Moab to St. George – Leg 5
Leg NotesThis leg is a significant climb that follows the Fremont River (upstream) most of the way. At mileage 29.0 you will enter Capitol Reef National Park. This is park is one of the last great secrets in the USA. As the sun sets in front of you the light will illuminate the towering red cliffs. The historical town of Fruita at mileage 37.4 shows how early settlers of Utah lived. The green fruit trees of Fruita contrast beautifully against the red cliffs overhead.
Elevation Map – Leg 5
Food, water, and restrooms at Sinclair gas station. Gas station and hotel are owned by super great guy from Armenia. There is a great Mexican restaurant adjacent the gas station called “La Cueva”. Excellent Mexican food and it will be open all evening and through the night for the Rockwell Relay.
It's taken me a while to figure out what happened on this leg, if I have indeed figured it out. If I don't know it's certainly not for lack of analyzing it. Several factors came into play starting with nutrition. Breakfast was the standard pancake affair in the park. When it comes to pancakes I'm more of a snob than Swedish Matt is about bottled waters (turns out he likes the Aquafina, which I'll admit even as a non-discriminating water drinker, did the trick when I polished it off, I still owe you a couple of bottles Matthew ... don't worry I'm good for it). I'll praise just about everything about this race and the folks who organized and pulled it off but pancake prowess is not high on the Rockwell staff's skill set. What I ended up with were two under cooked Bisquick hockey pucks. I'm all for carb-loading but this didn't strike me as a good idea, so I passed. Instead I ate a couple of Fruition* bars:
There was a whole box of them at the start of the race. Swedish Matt looked at the ingredients (re-constituted date paste, chia seeds and other organic ingredients) and warned me "Don't do it, don't change anything up on race day, you don't know what that fruit bar will do to you." He was right as it turned out. Fruition bars are reasonably tasty given their less than delicious sounding ingredients but they are also natural laxatives. It wasn't a problem the first half of the day but when Rodzilla came storming into Hanksville I was still using the gas station's facilities. I rushed to fill some water bottles and get my shoes and helmet on. We lost about 5 minutes (and probably one position in the race) but when I left exchange #4 we were sitting in 20th position and still about an hour ahead of our predicted split times.
I rode the same tailwind that blew our team Captain into Hanksville out of town and even though I was still climbing (significantly as per the course description) I was able to keep a 22-23mph pace. I hit the first hill climb (the one that looks like hiccup on the mendacious elevation map) and dropped my chain trying to downshift into my small ring without breaking cadence. Two cyclists pass me in the minute or so it took me to right my drivetrain and get going again.
Prior to the chain drop/hillclimb I was averaging over 18 mph. This was supposed to be my easy leg, 45 miles, 2800 feet of climb. Less distance and less climb than the Moab to Monticello leg and far less intense than my final climb over Cedar Breaks tomorrow morning would be. I knew if I was going to average 17mph for my 130 miles I would need to average better than 18 on this leg because despite Rodzilla's optimistic prediction, 16mph over Cedar Breaks was not in the cards, not for me anyway and as it turned out not for many of the riders involved in this race. I get over the chain drop hill and the road continues to climb, a little bit steeper now and the wind that was pushing me along has shifted and is now working against me.
By the time the other Sons of Perdition catch up to me and hand me the required reflective vest (to be worn between the hours of 8:30 pm and 6:30 am) I'm down to a 17.8 mph average. I swap out a water bottle, but the one I get is ambient temperature (about 80 degrees), just like the full one still on my bike. I swig a little but it tastes like warm plastic water bottle and from then on I stop embracing re-hydration and start thinking about pounding out these last 25 miles and getting some Mexican food at La Cueva in Torrey.
Mile 25: The Sasquatch Hill
I make special mention of this hill climb because two noteworthy things happen. Rodzilla becomes famous and I seal my fate vis-a-vis the Hanksville to Torrey leg of the Rockwell Relay.
