Boise, ID

Today is the big day. Not just the longest ride of the series. Not just the one of the rides with the most climbing in the tour. It is the last ride. The final ride of the 3rd leg final leg of the final year of the current Rapha Continental project. It may continue in some future form, but for now, it is nearly done, its purpose fulfilled. Rides ridden, agreements fulfilled. Routes documented, pictures captured, video recorded, artefacts collected (generally by Mr. Cole Maness), rider journals written. Once today is done, and a good 6 months of future work completed, the two years of work will be recorded in a less ethereal mode. Guide book, DVD, and maybe coffee table photo journal headed your way.

150miles means an extra early start. Not our usual early start which some how is always an hour later than our planned on the road time. If anything we need to be out the door a hour before we planned if that was something that was possible. Most of us are downstairs 15min before the 6:30am roll call, in our kit, on our bikes, heading out early to the G-Fit Studio (http://gfitstudio.blogspot.com/) to relube chains, wipe down frames, and air up tires. The space is immaculate. Three double bike service stations boasting the Feedback Sports Pro-Elite clamp (http://www.feedbacksports.com/products/pro-elite_commercial_clamp.aspx). Yes I have a Feedback Sports work stand and yes it is worth the money. Yes I paid for mine, and yes I would pay for it again. But, since it is different than the typical lever-clamp systems, it takes some of the crew a little bit to figure out how to work the thing. Do I turn the knob first? What is the push paddle on the arm? Ratchet what? Fortunately the breakfast spot is next door so the time spent figuring out how to get the thing to let go of peoples bikes didn’t really eat into our food consumption phase.

My stomach is a little funny so I only opt for something small and light. A bagel with cream cheese and a hot tea. I am a little worried about it not being enough for the ride but there isn’t any way to eat enough in a meal to support the ride we are about to do anyway. You just have to be careful about eating consistently the entire time. Some food every 30min and at least one bottle an hour. A meal that is too large before a ride is worse than too little in my mind. You can always eat more once you get on the bike. De-eating once you are rolling is a messier operation.

Not ordering a breakfast seems like the master plan. Everyone else went for the full meal deal and ended up only finishing half of what they ordered. Perfect. I get to pick and choose between plates for a couple of extra bites. And a couple of extra pieces of fruit. Fresh blue berries, strawberries, and cherries. Who doesn’t finish their cherries?!?!?!

With the extra riders from Boise and the additional people that flew into Salt Lake, it is a pretty big crew, 14 in total. We double pace line out of the center of town, down some side streets, through a cemetery, and then out onto the highway. We are on the 30 heading NW of town. The ground is pretty bare and arid. Not arid like Texas, we have prairie grass and Mesquite trees. Everything seems to be closely cropped, where there is some sort of ground cover, and dusty gravely dirt. A land dessicated. Which is strange since we followed some pretty impressive rivers on our way in. Where does all the water go?

The 4 lane, divided middle, huge shouldered highway heaves itself sky ward as our first ascent begins. It is 6-7% and signs facing oncoming traffic warn of break checks and run away ruck turn offs. We slowly make our way up. I am with two riders, the three of us watching the summit of the pass inch towards us. Struggling engines red line to our left. A bright orange dump truck with dump trailer in tow leaves me thinking about how if it was 5mphs slower it would be the perfect skitch assistant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skitching). In the middle of this train of thought Cole Maness rapidly pedals past me. What? Why is he looking back? Here comes the same set up as earlier, only grey and slower. His sprint has brought him with in the range of a grab being possible, not just distance but speed. His left hand extends, finds traction on the last indentation on the side of the trailer, and his legs come to a rest. The bastard actually hooked himself a ride to the top. Sitting back and relaxing, he coasts up hill, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at us with amusement. As the rig pulls over the rise Cole releases his catch back into the wild and waves it goodbye. The diver bellows his horn twice in response. Glad to be of assistance and you are welcome.

