Monday, June 11, 2012
America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride - Sunday, 3 June 2012
Unlike the last two seasons, I did not include a preview of the ride. I know, I know, that was likely the most devastating part of the whole of June for you, but in my defense, I was busy. I couldn't tell you what I was busy doing, but I'm sure it was very important and not at all made-up.
We left for Nevada early on Friday, 1 June. I hadn't been out west since 2003, and I had never been to Nevada or California, so it was all very exciting, made more so by being on a plane full of my teammates. The air was electric with energy, but nothing else dangerous or explosive because the TSA wouldn't have stood for that.
We got to Nevada without incident, and piled our luggage onto a Ford Explorer and our selves into a limo bus. A limo bus may be great for getting around town before prom or after a wedding, but it is not the best mode of transportation for getting from an airport through the mountains to a destination several hours away, in terms of raw power or passenger comfort. Despite that, we made it to Tahoe--with a stop at In-n-Out burger (not worth the guilt, I assure you)--in decent time. There was a bit of relaxing and getting the lay of the land (after getting our bikes in a not-at-all-hurried fashion), and then heading out to go on a catamaran for a cruise on the lake. The weather really could not have been better if we'd asked for it, so the sky was crystal clear and the water a brilliant blue, and it was a great way to close out the first day there. It was made better by the fact that B and B were able to join us for the cruise after all, and got to meet the team in our most comfortable social situation: drinking.
On Saturday we had breakfast at a little cafe just down the road, picked up our ride packets, and then headed out for a shakedown ride up to Emerald Bay and back (technically, it was up to Inspiration Point, which overlooks Emerald Bay, but including that would be pedantic). The altitude did a number on my breathing -- I didn't feel winded, just short of breath (if that makes sense). The climb itself wasn't bad except for the thin air. I was with V, though (she'd gotten a flat early on and I'd hung back to help her fix it and keep her company in my grumpy way), and she assured me that it would soon be over (it wasn't) and that it would be better next day (it was). We got some pictures at the top, and I saw a Stellars Jay (a beautiful bird), and ate. And drank (Nuun).
I'll say here that J and G did a great job coaching the team this year, as the two trips to the Gaps were perfect training - nothing at Tahoe was worse than anything we'd already done (indeed, Three Gap has more elevation than all of AMBBR in half the miles), so we were well prepared for the adventure before us.
Aside: I am listening to ABBA Gold as I write this up, which makes for a very upbeat experience. Excuse any accidental leaking of lyrics into this recap.
Anyway, as I said, the ride to Inspiration Point and back was fraught with peril, as the steeply banked and tightly wound switchbacks we made our way up had to be navigated back down, and it wasn't the most fun thing I've done. I descended with V, L, and A, who, after his crash in the gaps, was rightly on edge about the descents there and the next day. I told him I would wait for him at the bottom, after watching his line for a bit of the descent (he looked good), and the four of us regrouped and headed back to town. With one small incident (I almost bit it because of an invisible lip along the edge of the road and the shoulder I was trying to escape) and a bit of good luck (a butterfly caught my draft for 300-400 yards), we made it back in one piece, better for having tackled one of the two tough climbs expected the next day.
Maximum speed: 28.8 mph
Average speed: 14.1 mph
Distance: 25.63 mi
Details and map can be found here.
That night, B and B rejoined us for the Inspiration Dinner. Georgia had the largest contingent at our dinner (of THREE!) and the largest number of triple crowns (per capita) at the event. Our own Don Schaet was the top fundraiser, at $52,000 (and counting) for the entire national team, and received special recognition and an award (and the bib number 1). He didn't reach his goal of $77,000, but considering all he has done over the years (and this last year especially), it's still an amazing achievement and I'm so glad he was honored so publicly. A few days after the ride he was in Alaska, completing a century there to mark off the 50th state and wrapping up another life goal of his. After a seemingly interminable strategy meeting, it was time to get things ready for the next day. Our ride start time was 6:20a, so it was to our benefit that dinner was at 4:00 and that we were still functioning on east coast time.
