles from the Mexican border, while I did an out and back up Mt Hopkins. They were going to hit the Pima Air Museum while I rode. Mt Hopkins from I-19 gains about 5500ft to 8500ft elevation. It is a one lane dirt road most of the way and meticulously maintained. There is a Smithsonian research complex with telescopes up top.

Wash at start, Hopkins summit in distance

In haste, I forgot to take long layers with me when I got dropped off. Easy to do when it is clear and 75F at the bottom. I left a couple water bottles at the bottom in case I got back before the women and was dehydrated. My legs were so sore and sluggish starting out riding through a flowing wash 6" deep.

Switchbacks from summit

You can see the main observatory, precariously perched on the pinnacle, for much of the climb. At first, the grade is gradual, and it looks like you are making good progress to summit. But you are merely getting closer, not higher. After about 1.5hrs of climbing, you come around this bend and see the big white building up top almost straight above you. It is still waaaaay up there, and it completely crushes you. The road meanders all over in a very small volume as it edges up the cliff faces of this beast.

Don't think it was a rattler, but it sure was big

About this time, I started to get cold. I had severe reservations about continuing all the way to the summit, as a dark cloud was starting to form and I had no protection with me against hypothermia. When I climbed this mountain several years ago, I froze on the descent. It was 60-70 at the bottom and everything up top was covered in rime ice. I pushed harder and harder to stay warm and to make sure I had elevated core body temp to begin my descent. I figure I would suffer the first 20-30 minutes to get back down to less frigid air.

I was breathing very hard the last 30 minutes of the climb, and I felt the early tale-tell signs of cramping coming on. But I made it. The last 0.25 miles or so must average 20-25% grade. I resisted the urge to use my granny gear and suffered through this last bit with a 1:1 gear ratio. The view is stunning in all directions. I hung around only a minute or two, as any excess core body heat I had would be quickly depleted by the frigid breeze up top. It took about 2:26hrs to reach the summit from I-19.

Hopkins summit, nasty steep

I saw what looked like a little rain dropping from darker clouds in the distance, but I doubt any of it was reaching the ground. I was up much higher however, and I feared the dark cloud forming above the peak could douse me at any moment. I flew on the descent. I got cold enough that I started shivering, but nothing like the uncontrollable shivers Dave and I experienced on Mt Evans a year ago in sleet. The descent took 62 minutes. Amazingly, as I pedalled back through the wash I started this ride in, the women just pulled up. Perfect timing.

Looking north at Santa Catalina Mtns (Mt Lemmon highest peak) with Tucson at base

All cyclists should try this climb, including non-mountain bikers. The climb is road bikeable, but the descent would be ultra sketchy with road tires. I had the knobbies back on for this ride. A cross bike would be ideal. The climb is very isolated, and I encountered cars only a few times in 3.5hrs during the ride. Mt Hopkins is much bigger than Mt Washington in New Hampshire but not as steep. Like Mt Washington, you get that "top of the world" sensation at the summit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Arizona Day 1: Jackpot

Squeeze the Lemmon
108.9mi, 13,500ft, 7:38hrs
Mostly sunny, ~60 to mid-80's

For about six years now, I've always wanted to bike to the very summit of Mt Lemmon. Not just the village, or even the ski area base, but the all the way to the high point. For years, the Mt Lemmon Highway has been under reconstruction. It was off-limits to bikes. Then last year, Dave Penney and I tried and got snowed out. After a long dry, warm spell, the summit was now nearly clear of snow.

I couldn't settle for just a roadie kind of climb, you know. I wanted to go big. This means to ride up the back side of Mt Lemmon, which is a rough jeep road, and descend the front side where most folks ride up. To do this required a very large loop, 108.9 miles to be exact. And a mountain bike was required. I have never ridden more than 70 miles on a mountain bike in a day before. But today's ride was mostly pavement, so not all of those 108.9 miles were going to be hard.

After a huge breakfast, I rolled out shortly after 7:30am. Bit chilly, but just warm enough to not need any warm layers. I took a long jersey and rain shell in Camelbak just in case. There was 10% chance of rain in forecast.

The route skirts the northern reaches of Tucson on the way to Rt 77. Then in many mind numbing miles, gains about 2000ft gradually to Oracle. The 38 miles to Oracle took just over 2hrs, and I thought this ride was going to be too easy. The 1.6" tires at 70psi rolled quite fast.

