Last year Robert Ehlbeck and I were co-captains for a NetApp cycling
team in the California "Bay to Bay" tour. We had 9 people on the team
and everyone had a great time. We couldn't wait an entire year to relive
the experience, so we registered a team for the Arizona MS Bike Round
Up, this time with a 7 person team. Russell Balzan, Kim Ehlbeck Robert
and I were back on the team. Russell, Leonard Zito and Loree Zito would
be riding their first century length ride on Saturday. And Sean Tressler
rounded out the team. Unfortunately Robert and Kim's kids had a soccer
and softball game (opening day) on Saturday, so Kim skipped the first
day to watch the games.
We missed the normal packet pickup, so I got to the start at 5:30am to
get everyone's packets. Robert got there a bit after me. We got lucky
the first day and found a parking area where we could all park in close
proximity. It was pretty brisk (~40's), so I put on my favorite vest and
other cold weather clothes. When everyone was ready, we headed over to
the start. They were sending folks out in small waves instead of a mass
start. While we were waiting for our turn, Leonard Zito noticed his tire
was bulging off the rim. So we went over to the Bike Barn canopy and
reset the tire on the rim. When we got back to the start, the tire was
bulging again. Crap. So we went back to the bike barn canopy, but this
time we replaced the tube. Problem solved! The first two waves had
already departed, so we would be leaving with the final wave. Then
Robert noticed a problem with a cleat. It was loose and one screw was
gone. Dang. Last October we had problems with Russell Balzan's tire. We
seem to have unlucky starts at MS rides! Robert and I told everyone to
leave and we'd catch up.
Luckily Robert had a new set of Look cleats in his car, so we did a
quick swap on the sidewalk. But when he tried to clip in, he couldn't.
On closer examination, the cleats were not the same, so we put the old
ones back on just using the screws from the new set. A short delay. Once
we started riding Robert noticed a problem with his Garmin. The speed
reading wasn't accurate, dropping to 1-2mph then jumping up or going to
zero. He thought it might be interferring with my speed sensor, so I
rode ahead while he tried to reset it. No luck. So we just started
riding. Riding gives you a lot of time to think, and I realized his
speed sensor battery was probably dead. The speed sensor on a Garmin
takes priority over GPS. He turned off the sensor and his speed returned
We caught the rest of the team at the first rest stop. We planned to
have a nice easy social ride. With three people doing their first
century, we wanted everyone to finish relatively comfortably. Robert did
a great job pacing Leonard and Loree. Russell was on a new recumbent and
was able to hold a bit faster pace, riding much of the day with Sean. We
tried to stay within sight of everyone and would re-group at rest stops.
We picked up one guy along the course, Ryan, who wound up riding both
days with us. The lunch stop was a bit early in the ride at about 36
miles which translated to about 10:30am ... pretty early for lunch! But
they had Port of Subs ham or turkey sandwiches and I ate two. Every MS
ride I've been on has had outstanding rest area amenities and support.
They really do a great job with logistics and support. Police were at
almost every intersection along the course stopping traffic to wave
riders through. Nice! I highly recommend an MS ride as an introduction
to long distance cycling because of the fantastic support. 'nough said.
Russell had a rear tire flat about 42 miles or so into the ride, but we
got it changed pretty quickly and were on our way again. Robert was
pulling the team along and I decided he should pull me literally! So I
moved up behind him, matched his speed, then reached over and held his
saddle with two fingers. He pulled me along for a minute or so (much to
the amusment of the Zito's), then stopped pedaling! I said "keep going!"
He looked over and noticed I was getting a lift! Man that was funny! Ahh...
The team separated again and I was riding up front with Sean. This time
we did lose sight of the others, but would wait at the next rest stop.
The Zito's pulled in first and said Robert was having foot issues and
Russell had another flat, but a SAG wagon was with him. We waited about
20 minutes then Robert pulled in. He said there was a problem with the
rim tape on the wheel. They had replaced the tube, but the tire almost
immediately flatted again. The SAG wagon didn't have rim tape. Luckily
Pat from Pat's Cyclery was there and had what we needed! I rode back to
Russell and found him walking his bike towards the rest stop (the flat
happened about a 1/2 mile from the rest stop). We changed the rim tape
and tube and were on our way again. No more tire problems! When we got
to the rest area, Robert said he had to take the SECOND pair of socks
off. Loree gave him a hard time about not knowing about toe covers for
shoes, when Russell also took off a second pair of socks. What are the
The rest of the ride went pretty smoothly. We didn't stop at the last
rest stop, opting to get to the finish a bit faster. Day one completed
successfully! As Loree says on her
blog, we have three new CENTURIANS! She also has some GREAT
photos posted on that blog!
Day two started much better than day one! We didn't have any issues at
the start and left with the second wave. Leonard, Loree and Sean
couldn't make it for the second day (we missed you!), but Kim joined us!
We rode together for the first few miles, then Robert and I picked up
the pace a bit so I could hit the port-a-john at the first rest stop. We
regrouped there, then rode mostly together for around 28 miles or so.
The MS Society had a photographer on the course and Robert and I struck
"thinker" poses (an elbow on an aerobar pad while looking thoughtfully
up and to the left). That pic came out great!
I was debating turning this ride into another century and planned to
ride the 75 mile route, tacking another 25 miles along the way
somewhere. Everyone else decided to stick to the 50 mile route, so when
we got to the SR79 turn where the 75 mile group rides out to the Tom Mix
Monument, I bid my farewell to everyone and really picked up my pace.
Robert said Ryan tried to get on my wheel, but I didn't notice. I passed
the rest stop on SR79 without stopping. I planned to extend my ride and
go out near Oracle junction, but the police were turning riders around
and had traffic stopped, so I kept to the route. Maybe there was another
section I could extend.
So I made the turn and made quick time back to the next turn just
outside Florence. Another out and back leg for the 75 milers that looked
like I could just double to get the distance I wanted. It was a gradual
climb out with a slight headwind. I passed one guy headed in the other
direction but didn't see anyone else. When I approached the turn around,
there were 6 or 7 volunteers waiting for me. They said I was the first
one there! That was unexpected. The guy I passed must have given up and
turned around early. With our slower pace earlier in the day I really
didn't expect to be at the front of the 75 mile group. I used the
port-a-john, ate some orange quarters then headed back out enjoying a
slight descent with a tail wind!
About 5 miles or so after leaving that rest stop, my "low battery"
warning came on for my Garmin. Crap. I forgot to charge it overnight and
didn't have my emergency external power. So I abandoned the idea of
going for 100 miles (no way the battery would last that long) and picked
up the pace to make sure I got back to the finish before my Garmin ran
out of juice. It was a great ride! I called Robert when I got to the
finish. He and Kim were just about to get in their car to drive home. He
said everyone had a great time doing the 50.
Next Saturday ... platinum time attempt at the El Tour de Phoenix! :-)