Back in Bryce canyon ... seemed like Jake the man child was going nuts on the photo ops, I honestly wondered if we would have more photos of shrubbery than of cyclists, but every once in a while there was a jewel to be had.
Hard to go wrong with subject matter like this just out the window:
Still plenty of props to be given. I manned the wheel, the man-child handled the lens(es) we made a formidable tag-team of non-athlete/athletic supporters.
The international duo of La Canadienne and Swedish Liz give their best Gandolf on the bike path "none shall pass" performance.
Not far ahead Rodzilla stretches in the saddle, grabs some extra O2 on a flat stretch before hammering away again at the canyon climb.
Number 2251, aka Red Rider, pedaling through the Red Rock Canyon. Just a gorgeous morning and absolutely perfect setting for a bike ride, too bad they are racing and missing out on the ambiance.
Rodzilla crests the hill and, it's not all down hill from here, but it's all flat or down hill for the next 40 miles and he takes full advantage. This terrain suits his riding style. No need for an escort. Rodzilla is a peloton of one and happy to be that, for now anyway.
Father/son high lighter markers (aka Craig and non-crazy Brian) make their first appearance. They are about to have their ride hijacked by the international duo but at the moment they appear blissfully ignorant of that fact.
Rodzilla ... attached to a posse? Nope, just passing through. We're four miles from the feed station, don't look for him to stop there either. What you're witnessing is the Rodzilla express, non-stop to Panguitch.
Dead skunk in the middle of the road (ewwww, fresh too if I recall correctly, probably better than a live skunk in the middle of a bike race though) La Canadienne points it out for anybody interested in avoiding a potentially race ending collision with roadkill.
I try to tell non-crazy Brian to make the duo earn their paycheque, no free rides on race day. Either they don't care or they still don't know that they've picked up a pair of stowaways.
Rodzilla tries to draft for a bit, only to realize that any wind curtain that would be potentially useful has to be big enough for him to to tuck in behind. If he can see the road in front of the lead cyclist chances are any wind the group encounters is hitting him square on the chin. How to make yourself smaller on a bike? Crouch perhaps? How to make to make a Rodzilla smaller than an Asian not named Yao Mingh on a bike? Not gonna happen. We do get our first glimpse of Crazy Brian. He's getting cozy with Rodzilla's rear wheel and probably wondering how long the big man can keep this pace. This may end up being the easiest 100 miles he's ever logged on a bike.
As the road flattens Swedish Liz pulls out the parachute jacket to add drag and keep this thing challenging.
It's been more than an hour since we've seen Swedish Matt. I figured he was history. It took some aggressive driving on less than perfect pavement, but this peleton (about ten minutes ahead of Rodzilla at this point) looks promising.
Sure enough, it's Swedish 'just think how fast I'd be if I actually cared' Matt, blazing through the southern Utah desert countryside. He's been working with a group, but the grade is negative and the wind is at his back. He's going to stretch his legs and see what this overpriced Carbon fiber racing bike will do. Quite a bit as it turns out. We charge ahead of him only to see the road drop into a narrow, windy canyon road on a 4% negative grade. It's as close to a rollercoaster ride as you will get on a bike. We manage to get enough distance between us to find a turnout, pull off for some photos, just barely in time to catch the Swede as he flies by.
I shot several videos in this the second most scenic spot of the ride. None of them were terribly inspiring but probably better than the photos we got. 'The man child' goes all combat photographer on me and scales the side of the canyon. He shoots a test frame, is evaluating it as Rodzilla flies by. Can't win 'em all I guess. He's prepared when the duo (and their patient and generous escort) come into view, unfortunately the focus is on the rock wall that the man child scaled to get the crow's nest view. Still an interesting (but unfortunately not epic like it could have been) photo.
On the other hand, he absolutely nails the chase car photo.
At this point I'm pretty sure I'm thinking "How can a kid that's 6'5" with that much hair just disappear? He must have learned that from his dad" (the disappearing, not the hair). Also, I'm checking the odometer and the dashboard clock, and rechecking it. If I'm reading it right, we're 50 miles into this race and still on the sunny side of 2 1/2 hours. They are averaging better than 20 mph. I've covered 50 miles in 2 1/2 hours one time only. It was while I was on vacation in Canada last year, a solo effort that nearly killed me. None of the riders that have passed by have even looked winded. I think Swedish Liz was actually laughing. Watching this ride is hurting me more than participating in it ever could.
Next stop Antimony. And yeah, I heard right, laughter, coming from Swedish Liz. I have very few responsibilities today. Provide 'support' in the form of food La Canadienne can eat and the occasional 'atta-girl, go get 'em'. But we're past that point now. The duo has a chance to break the 6 hour mark for a century ride (actually 107 miles, yeah it's OK, even expected that you split hairs when it comes to distances of > 100 miles). If they do finish in under 6 hours I will owe Swedish Matt a milkshake from the Soda shoppe in downtown Panguitch. Small price to pay. Most of what La Canadienne has accomplished this year has been her own doing, but I'm not above taking some coach/trainer credit if I can. Bottom line is she's exceeded all reasonable expectations for any novice at the age of 40 cyclist, let alone a mother of four. They both have. I'm excited for both of them and I'm not about to let them fritter away what may be a once in a lifetime accomplishment. I fill the water bottles, yell to the cyclist with the Swiss Miss pony tails that if she's gotta use the bathroom she better stop yukking it up and do it now cause the train is leaving the station.
