Le Grande Tour XIX

4 03 2006

AZPRA‘s Le Grande Tour is a great small town cycling event. The entry fee is affordable, the weather this time of year is always great to ride in, however the course is flat although the scenery could use some sprousing up. But, for the free food, homemade cookies, a chance to win free prizes and a good bunch of people to ride with, this even had brought me back for the last three years.

The ride started as before, but it felt much warmer than previous years; this was a nice bonus as I knew it would also warm up as I got out on the course and started riding. The start is a little hairy sometimes because it narrows right at the beginning, which has potential for some unintentional mishaps. Coming out of the gates, I have been lining up in front for the ast few years, so I figure why change now. Riding in the front with a pack of 100+ riders behind you is a rather exhilerating feeling. The course turns onto Arizona state route 187 north. Once on this road, the pace quickens a little as we gradually climb uphill. This time around, I was greeted by a fellow teammate who complemented me on my choice of jersey. I have never met this guy, since our team is so large. Nevertheless, it was good to see some fellow team members riding a non-race. The first stretch of course was quick and uphill. I was near the front when I noticed a group with the word “Brumby” on their jersey. They were hailing, and I was following. I don’t know why, I hadn’t ridden in a long time, and I still had 50+ miles to go before the finish. It was fun though, and once I felt a little tired, I let everyone pass so I could get a nice draft. I knew the evil part was coming up.

Once we go to I-10 and passed the overpass, we turned onto the 387 and started the real hill. A lot of people were dropped on the turn because people wisely slowed down. However, I was able to take an outside line and avoid people and they avoided me, but with that, I could keep most of my momentum. I caught up to the front pack who were trying pretty hard to get up the hill as fast as they could. I was able to keep up for most of the way. Having not ridding in almost a month, I was forced to pull back. Looking at my ride data afterwards, I noticed that even after I pulled back my heartrate was still up there near my max. I was tired needless to say. After I dropped back, i kept the group in my sights, and was able to pass a couple riders. One stayed on my tail and I pulled him up to the top. He thanked me for the pull, which is a lot more than most people say when I pull. The decent was a nice relief.

On the decent, I was making some good time when some other people started to come up to me. They were pushing a lot more as I was using the decent as a rest period. Anyhow, people on this ride were nice enough to offer to pull me and the other guy I had allready pulled to the top. I latched on and stayed on. It was nice to ride the stretch of highway 87 with a large group of riders than alone or with only one or two others. This highway is very fast, and the road is rather narrow.

Upon reaching Coolidge, there was a sharp fast right turn. Again, my experience kicked in and I took the outside corner and tried to avoid the people in front who would inevitably slow down, and thus make me work that much harder to catch back up to the people in front. Having perform this tactic to the best of my ability, I was able to go from about 15th position to 5th. This made the ride into and out of Coolidge that much more fun.

The way between Coolidge and Eloy is extra boring. It’s long and straight and there isn’t much to see except for the distant Tortolita Mountains. With this knowledge at hand, I knew that it was very important for me to stay in contact with the group on this stretch because the long and boring part takes its toll on you more than the 15 miles it takes to get to the other side. Naturally, as all large groups of bike riders do in a pack, we started to form a pace line. When it was my turn, I was pretty tired, but I knew I had to help pull those who helped me. However, I guess I wasn’t pulling fast enough because a few people from the back came up and passed me and started to pull again. Not a good sign.

When it came time to turn toward Eloy, I felt a slight relief knowing that it was the last leg of the journey. As I ride through town, I always feel nostalgic about the days when my brothers and I would visit my grandmother. Many things I don’t remember clearly, but I always remember shopping with her as we passed her neighbborhood grocery store, Food Town. I remember the night that I saw Santa Claus walking out of the Silver Dollar bar when I was 10 or 11. I vaguely remember the times when we would sit in the basket of my grandmother’s three wheel bike and ride all over town to do her errands. And then I think of where I am know. I hope she is proud of what I can do and have done now.

Passing Eloy, we get to another stretch of road that is fairly barren, however keeping up with the pack is pretty tough for me at this point. I am closing in on my endurance limit and my legs are starting to hurt. I knew I would be tired at this point in the ride because it happens every year. I tried to change one important habit this time around: drink more water/sports drink. It definately helped. I’m sure my conditioning over the last year has helped too, but drinking more water help to save my legs for those last few miles where I really needed them.

After passing the Tanger Outlet Mall, I knew that the finish line was only a few miles away. A look to my right and I could see people making their ride along the home stretch in the 50k distance. It was here where I lost the group. We came up to a traffic light that made the entire group slow down, but not stop. Slowing down was easy, getting my previous speed back up was difficult, and as a result, I was dropped. My legs couldn’t accelarate. But, I figured that there were only one or two miles left, so I thought I would be ok. And I was.

After I reached the finish and collected my top 100 place medal, I grab some of the awesome free food and waited for my results to be posted. I finished 61st at 2:36 at an average speed of 23.8 mph. The “winners” were only 10 minutes ahead. Not too shabby for having been off the bike for about a month. If I were to actually train, I could really do some damage.

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17 06 2006
Anthony Team Encore

Great log of the race. 2006 was my second year doing it. The Brumby team was a bit disorganized or I think they could have had a great run. Only 2 of us from my team, Encore Restaurant, showed up that day. I had the lead on the final turn to the finish but but was pushed into a “detour ahead” sign that the ride coordinators had for some reason placed directly in the center of the small finish stretch. It was moved shortly after, and I don’t believe any following groups had to navigate around it. I managed to stay on the bike and finished 12th. Ironically, someone with a camera happend to catch a shot just as I hit the metal sign and gave me a copy. It’s a priceless shot.

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