Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tucson '09 - Eric's Take

Great report from Jose. I'll add my 2 cents and photos.

I drove down in convoy with Kevin and Isaac and arrived in Tucson on Thursday. We unloaded the trailer, did a quick spin in Tucson, and settled in for the first official ride on Friday.

Day 1: El Capitan, Kevin, planned a series of rides for us, and even posted them to MapMyRide and provided printouts of the routes. I just got a Garmin 705, so I loaded the map onto my GPS as well. Friday morning's ride, Pistol Hill Loop, was designed to be a relatively easy 55 mile loop to get the legs in gear before the tough stuff on Saturday and Sunday. Barry was considering doing the loop twice since this was his last day, but as you probably already read in Jose's post, his plan was not meant to be, and he and Mike headed back to the hotel.

The loop took us to Saguaro National Park, but since we opted to not pay the $5 fee, we just got some water and took some team pics in front of the cacti, and headed back to the hotel.

Kevin had been raving non-stop about In-N-Out burgers 'what fast food should be', so 4 of us (not Kevin/Isaac) drove over in Dancel's party bus for some fast food. I had a couple cheese burgers and fries. Yumm. After naps, dinner and some more chilling, we were down for Saturday's ride.

Day 2: Saturday's ride, The Shootout, is an almost legendary local ride, where up to 200 Tucson riders and often visiting pros show up to duke it out for about 30 miles, then head back. Kevin mapped out some additional miles to stretch the ride up to 97.8 miles, with an option to turn back after the Shootout hill for a little over 60 miles.

We got a late start, and missed the actual 'Shootout', but continued on the same route anyway. Once we got away from the start at University of Arizona and out onto the quieter roads, we settled into a paceline going slightly uphill with gradients from 1 t0 3%. The weather was partly cloudy and cool this morning, decent cycling weather. After passing over the Shootout hilltop, about the halfway point for the 60 mile loop, the group opted against the 97.8 mile version, and started to head back to Tucson proper. We definitely winged the directions a bit, which took us a roundabout way back. What originally was supposed to be just over 60 miles, grew to 70, then around 80 miles. As they say, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger'.

This lunch time around bus driver MikeD decided to choose his favorite fast food fix, Chik-Fil-A, next to the In-N-Out burger place. So we climbed into the rental van again, headed past Tucson's myriad strip malls, to snarf down some chicken and fries.

Add in some naps, more rest and relaxation, and it was time for our dinner. We walked over to a Mongolian BBQ place in the strip mall next to the hotel. After we each of us took multiple trips to the buffet, we had our fill. On the way out of the Mongolian place, I noticed there was a cardboard box with lemons on a table by the door with a sign reading, "Free Lemon's". I didn't know what to make of it then.

Day 3: Next up is Mt Lemmon. If the world give's you free lemon's, uh, er, make Mt. Lemmonade? Okay, that was bad. Mt Lemmon, 5500ft of climbing in 20+ miles. What more could you want in a climb. Here is a profile of the Mt Lemmon climb below:

The plan is to roll out from the hotel for about 25-30 minutes to the base of the climb. The climb starts out pretty gradually before ramping up to averages of 5% to 6% most of the way, with some steeper ramps from 7% to 10% in spots. The plan is to make it to Summerhaven at mile 25 for some pie at the Mt. Lemmon cafe. If you keep on going all the way to Ski Valley, you can add in a couple more miles at average grades of 10-11% Yoiks!

Jim and Mike got a head start on us and left early so they wouldn't be too far behind us on the climb. It's funny because Jim only had an 11-23 cassette on his road bike when he got to Tucson. On Saturday, he bought a 12-27 and he put it on the night before. With the new cassette, Jim was even considering riding Mt Lemmon twice?!

Kevin, Isaac, Jose, Paul and myself rolled out promptly at 8am. Once we hit the start of the climb, Jose went off the front to get his legs warmed up, but we regrouped a few miles later. Paul dropped off to ride his own pace, so 4 of rode on up the climb from then on. We were passed by a bunch of local riders, including a guy who was 72 years old. Impressive.

We eventually met up with Jim and Mike around mile 12, who were still looking good, but we kept pressing on. The road got even steeper by mile 16, and Isaac and I moved off the front for a bit. We took turns taking pulls until about mile 18 or so, when Isaac dropped back. I expected him to catch back up, but I assumed he must have gone back to the group. I hammered ahead, and was excited at mile 20 to get some actual downhill sections. After a few more miles of rollers, I made it to Summerhaven.

I waited at the Mt Lemmon Cafe and fully expected Isaac and crew to come in a few minutes later. Even though it was sunny, it was chilly, in the 40's. I tried calling them, but I couldn't get a call through up in the mountains. I didn't know that the crew and decided to turn back around mile 20. So I ordered some blueberry pie from the Mt Lemmon Cafe and chowed it down. With a full gut, I climbed back up and out, and took some pics on the way down (see below). After descending the climb and before getting back to the hotel, I ran into MikeD and crew in the van who came looking for me. That was nice. I managed to ride back to the hotel by myself.

This was my last ride of the trip, so I decided to relax by the pool before dinner. I saw Jose down there too reading a book and chilling. Here's Jose in full relax mode:

Kevin arranged for a team dinner Sunday night at the Italian place, Zona 78. Good food and good times where shared over dinner. For me the training camp was nearly over, while the other guys had a couple days left to ride. I had a great time and some good memories to last a long time. I also got to know some of the other Blue Sky riders a bit better over this brief vacation, especially my roommate Jim. Thanks to Kevin and crew for planning this great trip. Sign me up for 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice Pics! Sounds like you guys had a great time. Wish I could have gone too. We'll be doing the Mnt. Bike Camp next week and see if we can do some great rides too.