Yes, though it is called the Tour de Phoenix, ironically enough it does not pass through Phoenix. Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, yes, but not Phoenix. Anyway, that will be fixed next year but this year I rode the full 73 as a real honest to goodness participant. Last year I rode bike patrol and got the bike patrol award and a cool statue to put on my desk. I wouldn't have much chance of getting a conquistador this year as I am not genetically gifted or particularly free enough to have a decent trainng schedule. I did originally entertain the thought of getting platinum though. They ended up changing the time to 3 hours and 5 minutes though and with my mish mash training schedule this spring I didn't think there was any chance I was going to do it. I figured if I could finish under last years platinum time that would be awesome but was shooting for 3 and a half hours so I could get home and take my boys to their gymnastics class.
I figured if I woke up at 10 to 5 I would have enough time to get up to the park by 5:15 and would get a good place in line. In reality, I got there at 5:20 and that was good enough to get me into the silver section. Yes, an hour before the start and the gold was filled and half of the silver was too. Of course that didn't stop guys from lifting their bikes over their heads and wading through the crowd occasionally. I didn't realize that was all you had to do to get into the gold section. I originally had thought it involved waking up early but I guess that's just silly.
It was 50 degrees at the start and looking at being perfect weather for riding. Sterling's wife sang the National Anthem at 6:00 and then we all got ready to start and then we were off. There were a couple of guys from the Tribe Sport racing ahead of me and I figured if I followed them we'd make up some ground. I didn't stay behind them too long but as I worked forward I eventually noticed police lights ahead of the group I had come up behind and it turned out to be the lead group. Working a little harder at the beginning to work up the field would pay off in the long run.
Riding down University the guy next to me had a pretty major flat in all it's hissing glory. He looked kind of like Mike Enfield but I don't think it was him. There was several other flats in the group around me in the next few miles and someone told one of the guys to raise his hand which I found amusing. I mean if your tire suddenly goes flat, 2 hands on the bars might help you stay in control better than raising a hand in the air. Much less a guy upright on a bike is probably less a crash risk than a guy flat on the ground because he wiped out. Anyway, maybe it's a racer thing.
As we progressed it became apparent I and my compadres were in the Yo-Yo zone. every traffic light would have everyone yelling slowing which was followed by a sprint on the other side. The corners also called for sprinting as we were far enough back that by the time we got around the front of the group was barrelling off at full tilt. I decided that I would at least get to Shea before getting dropped.
Riding along Hayden I ran into #1. Yep, Sterling was riding along with the pack. I guess if you are the dedicatee you get to ride where you want. He was looking at holding on until Shea too. Then we rounded another corner and he was off up ahead.
Shea turned out a lot easier to ride up when there are 200-300 riders ahead of you breaking the headwind it turns out. Last year I was fighting my way up from dead last after I helped out at the first wreck. I was holding on a lot better than I thought I would and even passed quite a few people as we climbed up the hill into fountain hills. As it got steeper it got a lot harder to hold on. I figured if I could just get over the hill then I could recover all the way to the Verde River. So I drained the tanks. It wasn't enough though. I was among a few stragglers watching the pack ride off down the hill beyond any ability to catch up on tired legs. I figured that would be the way it was though as the pack was so long the guys at the front would be going downhill just as the guys like me were in the throws of the steep pitch getting to the top.
I peddled easy down the hill and passed the first Accident I would see with the riders on the ground and a police officer moving in to block traffic and assist until they got off the road or were carried off the road. They didn't look too happy. Crashing is not a nice way to get out of a ride and of course the worst part is you have to hang out with the guy you made crash or made you crash which is also unpleasant so it's just not a good thing. (update- one of those guys had a lots of road rash, a fractured skull, facial fractures and bleeding on the brain from a faceplant which probably occured at 30 mph or above.... if any of ya'll are praying types, keep him in mind) Anyway, I was soon past them before I could take it all in. and a group passed me and it occured to me I should have tried to hop on but they were gone before I could think about it. I did manage to hop on with the next group. We hit the light green at the beeline and cruised on through. The pace seemed a little slow but I thought I was still recovering so I kept it easy until a few riders passed us and I made my move and started working with the other group until we started up the hill out of the Verde.
We were hauling up the hill at 17 mph which was much faster than I am used to but still I found the pace a little slow for some reason so I moved out and started to head up the hill and before I knew it I was looking in my rearview mirror and our little paceline was towing a sizeable group of riders behind us. So much for the strategy of not pulling. We kept a pretty good pace up the hill some folks fell off and some caught up. I started to hurt but knew if I could hang on we'd have a good group to ride the section on the Bush hwy and I could recover heading down to the Salt River.
Everyone in our group survived the cattle guard but I heard one rider later did in fact find one of the two cracks between the grates with his tire. We formed a rider gobbling group on our way down the Bush highway and made good time. I tried to stay around the front of the group so I wouldn't get dropped on the rollers and for the most part it worked. for awhile we were playing musical pacelines when one would pass the other and lead for awhile and then the other one would pull around the other side and pull for awhile.
Up until this point I had figured at the hill up Usery I would get dropped and I did fall off the back a bit but I wasn't alone. There was a group of us that would leapfrog up the hill. I was hurting now but knew if I could get over the top that would be the end of the pain. I had kind of figured that I was doomed for 3 and a half hours but was surprised to hear the guys around me talking about how we must be ahead of most of the gold guys which was funny as I hadn't realized I was riding with a bunch of platinum riders. It then occured to me that we had started at 6:15 and of course I was 15 minutes ahead of where I thought I was.
At the top us heavy guys started to catch up to all the lighter guys as we shot down the other side of the hill and reformed our group. When we got down to University we were around 3 hours out. I was not going to get Platinum but I was a lot closer than I thought I was going to be. Around in here the guys at the front of the paceline dropped the hammer and we cruised down University in a crosswind but I found I had enough energy left to keep up. As we pulled onto Power the guys at the front would sprint off the lights and it was really hard to catch up to them again and there wasn't a whole lot of benefits that went on in the last few miles other than pacing. That being said, when the guy in front of me pulled past the guys just before the end one made a comment about wheelsuckers. I kind of feel bad about passing them now but this is the last time I am going to be able to ride this for many years and I wanted a strong finish. In the coming years I will be riding the shorter distances with my kids. In any case, I apologize to the fine fellows who took the last pull coming up Power for what it is worth.
I ended up coming in at 3 hours and 12 minutes. If they hadn't of moved the Platinum time from 3:15 to 3:05 I would have been Platinum. That's good enough for me though. I wouldn't have been able to line up with the Platinum guys in the coming years anyway. I was rider #221 to come in. Seeing as they had 1400 riders sign up this year I am pretty happy with that. It was a good day in the saddle and I managed to have enough time to get my kids to gymnastics so they could goof off and get kicked out of their class. I took them back to the finish line so I could get some food and they found the bounce house highly entertaining. Now to start getting the kids riding more so we can do the 35 at El Tour.