We woke up to mostly overcast skies. I donned the long sleeve jersey, knee warmers, vest, and shoe covers, and packed my second windbreaker in the support car. We knew this day was going to be hit or miss on the weather, and we all prepped for the worst.
We rolled out at 10 and headed east to Saguaro National Forest East. The trip there was filled with rolling hills. My legs felt very thick the first 10 minutes, so I gradually moved to the front and stayed there for the next 45 minutes. Eventually the steady pace worked out the kinks of travel and a restless nights sleep. Traci, Gregg, and Paul along with myself made up the contingent from PV that made the jaunt down to The Cycling House this year, along with our coach Russell Cree from Upper Echelon. It’s great riding with familiar steady wheels in unfamiliar territory.
We hit the first climb of the day and Paul and RC fly away with Jeremy, a super-strong Mountain Biker from NYC in close pursuit. These three will end up trading blows for the remainder of the trip.
The first climb separates the campers into two groups, with Gregg, Paul, RC, Jeremy and I joined by two Canadian triathletes, Deanna, and Dave. We ride a quick tempo up the hills for the next 10 minutes, no one wanting to expend a ton of energy on day one or really knowing how strong the others are. Salvo the snowbird makes a short appearance as he’s finishing up his ride. He looks fast and lean. We say our goodbyes as we approach the entrance to the park, knowing we’ll see him in a few days.
It starts raining.
Owen is there with the support van and rain capes get donned. We break into small groups of 4 so gain passage into the park, then amass a short distance down the road. The park is a one way loop of about 8 miles, filled with twists turns and short punchy rollers and one sustained climb on the backside. A rollercoaster track for bikes, lined with all sorts of nasty cacti waiting to eat you alive if you overshoot a corner. I curse the weather for being what it was that day.
We ride hard to get warmed back up, road spray flying from the bikes and wind blow rain pelting us. At least its 60. We hit the base of the climb and we are sheltered from the wind. The rain feels far less, and even non-existent in some places.
Cree, Jeremy, and Formiller along with one of the TCH riders Brendan spread their wings and fly up the incline. I stay with them a short bit before I settle myself into a tempo climb. We’ve got a lot of climbing over the next few days and I know I can’t burn myself out.
Deanna catches me about half way up the climb, and the two of us ride the rest of the climb together. She’s a solid rider with great engine for going uphill, which she’ll prove numerous times over the next few days.
We hit the regroup point and decide to do another lap. Paul, Jeremy, Brendan, Deanna and I head out a second time, pushing things a bit faster during the first section to get out of the rain. At the base of the climb Jeremy and Brendan take off with Deanna in hot pursuit. Paul and I decide to ride mellow to the top then hammer the rollers to catch back on to the trio out front, catching them right at the regroup.
The ride home is evil. Rain fails steadily and our progress is slowed by standing water in the bike lane in many areas and Dave’s cramping legs.
We finally get home where hot showers and hot food is waiting for us. I treat myself to a massage and a glass of wine.
Tomorrow we climb.