Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 9 - Ulysses to Pratt, Kansas

Today was the day we all had been dreading since we signed up for Elite Tour - riding through the heart of the Kansas wind tunnel. Yesterday we dodged a bullet a little bit as the winds weren’t as strong as they could have been. Today was 25-35 mph crosswinds all day, mixed with an occasional head wind, and, to be fair, a little bit of quartering tailwind. Scattered thunderstorms loomed all day with occasional spatters. One group got hit pretty hard with a short downpour.

Overall it was a tough day, definitely one to group up with other riders to cope with the wind even though the distance was a relatively short 151 miles.

The PACTour support crew did their best to keep us cheered up. At Mile 45, Tracey and Susan unfurled a big PACTour banner as we went by, and managed not to get blown away.

Four of us started out together (Randy, Jon Batek, Brad Reid and myself), and wisely let the small crazy fast group head off into the sunrise without us. We were able to echelon fairly well for the first forty miles when we caught up with Max Hogan, who had dropped from the fast group. At this point we changed to a flowing double echelon line for a while then eventually broke into two groups so we could ride safely on the shoulder. This worked out pretty well for the rest of the day.

With 60 miles to go, Randy and I were together and he really cranked it up. He is riding stronger every day. I held on and we left the other group of three in the dust, figuratively, as it was still raining off and on. With 30 miles to go, I had a bit of a meltdown. I tried a caffeine energy boost (Dr. Pepper) but nothing happened. Finally, after 20 miles, a GU tube and Payday bar got me fired up again and we finished strong.

Scenic highlights today were minimal, other than two tributes to the winds that blow consistently through this part of Kansas. One was the M. T. Liggetts Political Statement Emporium in Mullenville, Kansas. There are over a 100 whirligigs and other metallic art, from used farm implements and other material along the fence line of his farm at Mile 108. Very interesting – but we had 40+ more miles to cover and it was raining. This is one of the tough parts about Elite Tour, there isn’t any time to stop and look around. Fortunately Randy is quick with the camera so we can at least say we saw it on the way by.

The other tribute to wind was the 170 tower wind farm at Mile 55. By this point we were believers that they could power the whole country by harnessing the wind going through this area.

Every time we reach a rest or lunch stop, the PACTour rule is you must wash your hands (sans gloves of course) before touching any food or drink. No cheating, even if you are in a hurry. This makes a lot of sense and goes a long ways to keeping bacteria or other communicable virus from spreading around.

Tomorrow’s outlook is much better as Elite Tour and RAAM (Race Across America) veterans tell us. We get out of the wind tunnel path and head past Wichita on to Yates Center, Kansas, 178 miles. Winds are forecast to be less than 10 mph, but thunderstorms are likely.
Tomorrow is also hump day. After that we start the nine day countdown to the end of the ride.
We are all trained into the daily cycle now. 5:30a wake up, Dress, Eat. Ride. Rest stops. Ride. Lunch stop. Ride. More rest stops. Ride. Hotel. Stop. Clean/fix bike and person. Eat. Ruminate briefly. Sleep. Repeat 19 times.

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