After an early morning rise, we gathered at the start as a team, with our three honored teammates at the lead of our small group of peaches. We rode to the checkpoint with them up front, and then scattered, splitting naturally into our pace groups. Having already seen Inspiration Point the day before, we mostly blew through that SAG stop, freewheeled down the back of the hill and rode out to Meeks Bay, where A and G (and C, off to the side) were waiting with drinks and smiles for our first "Friends and Family SAG". Then, back on the bikes and go-go-go.
We got a good group of about 6 people together for the ride to and back from Truckee. The roads there weren't great, but also weren't the nightmare everyone had me expecting. What was awful along there was the traffic (the drivers there are just not used to cyclists, apparently, and have no sense of appropriate behaviour generally, it seems), and the other cyclists -- both TEAM and not -- who were completely unpredictable. Again, the Georgia chapter has excelled at teaching predicability and etiquette for cycling in and around groups, which seems to be a failing among other chapters. The other cyclists and traffic made for a rough and occasionally dangerous experience coming out of Truckee, but the scenery was actually enjoyable, and the hill wasn't as soul-crushing as everyone had led me to believe. Shortly after that jaunt, at about mile 60, were ALL of the friends and family with smiles, cow bells, clapping, cold water, pop, and sandwiches. All told, this had been a pretty easy 60 miles, going VERY quickly.
Because I had dawdled a bit, the main group I'd been with left just ahead of me, and I never saw them again until the end. This was fine, as I rode with another group at my pace (with L and V -- this was a well-mentored group. ha!), and I was able to ride with different cyclists. This was fortuitous as the altitude was affecting H a little more than expected, and she and I started to fall back a bit after King's Beach (as I told G in a text: shitshow). L insisted that I eat a rice cake, which I did in addition to a bit of sandwich I'd taken from the family SAG. I was getting very grumpy at that point (I really don't like riding with strangers), and that might have had something to do with blood sugar, but at the time I insisted it was just crankiness (as it was mile 70 or so, I was rightfully tired). We headed out from lunch and climbed for a bit, and then climbed a bit more, up the dreaded Spooner (again, it wasn't bad except for the line of cars that would get stuck behind cyclists. At one point, A, G, and C passed us on the climb. LH, H, and I stopped at the water stop because we were all literally out (I drank a LOT on the ride, which was great. I really managed my hydration well the whole weekend, making for a much better experience than last year's ride in the heat of Fletcher), and continued on. As we neared the crest of the climb, we saw A, G, and C, who started running next to me (I was a snail) and started shouting "Megan! What are hills for? Who are hills for? PUSSIES" I replied that I was a candy ass, but it provided the energy to get me to power up over the last little bit and look back for H. We zoomed down the backside of Spooner, anticipating heavy cross winds, but not experiencing them at all. We were lucky, because without the winds we could look out over the water and really soak in the view.
Then there were only 10 miles left. In order to stay out of my head, I changed the display to the clock. H and I rode in together, and saw C waiting up ahead about a mile out from the finish, waiting for other peaches. He joined us for the final stretch, and we insisted that H finish ahead of us as we pulled into the lot. There we were! The team that had already finished was there, cheering us in, waving and clapping and shouting and drinking, and we were done! We had ridden 98 miles (something about calibrating the computer, but others had short miles, too), and could now join our teammates and cheer in everyone else. We waited until our final teammate came in (an hour or two after we finished), cheering on the crowd in general, drinking beer, water, and jager (for Warren, a great friend of the team and last year's honored hero, who lost his 8-year battle just a few weeks ago). B and B were at the finish when I came in, got some pictures of the three of us, and it was so nice to have family at a ride.
Maximum speed: 37.6 mph
Average speed: 13.7 mph
Distance: 98.69 mi
I think I saw that I'd been on the course for 8 hours or so, but I forgot to note my actual arrival time. My bad. There are no Strava details for this ride, because I didn't use the phone -- the battery would have died well before ride completion, and I felt having a working phone was more important than additional details and a map.