This year, I am again riding el Tour de Tucson. The event is now less than a week away, on November 22, starting at 7am for those of us riding the 109 mile distance. For the last couple of weeks, it’s been the #1 thing on my mind.
I’m having a hard time determining if I’m as fit as last year. This year I’ve been riding more rides that are 50ish miles in length, while last year we mostly rode 40ish mile rides. Last year, I rode the around the mountain ride (Fountain Hills->Rio Verde) just once, and it almost killed me, which put strong doubt in my mind about the Tour. This year, I’ve done that ride twice, on back-to-back days, and felt really good the first day, and as good as could be expected the second day.
I’m going to give myself credit for being in about the same shape. Perhaps a little better or a little worse. If so, being a gold finisher and finishing in under 6 hours is within my reach. Hopefully I don’t have any mechanicals, the weather is clean and clear, and I at least have a chance.
Anyway, because I’ve been feeling pretty good about the around the mountain ride, yesterday I decided to attempt the Bartlett Lake ride that Lance Armstrong used to do. It’s 68 miles. The ride starts by heading north up Pima, which is a mild gradual climb. Then in the town of Carefree the climbing gets more difficult before reaching the high point at the turn off to Bartlett Lake at mile 20. At that point, you drop down significantly over a 14 mile distance to the marina.
Yesterday, it was pretty breezy. In fact, it’s been windy fairly often recently, and it’s been frustrating to train in. The wind was coming from the east, and thus all the way up Pima there was a strong cross wind, making the climb all that much harder. Turning east in Carefree took me right into the teeth of the wind, so by the time I arrived at the turn off to the lake, I was pretty wiped, and just 20 miles in. I began to drop down the hill toward the marina, when after 3 miles I went through a wash that causes a climb similar to the previous descent. Just 1/4 mile up, I realized that 14 miles of this type of climbing just might kill me.
Riding alone, I did the smart thing and turned around. Back at the wash, I stopped for a couple of minutes, and prepared for the 6-8% grades that the next 3 miles were about to present. The climb out wasn’t actually as bad as I had feared, and then I was rewarded with the 35 mph descent back to Pima with the wind at my back. The ride down Pima, normally the dessert of any ride, was no joy ride at all. Again, the strong side wind meant I was unable to get over 28 mph, and there was a lot of work getting down the hill. Total distance was only 48 miles in 3 hrs 25 mins, but it felt a lot harder than the 50 mile around the mountain ride.
Today, is my final training ride, I’m going to do the around-the-mountain ride in reverse (clockwise). I’ve never gone in this direction, but it’s the direction that the Tour de Scottsdale does.
For the race next weekend, I’m going to try to ride smarter, attempting to save energy, while at the same time riding faster. My basic plan will to be to avoid leading any pace lines whenever possible, and just stick to the wheels of faster riders. Hopefully we can start a little closer to the front this year, which will allow me to be around strong riders that pull me around the course. Anyway, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes. The only hitch in the plan will be riding with Chris Z. He’s a slower starter, due to asthma and how long it takes his lungs to expand. Once he gets going though, he’s at least as fast as I am.