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Friday – 5/14 On the plane to San Diego
Cautious optimism after looking at the 10 day weather forecast for the first few stops on the Elite Tour. Temperatures in the California/Arizona desert on Sunday and Monday will be less than 100 degrees in El Centro and Blythe, which should be manageable. Monday is the longest day of the ride, 220 miles across the desert to Wichenburg, Arizona. We are starting at 3 in the morning to get in as many miles as possible before the heat really kicks in. After this, on Tuesday, we will be climbing up to 7,000’ to Flagstaff where it will be significantly cooler. The weather looks like it will hold fairly steady as we cross the high desert plains to Durango, after which we will be crossing several Rocky Mountain passes. There may even be a little tailwind as we head north, although you always hesitate to hope for too much.
I am looking forward to meeting and learning more about rest of the riders on our tour. There are 24 riders and six great PACTour support people. Two of the riders, David Goggins and Mark Pattison, are training for a solo RAAM (Race Across America) attempt in mid-June so will only ride with us for the first 10-12 days. Of the rest, some have done RUSA (Randonneurs USA) or UMCA (Ultra Marathon Cycle Association) rides, a number are PACTour alumni from regular transcontinental rides and some from the last Elite Tour in 2007. There may be some past RAAM riders in the mix too. It looks like a very strong group, with a lot of ultra marathon experience.
Two riders are from Europe, one Aussie. I am the lone Canadian, though I have lived in the states for over 30 years. We have two women are in our group, one will be riding on a tandem.
I know three of the riders before arriving here today :
Lara Sullivan – experienced randonneur and PACTour veteran of several transcontinental PACTours. Lara will be riding on a tandem with Jim Slauson, although they haven’t ridden together since January. Lara is a very tough, persistent rider.
Len Zawodniak – experienced randonneur and PACTour transcontinental rider. We rode together at a PACTour Desert Camp in March, putting in 100 mile days for six days in a row. Len did two other weeks of Desert Camp and a number of brevets and other long rides around New Jersey.
Randy Mouri – experienced randonneur, RAAM qualifier, and my roommate for the Elite Tour. We rode a good part of the epic Endless Mountains 1240k brevet in 2009, where Randy was the first rider in. Randy lives in the Washington DC area, where they had a very long, snowy winter. Randy plans to work himself into shape over the first few days.
I am the oldest rider in the tour, turning 59 on the third day of the event. We’ll see if my experience outlasts other’s youthful enthusiasm. The average age is 39, the median age is around 50. By comparison this is a young group as Paris-Brest-Paris riders average 56 years old.
The key to being successful on the Elite Tour, I believe, will not be age as much as managing yourself, day after day, staying out of trouble (accidents) and keeping your vital body parts (tush, knees, feet, hands/arms) working comfortably.
The key to having a fun ride on the Elite Tour will be to make some friends and ride with them for good parts of the tour. Some riders will prefer riding on their own, but while riders will spread out on the many hilly sections, much of the ride will lend itself to paceline riding with groups of 3-4 riders working together. This will make a big difference in average speed, particularly with any kind of head wind, which we will have our share of. Besides, riding with friends is a great way to enjoy the miles and keep each other motivated. It is always fascinating for me to meet other riders who have the same degree of insanity for doing these rides and then finding out how different we really are.