Second Place again! Woohoo! I rode strong and fast, but a
platinum time would require race day luck and my worn out rear tire
ensured that luck was not going to be on my side. The ride started
at a high pace. Jeff Parker (the guy who won last year and would
win again this year) set the pace going out of town. By the time
we went through the last light in Douglas there were only six bikes
still with the lead group. I had hoped to take the start easy and
take short pulls, but with only 6 bikes I was at the front more often
than I wanted. We had a tandem with us for quite a way, but they
dropped back after 20 miles or so to ride with some friends.
Shortly before the climb to Bisbee I noticed Jeff taking shorter and shorter pulls. Ok, so he did do a lot of work going out of town, but I figured he was resting up for an attack - I was right. Right before the first climb, he skipped a turn at the front and went to the back - Uh oh. We hit the first hill and he attacked hard and quickly opened a big gap. I thought it was way too early and held back, but the group slowed down after the attack so I went to the front to try to keep the gap small, but he kept pulling away. By the time we hit the mine in Bisbee, Jeff was out of sight. It was a bold move and it worked. For the third straight year, the first one over the hill in Bisbee has won the race. But to do that you have to stay out front for 130+ miles and it's a hard earned, well deserved win.
The climb through Bisbee gets pretty steep right before the top and I dropped back, but Ralph Duckett (62 years old and took 3rd place last year!) dropped back to pull me to the top. At the top I had a quick bottle hand-off from Annette (she, Danielle and Jake did another fantastic job this year as my support crew). Then I went to the front. I only got up to 49.3 mph this year on the descent (I broke 50 both of the prior years) and Ralph stayed on my wheel to the bottom. I don't know what happened to the other two guys, but they were nowhere around. I stayed out front for a quite a few miles after the descent averaging around 30 mph, then pulled off to let Ralph have a turn. As I went back he said "I knew there was a good reason to pull you up that hill!"
Ralph and I worked together pretty good and maintained a fast pace. There was a climb outside of Tombstone and I inadvertently dropped Ralph and opened a good sized gap. When I looked back he was pretty far back, so I kept going. On the other side of Tombstone the border patrol was holding an inspection and diverted traffic off the road. Right after going through the inspection area my bike started feeling bouncy and I looked down at flat number one. Luckily Annette was waiting right past the inspection, so I stopped and did the quickest tire change I've ever done! Ralph past while I was working on the tire. I let Annette clean up my mess and forgot to have her give me my spare tire kit to carry in my jersey. Doh!
I was still able to average over 30 for quite a while and had almost caught Ralph when we hit a road construction stop. There was a truck blocking both lanes. We sat for a minute and Ralph asked the sheriff and flagman if we could just go around real quick since it looked like that truck was going to be there for a few more minutes. They let us through! Thanks Ralph! I probably would have just sat there frustrated. Anyway, we made good time into Benson. There was one stretch where they had torn up the asphalt on our side of the road, so we rode against traffic for about 1/2 mile, but it was better than having our fillings vibrated out of our teeth.
In Benson we turn onto I-10 and take the freeway to Dragoon Road. The officials asked that support cars wait at either end, but not to stop along the freeway. Annette had planned to get something for her and the kids to eat in Benson, so that would work out well. There wasn't any traffic on the road leading up to the freeway on-ramp, so I went out in the lane and took the turn fast. There was a cross wind on the freeway so I slowed my speed, but I was still going at a good clip. After a few miles I signaled for Ralph to pull through, but found that he wasn't there (guess I was pointing out debris for people on the road!).
As I crested one hill I could see the climb up to Texas Canyon and what sure looked like a cyclist nearing the top. I would have estimated a 15-20 minute lead. Hard, but doable if I kept riding like I was. But just as I hit that climb I felt that bouncy feeling again and looked down at flat number two! Crap! I didn't have any of my repair stuff with me since I pulled it out for the first flat! Double Crap! I called Annette and luckily she was already on the highway heading towards me. An official stopped and said he had a repair kit, but no tubes. Luckily Annette was just pulling up, so I passed on that. I changed the tire even faster than the first one and Annette stuffed my spare repair kit in my jersey as I worked on the tire. She was blocking the shoulder with the car so I had to wait for her to pull forward before I could start again. On the first stroke my bike was bouncy... What?!?! I was so rushed I didn't check the bead around the rim and may have pinched the tube when I filled it (or the tube was bad). In any case, there was flat number three! Crap, Crap, CRAP!!
