Today was a very long day. We started at 3:30a in the morning and finished about 5:30p after 220 miles of desert riding, with some rollers and several long, gradual climbs (Arizona hills). Randy and I started with the fast group and it turned out to be a good move. The first 40 miles were done in just about 2 hours. Things spread out after that and we carried on, picking up Jon Batek, Tim Feldman and later on Lynn Lashley.
We were very fortunate with the heat, as some high clouds drifted in and stayed all day, keeping the heat down to the high 80s. This really made a big difference as temps in the high 90s were projected.
There weren't any big hills but we did climb 5,000' overall. After lunch, at the 145 mile mark, we had a long leg going up an Arizona hill (1-2% gradual climb) into the wind, towards a set of mountains that we finally named the 'Unreachables' as it took an hour or more to actually get to the foot of them. This was followed by the 'Lost Horizon' road, that continued the upward climb, more gradually, but this went on for 30 miles. You could see where the road and the sky met, but could never actually get to the horizon line. We developed a good pattern of team work to get through both of these, and the other parts of the ride.
We had 11 rest stops today, and were glad for every one of them. For myself, my goal at a rest stop was to drink as many fluids as I can, water, gatorade, pop, Aptiva, etc. Then load my water bottles with ice, then water in one, electrolytes and/or liquid nutrition in the other. Even though most rest stops were only 20 miles apart, I (and most of the other riders) would finish both bottles. My favorite foods of the day were pears in syrup and sliced mandarin oranges also in syrup.
The other story of our day was the six flats and other tire problems we had. Tim had a brand new tire start bulging, then a flat developed that we nursed along to the next rest stop where he was able to trade both the tire and tube out. My rear tire developed a sympathy flat just as we were leaving the rest stop. Randy got a flat and his first spare was defective, Tim had another flat a little later to round out the set. All of this made the day longer, but it worked out well as the five of us had a fine time together.
My perspective on Elite Tour being very competitive is changing. We are pushing some very long distances and are going fast (we averaged 18. 5 mph over the whole day,) but there is a strong spirit of cooperation and helping each other that really helps to make the rides more interesting and fun. This is what I was hoping would happen. Lon, Susan and the whole support crew are great - making sure the rest stops are well stocked and always ready to help out with any problem that comes up. Susan (and the other support crew) are always glad to see you arrive at a rest stop, and make you feel great that you made it this far.
Scott Luiken had a crash and banged his legs and hip pretty good. The accident started when his crank broke about 3 miles from the next rest stop. Tim Feldman helped him out by pushing him along but the pieces of the broken crank got tangled in Tim's brake cables and they both went down. Lon fixed up his own bike for Scott to ride, but luck was not on his side today as he flatted within 10 miles.
All in all another great, but very tough day on Elite Tour. Tomorrow is 13,000' of climbing up to Flagstaff, Az., a distance of 151 miles. The weather should be much cooler, and it looks like the wind may be helping us up the hills!