Cochise County Cycling Classic XIX

14 10 2006

In preparation for El Tour, for the past couple of years, I have ridden the Cochise County Cycling Classic in Douglas, AZ. This is yet another ride from the awesome people at Perimeter Cycling Association of America. I use this ride as a check to see how my fitness is prior to El Tour, and also to sort of estimate my performance in El Tour. I have come to see the 4Cs as a more difficult ride than El Tour is only because there are fewer participants. It is almost like a 92 mile personal time trial because you only draft for a little bit at the beginning.

My day started at 4am as I drove from my parent’s house in Tucson to the start in Douglas. It was about a 2 hour drive as I crossed into Douglas City Limits at 6am. The drive goes east on I-10, and I exits at Benson and follows US Highway 80 south through Tombstone, and Bisbee enroute to Douglas. The 4Cs ride, in addition to the 92 mile event in which I took part, there is a 252-mile event. The participants have to arrainge their own support. They also have to start their trek at 2am. While driving on Highway 80, I saw several bicycle headlights signifying these participants. I am in awe of these people, as I don’t think I would be crazy enough to do this event. So, to show my support, I flashed my hi beams. I hope I didn’t blind them.

Once I arrived in Douglas, I was hungry, so I went to the only place in town that was open: Denny’s. While I was expecting to eat alone, another group sat near me, and invited me to join their breakfast. It seems that some of them were beginners in one of their first big ride. I offered as much useful information as I could, considering that we were only an hour from the start. We also talked about some other rides. In all, I was flattered that they noticed me, and invited me to join them. It was a good start to the morning.

While breakfast was good, the weather was not. It was raining all through breakfast, and while we lined up at the start. I was kind of nervous about riding on slick road, as that easily causes crashes. I’m happy to report that there were no downed cyclists at the beginning of the ride due to the road conditions. The ride started rather awkwardly as there usually is a countdown. When the clock started, they just said “Go”. The people in the front were confused, and didn’t quite start. However, after a little prodding, the ride started.

As we left Douglas, it started to rain a bit. My glasses were covered with water spitting up from the rider’s wheel in front of me. It was tough to see, as I’m sure it was for most other riders. We started at an easy 23 mph pace. After a couple more miles, the guys in the front picked it up to about 26 mph. After a while, I had to catch up to the group at 30 mph. It was the fun part of the ride, and I was able to keep up. For some reason, the wet road made it easier to keep up.

Once we started for the climb into Bisbee, there is also a turn off for the 45 mile riders. I saw one guy turn off and fall over when trying to cross the cattle gaurd. He was the only person I saw fall as a result of the weather.

On the climb up, the roads had dried, and the rain stopped. Climbing up to the top of the Mule Pass was tough, but I thought I had been able to keep a good pace considering my fitness is not what it was this time last year. On the climb up it was just me and another guy. After a little bit, two biker girls passed us quite easily as their power to weight ratio was much higher than mine. Initally, the two girls and guy had passed me, and the took a wrong turn and started for Bisbee. They noticed they were on the wrong path only after the spotted me climbing up. They caught me anyway since I’ve lost all my climbing ability.

After getting to the top, it was just me and the guy. We crested at about the same time. However, I take a bit longer to recuperate and get into downhill mode than most, so he had a good head start flying down. This was the part of the ride I was actually dreading the most. normally, when the opportunity to go 45mph or higher arises, I take it no questions asked. I have gotten to 50 mph on this particular decent. However, on my new bike, I was unsure how it would handle at such a high speed. Starting my descent, I gripped the brake hoods tighter than I normally do. I also kept a more upright position to catch more air. My speed slowly krept up, and I shifted into my highest gear. I don’t usually look down at my speed because it’s rather dangerous, but I did notice that I was at least at 44 mph. And, I was easily gaining on this guy. I kept my turns to a minimum, thankfully the road was rather straight. After a couple more slight turns, I was almost on top of this guy. And on the final drop, I was right next to him. It was fun, because he was pedaling the whole time, and I was just riding, and catching air, and I was still gaining. This bike RULES. One thing that did make me nervous was that the wheels felt like they were flexing on the turns. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling going that fast.

Eventually, I made it to Davis road. Getting to this point was easy. most the hills were rolling hills, there was that awesome descent, and the climbs weren’t so bad. However, after making the right turn, I came face first with a nasty headwind. I knew there was going to be a headwind on this road, but it hadn’t been this bad before. I was only able to get my speed up to about 12 mph on most of the road. Of course, my legs were starting to get tired too. Davis road is usually the place were groups of people form pace lines to help limit the headwind. This time, I came across a couple of guys, and followed them as long as I could. My weak legs wouldn’t let me keep the same pace. This section of road is 24 miles long. And the headwind lastest for all 24 miles. It took 2 hours to get from one end to the other.

Highway 191 finally approached, and I took a quick stretch at the junction before turning right into yet another headwind. At this point, I was about 20 miles from the finish, and almost all 20 had a headwind. Again, I was only able to go my pace of about 12 mph. And, as I was near the end of this section of the route, I got a flat in my rear tire. I pulled a little shard of glass out. It was from a broken beer bottle that I thought I had avoided about 10 miles back. I had broght a tube and a tire iron to change my tire, but I did not bring a pump. A couple rode past before I could ask someone if they had a pump. Thankfully he stopped, and let me use his pump. I was able to pedel the rest of the way in the headwind at a measly 12 mph again. I felt like an old man.

Once I got to the finish, I was releived to finally be done. I finished in just under 6 hours. I crossed the finish line, and made my way to my car that wasn’t parked but a 100 feet from the finish. I put my bike in its rack, and changed into some more comfortable shoes. I opened the passenger door in my car, reclinded the seat, and took a nap. I was out for about an hour. After I woke up, I was still a little groggy, but I felt much better to have had a nap considering I had only gotten about 5 hours of sleep.

The 4Cs ride is a good tough ride. It’s low key and well staffed. The rest stops had plenty of fruit and help available. This is not the high profile event that El Tour has become, but it is much more challenging. However, the drive time makes this ride a tough endevour for those of us who don’t reside in the Tucson Area. I had fun on this ride until I reached the headwind, but that is probably the same for everyone else on the ride today. I may possibly not do this ride in the future without someone else going with me.




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