This was supposed to be a good warm up day and it certainly was. We started at sea level, climbed out of San Diego to over 4,000' up into the coastal mountains, spent some time on Historic US Route 80 (going up and down), then had a screaming downhill on Interstate 10 into the sauna of the Imperial Valley, with temps reaching 101. We climbed 8,000' today, but the last 25 miles on the valley floor were the toughest for several riders, since nearly all of us are from colder weather climates and haven't had much chance to train in this heat. Shown above are Lara and Jim, the only tandem team, as they arrived in El Centro after a very excellent ride for them today. Lara lives in Northern Minnesota, Jim is from Texas. Also shown is my roommate and riding partner Randy Mouri, from Washington, DC.
For me, the first 75 miles of the ride were spent getting back into shape after a 10 day tapering period leading up to the ride. Lon Haldeman said this would happen, and it worked out pretty well after that as I felt very good on the last 50 miles of the ride, heat and all. My morale is excellent.
I did have an accident, bruising my knee, hip and elbow and probably cracking a rib. Randy and I bumped into each other and I went down and got the worst of it. I'm feeling a little sore, but nothing major is damaged so it's definitely onward, heading east.
The first three days of Elite Tour are each mini-epic rides that get us up and over the California coastal mountain range, through the desert and up to the Arizona high desert plains. Tomorrow is the desert crossing, 220 miles, with temps near 100. We have 11 support stops during the day to ensure we stay hydrated and healthy. We are starting at 3:30a in the morning to get some of the ride done before the desert heat kicks in. It looks like we will have a light tailwind, at least for the first 100 miles - this will help, especially some of the slower riders.
The group is definitely spreading out with the faster riders getting in 2-3 hours before the last finishers. Randy and I are hanging in there pretty well, fairly near the front group. Randy had some leg cramps today though (he needs more electolytes, especially in the heat) so he will need to take it easy for a day or two. We'll see how the ride tomorrow goes.