El Tour of the Tucson Mountains XX

30 04 2006

I've ridden this event before when it was shorter, and started at Pima Community College. A lot of things about this ride have changed, and I am one of them. After my poor showing at the recent El Tour de Phoenix, I was hoping to turn in a better performance. Due to personal circumstances, I was unable to pick up my information packet and numbers the day before in Tucson, so a friend and fellow Landis Team Member, Jose Migioni, who was also riding was able to pick them up for me.

Now that I live in Gilbert, I decided to drive to the start from home, meaning I had to wake up at 3am. Once I arrived at the start line, I lined up at the front of the gold section (because I was unable to pick up my platinum pass), so I could catch up with Jose during the ride. At the start line, I had a heck of a time getting my heart rate monitor to pick up the signal from my chest sensor. After several restarts, I was able to get things to work with about a minute to go before the start. In hindsight, this little mishap may have signaled an auspicious start to a ride that will not soon be forgotten.

The starting signal was given, and I clipped into my pedals without looking (always a good sign), and started rolling out with the rest of the pack. The lead group started, then rounded the first corner only a few hundred feet from the start; I sprinted to keep up, then slowed to maintain my place. We got to the second turn, which was nice and gradual, and rode onto the Frontage road. This is where things would even out for a while. I tried to find my pace and get comfortable in the pack. I found my friend in the pack, and was trying to catch up to him, however, there were several riders between us. Then, the unthinkable happened: I was keeping the pace and trying to maintain a good line, when I felt a little give on my handlebar. My instant reaction was to sit up. Thankfully, the bar did not come completely off at that point. I let up on the gas and tried to get to the back of the pack. It was also thankful that I was on the left side of the road, which had a little more room. I drifted back, but tried to keep up with the back of the pack. One thing this mishap did make abundantly clear is the lack of my technique.

With only one half of my handlebar still solid, I was unable to keep up with the tail end of the lead group. I could not power the pedals with as much force as normal. I never realized how much I depend on the handlebars for the force I place on the pedals. I slowly drifted further and further back. Then came the railroad tracks. I have had problems with these tracks with a full handlebar. Luckily, there was no one else around so I could take up as much road as I need to clear the tracks with relative ease.

As soon as I realized that I had no chance of finishing in a normal time, my next goal became to simply finish. And not only to finish, but to cross the finish line with no hands, or holding the broken half of the handlebar demonstrating my determination and skill. I forged on, managing to clear Rattlesnake Pass climbing with half a handlebar. Moving onto Silverbell, I knew that some serious hills were fast approaching. But first, I had to wave to the camera man and the news reporter who was reporting his story as we rode by. I doubt the camera man saw me, or was going to ruin the reporter's transition to his story. I'm not even sure if people who were cheering on the side of the road or the drivers of the cars we passed noticed either.  Someone had to at least do a doubletake somewhere and make sure they were seeing a guy with only half a handlebar.

Throughout my entire ride, I was able to gain ground going up the hills, and loose it on the way down. I could tell I was doing well on the hills because I was actually passing people.  I was hoping they would look at my situation and perhaps kick themselves for being beaten up a hill by a guy with only half a handlebar, but I think the people I was passing were not as competative as the ones I usually ride with.

I soon discovered that my maximum speed was about 25mph. I usually do a lot more than that on many of the hills on this course. So, now, not only is my top speed pretty slow, the only way I could safely stop was to use my front brake. My rear brake was still usable, but was rather cumbersome to use since the handle was free floating.

Along the way, I noticed a man who happened to have his right arm amputated at his elbow. His bike was setup with a time trial aerobar and pad so that his stump could still control the bike. In these odd circumstances, I was hoping to get some advice on how to turn my bike safely with only one arm. Afterwards, I jokingly asked if we could trade handlebars. He gave me a few words of encouragement, asked that I ride safe, and pedaled past me with the rest of the group.

Along the back of the pack was a tandem of an elderly couple. They were going about my pace, so I rode with them for a few miles. When the hills came, I tried to keep my pace, and dropped them fairly easily. However, they caught me on the down hill. We managed to ride like this for several miles. The last time I saw them, they mentioned to my how surprised they were, and also offered some words of encouragement. I was still a bit upset at my misfortune and kind of kept to myself.

So, it came, at last, on the downhill corner of Ajo and La Cholla, I was approaching a tight right turn on a downhill and into traffic. Needless to say, with my current bike, I wanted to take the approach as safe as possible. As before, I used only the front brake, and as before I slowed. After almost clearing the hill, and beginning the right turn, I heard a loud pop, and the evident hissing of a flat tire.  Still determined to finish, I patiently changed the tube, checked for any garbage in the tire (of which there was none), and filled it with air.  Not less than 10 seconds had the tire been inflated did it explode again. I had no more spares, no more air and no more resources. My day was done.

Reflecting on what could have been a really bad riding day, I made the most of a bad situation, and gave as much as my bike and body could give. There were several reasons I kept going: determination, and wanting to finish what I started. But I also figured, if I had stopped earlier:

  • it would have been a huge waste of effort just to get to the start line at 4:30am;
  • it would have been a huge waste of money if I didn't continue on;
  • I didn't want to waste a perfectly good opportunity to ride on the road with police officers stopping traffic for me;
  • and, I wouldn't have such an awesome story to tell if I had stopped.
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29 04 2007
Tour of the Tucson Mountains XXI « Blog de Mora

[…] of the Tucson Mountains XXI 29Apr07 An entire year has pass since my last attempt at the Tour of the Tucson Mountains, as a lot has changed. For one, that whole incident lead to my […]

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