Water bottles are full, jersey pockets are re-stocked with road victuals and there's still plenty of blasting powder left in the legs. The duo saddles up and they rejoin their gentlemen companions for the day (plus one). The other Brian has joined the cast. Things are gonna get crazy now.*
*Still waiting for the 'this is what makes Brian so crazy update from either of the international duo.
Less than fifteen minutes behind the duo we catch up with Red Rider. Going it alone is tough, even when the grade is friendly and the wind favorable. That's been the case so far and the only penalty for riding without a group has been the solitude of the road (actually a benefit if you ask me, most of my riding is done solo, a practice I need to break and swore I would this summer, but I have yet to follow through) but that will all change shortly. For now things are still looking bright for the rider with the ginger locks tucked under her helmet.
There were more than 200 century riders, that means you're never alone for long. Red Rider sets her cross hairs on the rider wearing $500 worth of cycling gear and as the road pitches up she reels him in and ...
gives him the old dumptruck treatment on the backside
One handed (no less)!
As she speeds through the camera nest 'pro-ed out rider' isn't even in the picture any longer. Red Rider is back to legging it out on her own.
We catch Red Rider in Antimony and I perform the duties of a pro team swanier (not sure of the spelling, nor can I find it on any website. It's a French word pronounced swan-yay and translates roughly to 'the boy who does everything for everybody for very little money and even less recognition').
This is a move I call the 'Swamp cooler'. It only works in the desert. Do not attempt in the deep south, near the equator or anywhere with a humidity level > 50%.
Nothing worse than a tension headache, on a bike, on a summer afternoon with another 50 miles to ride. We work out the knots, top off the tank
and she's on her way again.
More shots of scenery, more wishing I was riding instead of driving. Why wasn't I riding again?
We catch the duo and the duo's posse. By now they are no longer anonymous and they have been taking their turns at the helm on a regular basis.
It's about this time that non-crazy Brian (see back of line rider) starts to suck wind. His dad (and Crazy Brian) have been training for LOTOJA. He has been studying for a Med School entrance exam instead of riding, did really well too. He can probably write his own ticket to any medical school in the country! (I feel like I've known these guys for years, is this what happens when your wife starts spending time with other men?). So yeah, he's struggling a bit now, pretty soon a bit will become mightily and the duo and in Crazy good physical condition for an old man-Brian will drop the the fluorescent yellow pair like they were a couple of dried up high lighter markers. Thanks for the pull, nice knowing you.
Next stop Circleville and what has so far been a really enjoyable payoff for all their hard work (the international duo), verification that training is for chumps without freakish leg strength or endurance (Swedish Matt) and a pre-LOTOJA confidence boost (Rodzilla) is about to become a trial of physical endurance and mental toughness.
Rodzilla hits the 75 mile mark in Circleville at about the 3:45:00 mark averaging 21.2 miles per hour for the first 3/4 of the race, largely under his own power. Not a lot of effective drafting companions on the road. It could be worse. He could be drafting behind actual BMC team captain Cadel Evans.
Even if those ladies are female-zillas, that podium is a good 18" tall. Translation? Cadel Evans is an Australian Leprechaun.
Goodluck finding a slipstream behind the Aussie-smurf.
'Zilla rallies the support crew and they pedal out of Circleville and into the canyon of doom. The road turns south and into the teeth of twenty mile per hour headwinds (with gusts > 30mph). So long effortless, gambling with house money, wind at your back and perma-grin on your face riding. The mercury is climbing too. We're mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit and only getting hotter. I tell Jake 'the man-child' Miller "This just stopped being fun, nobody is enjoying themselves now, this is miserable." I actually tell him several times, a fact he points out to me, but I can't help myself. I see the terrain, I see the weeds bending in the wind (when weeds are bent over by wind? ... bad news for any cyclist, especially one as aerodynamically challenged as Rodzilla), I feel the heat and I can't help but sympathize with the guys (and gals) on the bikes. My ride-envy is rapidly dissipating. Did I really wish I was riding this? I wouldn't wish this blast furnace headwind on anyone, especially anyone who has ridden 80 miles already.
Rodzilla gets dropped by the group he organized (that dot in the distance is him)
But there's another group catching him from behind. If he can run on 4 cylinders for a few hundred yards maybe he can attach himself to peleton #2. Meanwhile, the man child gets his first shot at hydration management.
He's moving when he hands the bottle up. His roadside skillz far exceed my camera prowess. Good thing it was him behind the lens today and not me.