I can see this hill looming from about 3 miles away. It looks ridiculous, like a carnival ride roller coaster going over the top of a mountain. I try to convince myself that the race course follows a different road, that somehow there's a fork and I will take the gentle path around the hill instead of directly over it but that's crazy talk. There are no other roads out this far, I'm surprised the one I'm on is actually paved as far removed from any population center as we are. I know I can't dog it over this hill; my average MPH is already down to 17.8 and that's not going to cut it so I hit the hill running and push hard to stay in the 12-13mph range as I climb the mile and a half 0f 9% grade.
The crew passes me just before the hill climb and parks at the top, where Rodzilla gets recognized as the minor internet sensation he has become in the blog-o-sphere. TeamSasquatch recognizes, of all people, the Legend of Ivan, whom if memory serves has shown up exactly once (other than actual sasquatch representations which may or may not have inspired this team's name depending on whose version of the story you are getting) on the blog. The driver from team Sasquatch recently returned from a mission to Peru, so they all sit and gab about this and that, completely losing track of time. I'm assuming that's why there is a mad scramble when they see me crest the hill much sooner than they anticipated:
I douse myself with the last of one luke-warm bottle and then chuck it. the Legend covers the guardrail so the bottle doesn't drop down the cliff and Swedish Matt blocks the space between the truck tires like an NHL goalie in overtime of game 7. These guys have ridden 80 miles with me now and they know how predictably unpredictable my bottle chucking can be. It's gotten worse as the day has gone on rather than better.
Moab to St. George – Leg 6
Leg NotesFrom Torrey start climbing up UT-12 into the Boulder Mountains. Climb is steep up to a false summit at mileage 15 then after a short decent and 5 more miles of climbing you will hit the boulder pass. Take a moment to enjoy the view the east. The mountains seen in the distance are the Henry’s that you just passed earlier in the day. After summit you have a steep decent down to the quaint town of Boulder and to the exchange. Take caution and watch for cattle, deer, and elk on the road during the descent.
Elevation Map – Leg 6
Moab to St. George – Leg 7
Leg NotesThis section of State Road 12 is what makes it famous! It just cannot be put into words, but here we go with a meager attempt. As you descend from Boulder down to the Escalante river, you will thoroughly enjoy cycling down the famous ridge at mileage 6.3 with steep drop off’s on both sides of the road. You will feel as though you are cycling in the clouds. As you near the Escalante River you will pass the Calf Creek Gorge (home of Calf Creek Falls) on the right. Excellent views from a top the road down to the green bottom of the gorge are breathtaking. Shortly after climbing up from the river on the other side you come to a windy section of road that contours a rugged white slickrock. At mileage 26.1 you will pass through the town of Escalante and begin an ascent back into Dixie national forest. After reaching a mild summit, you wind down the narrow canyon and end in the town Henrieville, population 159.
Elevation Map – Leg 7
Moab to St. George – Leg 8
Leg NotesShortly after leaving Henrieville you will pass through the small towns of Cannonville and Tropic. In Cannonville at mileage 3.4 you can find a visitors center for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After Tropic enjoy the views to the west of Bryce Canyon National Park from below. At mileage 10.9 you will enter the Park. The road winds up the canyon with spectacular red hoodoos all around. Yes, the official name is a hoodoo. Reach the summit at mileage 14.4 and stay on top the plateau for about 9 miles, then begin the decent into Red Canyon. Again more hoodoos in every direction and pass though the 2 red rock tunnels at mileage 24.4 and 24.5. At the bottom of Red Canyon take a right in UT-89 and finish the leg into Panguitch.
Elevation Map – Leg 8
Rodzilla gets the rundown from the exchange point couple huddling together to conserve body heat. This will be his biggest climb of the race, nearly 2000 feet in 10 miles. He gets out all his winter riding gear. Yeah the calendar says it's June 10th but it feels like February outside.
The first part of the ride is through farmland and then a town called Tropic. It's 7:30 on a Saturday morning in June and I can see my breath. They may want to rethink that name.