Cochise County Cycling Classic XXI

18 10 2008

I can’t believe that the time for the 4C (Cochise County Cycling Classic) has come around already. It seems like only yesterday I was beaten down by the harsh winds and crazy hills and struggling to pull my butt across the finish line. Wait, why am I doing this event again?

This year, I thought I would have enough time and motivation to get back into cycling to be able to finish the 92 mile trek across the backroads of Southeastern Arizona with minimal trouble. I have been going to the GABA rides, lately, and getting in a few full weekend spins in under my belt, but I haven’t put in anything near the 92 mile I needed for this event. I knew I was in for some pain at the end, it was just a matter of how much I could endour.

The ride out was a tad wet, as the rememants of a hurricane were making their way across the gulf and into the desert. I was trying my best to stay with the lead group at this early part of the ride beause they would help block the wind at least until the ride started to go up into the hills behind old town Bisbee. No such luck this time. It turns out that I’m in the worst shape of my cycling life. I couldn’t even manage to keep up half way to the uphill portion of the course. I was so tempted to turn off onto the 45 mile route. I knew that if I couldn’t even keep up with those guys, I was done for the day. I reluctantly journeyed up the hill with a monster headwind while climbing a mild 4 or 5% grade. I actually made some progress on some people, so I started to feel a little better about myself. Then came the 8-10% part of the course. In my very early days of cycling, I hated hills. Then, I grew to love them as they made me stronger, and I could finish them off without too much pain. I wasn’t at the point of hating the hills, by then, but I really wasn’t looking forward to this one either. I took my experience and knowledge and kept riding up the hill at my pace, and mine alone. The trip through the Mule Pass tunnel on bike is always a little freaky, but this time wasn’t so bad. I guess I am just used to it by now. Once the big hill was over, it was time for the big giant downhill. This part of the course made the uphill so worth it. I flew down as fast as I could, I wantedt o enjoy the ride down. Unfortunately, head and cross winds made it difficult to catch the 50 mph milestone I was trying for. My top speed down that section was 45 mph. Not too shabby, but I’d been that fast before.

The fast part of the downhill is fairly long, but then it levels out into a more gradual downhill, where you can pedal moderately and still get some good speed going. It was here all alone, just me, the bike and the road where you can achieve bike nirvana. Hearing the sound of the wheel rolling on the road at a speed of 35 mph is sweet music. And having to put as little effort into generating that sound is icing on the cake. After coming down from that high, it came time to tackle the second half of the course. The long road home, riding into headwinds no matter which direction you are going. My legs were pretty much spent by this time, so I just decided to go at the best pace I could, and try not to hurt myself. I eventually flatted, and recovered. It took nearly 4 hours after reaching the turnoff at Davis road to reach the finish line. Not a good performance. The last 20 miles on highway 191 were done at 10mph or less with a 30 mph headwind howling at us the whole time. I eventually made it to the turn off that was 6 miles from the finish. I took a break and sat down with an old man and woman who were there to make sure all riders were safe. They sat me down in a chair, held my bike, offered me some water, fruit and candy to make sure I would make it to the finish line. The old woman offered to drive me to the finish, however I felt bad in doing so after having ridden so far, and come so close to the finish under my own power. She said she would drive me a half mile to the end and drop me off so they wouldn’t know. But I would know, and I in the future, I could not, in good conscience, tell my kids not to cheat if I did so myself. I turned down her generous offer and rode for 6 more miles of tormenting winds.

I eventually made it to the finish line, tired and dehydrated. As soon as I checked in with the event officials for my time, I plopped on the grass, and laid there, for at least 30 minutes. My legs were sore, I needed water and fruit, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to stomach them. I must have worried my brother, who finished with no problem. I mean, I looked and sounded like I was going to be sick. I felt like it too. I found something at the Circle K to get me hydrated and give me a little energy until I could make it to dinner. After a while, although I was still sore, I was able to walk, and felt much better in general. At least good enough to have some food.

In all, the 4C event is a good ride to see how well you will do in el Tour de Tucson; it is a much tougher event considering you are battling all the elements on your own. I know that I won’t be doing all that well this year in el Tour, and will probably switch to a shorter route for my own sanity and safety. So, until el Tour, ride safe

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