But fantasies of wrapping the ride up in five hours soon evaporated. When I stopped in Oracle to get some more water, I only picked up a liter, as I hadn't drank that much out of my Camelbak. It didn't top off my pack. The gravel started innocuous enough, smoother and faster than most New England roads this spring. Then the rolling hills started. These weren't your typical New England rollers. I climbed for maybe 20 minutes at a time, then in 5 minutes I give it all back dropping into a ravine. The climbs and descents got progressively bigger, many hundreds of feet each. Each time I recovered lost vertical, I'd see my destination looming far away and high above. But then I drop again. It was maddening, a climber's purgatory of sorts.

Then there was that big sign at the bottom that said road closed 19 miles ahead due to winter conditions. Oh. I just pretended I didn't see it. By the time the climbing began in earnest with the rollers behind, I was out of water and it was hot out. I was freaking out, knowing that I probably still had a vertical mile to climb to the nearest water, and the temp was breaking 80F. The road became a narrow one-lane affair, non-stop washboard and embedded rocks. On a hardtail with 70psi tires, this was a non-stop butt pounder.

Eventually I reach the 19 mile gate that was supposedly closed. It wasn't, but the road got decisively rougher after this gate. I was becoming progressively dehydrated, and my average speed began to plummet. My throat was cracking with dryness, and I hadn't peed in 6 hrs. I had trouble holding 4mph in places, but refused to drop into the granny. After a while, I start to hear machinery. Town of Summerhaven I thought. But sound has a way of carrying in the mountains. I must have climbed another hour before I hit pavement. I was so relieved.

I went straight to the General Store in Summerhaven. It was closed! I turned more than a few tourist's heads with my vocal frustration. I went to gift shop to see where I could get water. They said next door at pizza shop. I asked if I could buy some Gatorade or water, and the nice gal that worked there offered to fill my Camelbak. Sweet. I also bought a Coke and $4.00 Oatmeal cookie. Steep price, but when I got it I knew why. It completely covered a paper plate, it was warm right out of the oven, and it was very yummy.

I had planned to summit first, before stopping in Summerhaven to refuel. But now I was good to go to finish the last 1500ft or so of climbing to 9150ft. Even though I was back on pavement, the going was slow. It was so steep, and air gets thin that high up. The ski area still had remnants of snow around, but it was closed. The service road going to top of ski area had been plowed at one time. I still had to watch for icy places. Eventually the observatories come into view, and my climb was about over. Net gain was about 6800ft, most of it on rugged jeep road. My average speed about 75 miles into the ride was only 12.0mph! I doubt most roadies climb the final service road to the summit. It is not in very nice shape.

I did a loop to the highest point of the mountain (might have technically been a restricted area) before dropping down a bit to catch a view of Tucson below. I think you really have to hike out to the rocks for a good view, as I could not readily find one on my bike. It was chilly up here, but I managed to hold off putting any layers on. This is far cry from when Dave and I tried to summit last year this time. It thunder snowed, and we donned full winter gear for the descent.

On the descent back to Tucson, there are a couple climbs. One gains hundreds of feet still near the top. I was starting to cramp up, my 100oz Camelbak was going empty again, and I had thirty miles to go! But once you crest that blip, it's pretty much all downhill for the next 25 miles.

I was passed by a roadie on the descent met others coming up. Why is it roadies don't even acknowledge dudes on MTB's? I had my NorEast team kit on, on a Dean Ti bike, but fat tires and no drop bar. I didn't even exist. Had I been on my Dean road bike, at least they would have glanced to see what I was riding. I bet the kid that passed me probably even thought I was dropped off at the top and just coasting down and had no idea I had been out 7 hours by that point and climbed 2.5 times as much as he did.

The wind was brutal coming back into town. So strong it pushed up the canyons, that I almost couldn't coast down a 5% grade in spots. I was becoming dehydrated again, and I had to work the last several miles into the wind as the grade tapered off into the city.

So this ride finally happened. I was psychologically unprepared for how hard it became, easily on par with 6-gaps of Vermont or the D2R2 ride. Getting dehydrated twice in the same ride was just plain stupid. And dangerous. On the dirt climb, I was out in bone dry nothingness for over 3hrs. Only two trucks came by during that whole time. But epics like this are priceless. Being out there without another soul around wondering if you made a huge mistake embarking on such a remote ride solo adds a rich dimension to riding.

Not many photos to post now. May show more in report I'll post on after I get back. Next up is some trail riding at Fantasy Island in Tucson, and maybe another big dirt climb in the afternoon if my legs are up for it. This ride left me uber trashed.