That's the face of a man who is seeing his dream ride getting convection-oven cooked while he's in it. No more hamming it up, or casual back stretches in the saddle. There are 25 more miles of this torture, it's all about hanging on at this point.
Did Rodzilla manage to tuck in behind peleton #2? Nope. He's going it alone. He was about 20 minutes in front of the International duo in Circleville. Will it be enough to hold off them off at the line? It will be exciting. We'll see.
We finally catch Swedish Matt again, right at the one hundred mile mark in the ride. I check my clock, 4hrs 43 minutes. Forget Crazy Brian, that's Crazy fast for 100 miles, better than 21mph average. I want to feel cheated that I didn't get to ride this with him but I look at his face and the wind in the grass and I'm only half sad that I'm not on my bike.
Cyclist #3 is Rodzilla's counterpart. Thought bubble: "Really, why am I killing myself to stay with these guys?"
Who's the Cycling with Rodzilla King of the Desperado Dual? That would be Sweidsh Matt.
He jumps out of the saddle for the dramatic photo-op and notches a 5hr 12 minute finish. More than solid, phenomenal actually. I want to say it's a time I could at least match if not beat, but the truth is I've never come close to riding 100 miles (and seven) that fast.
I have to admit, I thought Rodzilla was done for back in the canyon when he got double dropped and was legging it solo but just over half an hour after Swedish Matt crossed the line, Rodzilla rolls in.
No hands free war-whoop on this occasion, he's ready to be done.
In fact, it looks like he might get off his bike before he actually comes to a stop.
Somewhere between Antimony and Circleville the duo and Crazy Brian left the other Brian and his dad behind. They've covered the last 30 miles together the entire time. La Canadienne credits Crazy Brian with saving her ride/race. At about 10 miles out she dropped off the back end and (Crazy ... like a fox?) Brian dropped back and pulled her back into the group and then took her next turn at the point to let her gather her strength for the final push.
After chivalry like that, La Canadienne feels it would be poor form to out sprint her hero of the day. Swedish Liz feels no such obligation. She sees the line and charges for it. It's reflexive with her, she can't help herself. She yells something like "Come on, pick it up old man!" and sprints it out.
She's the first of their group to cross the line (although the official chip time which tracks the time from time trap to time trap in a staggered start has La Canadienne finishing a second faster) in just over 6 hours (6 hours and 2 minutes to be exact ... so close)
Their average moving speed (minus stops) is still 19mph. That equals my fastest ever century ride finish. Bravo!
I shake hands with the (Crazy) man who brought my wife back from desperation and desertion to a glorious finish. He has already promised both mine and Swedish Matt's (who watches dubiously) wife that he will be their 'Sugar Daddy' any time. I wish I would have known that at the time of the handshake, I might have asked for a cash deposit on that promise.
It's all over but the victory beverage. Extra cold chocolate milk that I've had on ice for the last 6 hours.
Jenn celebrates a personal victory and I stand beside her wishing simultaneously that I had stories to tell about my day's adventure and that my hair would stop falling out. Rodzilla's balder but at least he rode his bike today.
The Swedes (at rest at last). Oh, and check out Swedish Liz's bike. Isn't it pretty?
The day gets hotter and the wind gusts stronger and we all congratulate ourselves for not being out in these conditions on a bike. Red Rider fights through the hottest and windiest part of the day to finally finish the century ride she committed to with all of us 10 months earlier. She would later confess that the only thing that kept her pedaling into that unrelenting, oven baked headwind was the knowledge that if she didn't finish she would just have to keep trying till she did (and she had had her fill already thank you). I've felt the same way on more than one Canyon climb in the past. It's the reason I didn't quit on Little Cottonwood Canyon last summer (and the reason I haven't gone back for seconds this year).
La Canadienne scouts out Red Rider and reverts to her track star roots (in flip flops this time ... I want to say I'm faster than her if she's in flip flops but I'm not even sure that's true) and ushers her to the finish line.
The last 30 miles of this race were a gut check for every participant but especially for Red Rider who despite making friend after friend on the ride (it seemed every other cyclist we met knew her name and her fame) hadn't seen a familiar face for the last 50 miles. The 'Zilla hug and congratulations are well earned. Ride conditions worsened throughout the day and seemed to reach a zenith of misery in the last hour that Red Rider spent pedaling toward Panguitch.
Group hug. It's been a summer of intense (and occasionally tense) training. It's good to see friends smiling and celebrating together.
Group photo-op (plus party crasher). Everybody performed better than expected, some even wildly exceeding expectations. All have reason to smile, all have stories to tell. Seems ironic then that it's me the one person who didn't spend one minute on a bike that day that's doing the telling. That's an open invitation to the Desperado Dualers to join the discussion, update the blog, tell your tale. Next week is LOTOJA 2011 and if you think I've been long winded as a passive observer, wait till that's over. September will be all LOTOJA all the time.
One last photo of the Desperado Dual 2011 finishers (sans hanger-on)