Ralph had past me while I was waiting for Annette, so I knew he had a good lead and Jeff would be untouchable. I had to start up that climb quite frustrated so I hit it way harder than I should have. By the time my breathing became heavy and I thought "what the heck am I doing??" I had already burned a performance match, maybe two. I slowed down and tried to recover the rest of the climb and through Texas Canyon to the turn on Dragoon. Annette was waiting there for another bottle hand-off. I turned onto Dragoon Road and knew that a Platinum time would be hard to get now, but still possible. I had over three hours to go about 60 miles. There was a slight head wind, but not too bad and I was able to maintain high 20's for a lot of that stretch.
When I turned onto 191, I developed a case of hot foot on my left foot. Shooting pain in my toes and I could feel a lump in my shoe near the ball of my foot - my three year old Sidi shoes decided this was the ride to let me know they needed to be replaced! I flexed my toes in my shoe and the pain eased, but it would bother me on and off through the rest of the ride. The wind had also picked up and I was only able to maintain 21-22 mph. About 10 miles out of Elfreda the wind really started to blow and the Weather Channel promised steady winds of 10-15 mph started to hit me. My speed dropped off significantly and I was only going 15-17 mph. Now I knew that a Platinum time would also be out of reach. Then Annette told me Ralph was about 5 minutes in front of me and I seemed to be catching him! That got my motivation up again and I started to go a little faster when that familiar bouncy feeling started and I looked down at flat number four!
Now I knew Ralph would be too far out and I would have to settle for third. I knew there wasn't anyone close behind me and I had a lock on third place, so I took it easy the rest of the way in. I only had one spare tube left and wanted to play it safe. I made the turn off 191 and got another bottle from Annette, but I didn't push my pace. When I was about 5 miles from the finish I saw some cars ahead, including Ralph's support car. Then I saw Ralph, unconscious off the road on his back with some bad cuts on his face. I asked his support guy if he was alright and he just said "no, an ambulance is on the way." Absolutely not the way I wanted to get a second place finish. Ralph's race day luck turned out to be worse than mine. I don't know why he went down, but it looked like he went down hard.
At the finish we asked about Ralph, but they hadn't even heard about the accident yet. Jeff was at the finish and congratulated me on the second place finish. Turns out he had some problems with cramping. If I hadn't of had all those flats.... Ah well, there's always next year -- with new rubber on my tires! Jeff made a very bold move early in the ride, worked hard and deserved the win. Congrats to him!
Annette and the kids went to look at the book fair that was going on in the park and I went back to the hotel to relax and shower. We went back to the park a few hours later and found out that Ralph had been transported by helicopter to Tucson Medical Center with a hip problem and some bad road rash. I hope he recovers quickly, he is definitely an inspiration to be riding so strongly at 62!
So, final results. Jeff finished in 7:55. I finished in 8:20 with four flats. I don't remember the name of the guy who finished third, but his time was 10:14, almost two hours back. I looked at my Polar chart and I spent 2 minutes 19 seconds changing the first flat. 9 minutes waiting for Annette and changing flats two and three. And 2 minutes 30 seconds changing the fourth flat, so I lost about 14 minutes because of a worn out tire that I should have been smart enough to change before the ride. That was also probably an extra 10 minutes that I could have had at a faster pace before the wind picked up. The bottom line is that I think I rode really strong and would have gotten that Platinum time and probably would have challenged Jeff at the finish if it wasn't for that tire. Race day luck gone bad...
Copyright © 2005 by Mike Enfield. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/06/09 11:29:49 -0700.