We return to the river etched valley. I suppose it is still etching since it is flowing swiftly on our left. The road is narrow and tight. Small lanes, no shoulder. Ditch to the right, followed by a wall of dirt and rocks. The single column of riders tries to stick to the white line. A semi-constant stream of traffic passes us. Lots of trailers, lots of trucks. We are moving quickly, each rotating up as the front rider peels off. I, 8th back in the rotation, watch the rider two ahead of me, using him as a guide post on both distance and path. Slam. I am launched 3-4′ to my left. Hands almost off of the bars, connection retained solely by my hooked thumbs. If I had any lighter of a grip on my hoods, I would have gone aero, but not in the good way. My first thought is I am about to crash. The front end of the bike is all over the place and the roughly chip sealed awaits. In what felt like a 5sec struggle for control, but was probably only 1sec at the most, I am able to straighten out and look back to figure out what the hell happened. The three directly behind me are scattering. The rider 4th behind me (12th in the line of 14) is either not quick enough or not lucky enough. He slams into something, turning the front wheel ninety degrees to his momentum. He goes ass over elbows, right knee smacks the ground as he disappears head first into the roadside ditch. An cloud of dust and dirt is ejected into the air as he slams home. Brakes and tires burn as people slowdown to loop back to the accident. I am the first on the scene, wishing it hadn’t been 2 years since my Red Cross first aid training had expired. Seeing how how he went down, I am sure I am about to have to deal with some serious injuries. He is trying to sit up and I get him to lay still. Strangely everything is working. I test his collar bones and neck, question him about dates and times. Press on his arms and legs, extend his joints. His helmet is scraped but uncracked. He has some gnarly road rash on his knee, deep grooves. But he is alive and it is not serious or life threatening. As wrecks goes, this is a good one. He is walking away from it although it is the end of his ride this day. 20 feed further back I pick up the culprit, either unseen or un-pointed. A 4″x3″x1.5″ nearly squared rock that now rests at the bottom of the adjacent river. Hopefully staying out of trouble.

The turn off appears and we exit the main highway. Two or three scattered groups which become additionally stretched by the subsequent climbs. This landscape is hard to photograph. There is no differentiation. A river exists deep in the valley sloping to our left but there is no good way to frame it. The plants and trees are uniform. The dirt and grasses are yellow and brown. The route is long and difficult, but the visuals are uninspiring. Unlike other rides, there aren’t any zones being moved through: grassland to forest, pine to snowcap, dark to bright. Looking through a viewfinder, everything seems cluttered without contrast.

The 12 mile climb. I climb alone. No one’s speed seems to match another’s. Everyone is soloing. Finding their sustainable tempo and sticking to it. I run out of water and am hoping for the van. There is no way to tell if it is just over the next ridge or 10 miles away set up for a good shot. If I was smart I would have dropped in on that camp ground I passed 15min ago to fill up, but I still had a little water at that point and I thought the van must be close. Close is a relative judgement which decreases as thirst increases. I was pretty parched and the van sure seemed that it was forever away as I slowed my roll. The last thing I needed was to add heavy exertion to my increasing dehydration. They say your body isn’t good at indicating the need for food and water, and that it lets you know it has run out of energy or hydration after the fact. One of the top rules of riding in a long route or in a race is eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. The hills crowd the view keeping everything obstructed. Unable to see where I came from and where I was heading, and how far the next rest stop was, I continued at a casual pace. 45min later, the final peak of the mid day climb is reached, and the van sits in the left turn off, an oasis in the dessert. Another 15min and I would have just filled my bottles from the stream near the road and just taken my chances that my stomach is strong. A greedily gulped bottle and two freshly refilled, I begin the long descent into a dot of a town for a coke and a possible ice  cream sandwich. 20mph turns taken at 35, I hang on to enough momentum to give my legs a nice long rest as I practically coast into town.

A nice acidic Coke and a pass on the ice cream. A quick 10min stop and I push on. 3 riders ahead, the remainder behind. The head winds kick up. A shorter climb, although even short climbs seem long at this stage of the game, and I am across the reservoir dam. The van is parked on the far side. This time I pre-emptively water up even though I am not particularly low. The 3 are about 5min ahead. The park pull off at the head of the paved bike way just on the other side of the final climb. A perfectly straight 4 mile stretch with an unchanging 5-6% grade. A slow progress spin and I am up and over. I drop into the park and it looks like the front 3 riders have continued looking to finish the final 8 miles and get off of their bikes after a long day of riding. I decide rather than finish the ride solo, I would like to do the final leg of the final ride with the crew. After today everyone is headed their separate ways, for at least a while, so there is no time like the present. People show up in 1, 2s, and 3s until the final 10 of us are assembled. Clipping back into our pedals, we take it casual back into Boise, the sun in our eyes.

Ride Time: 8:32:19
Distance: 150.86 miles
Speed: 17.5/54.7mph
Heart Rate: 140/178
Cadence: 79/136

2009-07-29a


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