McDowell Mountain Century

I was originally registered to do the Mount Lemmon 200k Brevet on Saturday, but changed my mind when I scheduled a business trip that would take me to Denver on Thursday, then Salt Lake City on Friday with a late night return flight to Phoenix the night before the event.  Luckily, there was another option that didn’t require a drive down to Tucson!  So I changed plans and registered for the McDowell Mountain Century.  Even though this century is pretty close to home, I’ve never done it before.

My flight back from Salt Lake City was delayed, so I didn’t get home until around 11:30pm.  Of course I didn’t have anything ready for the ride, so I was up at 5am to ensure I would get to the 7:30am start on time.  I actually got there about 45 minutes early, so I had plenty of time to check-in and get ready, then sat and tinkered with my phone for a while.  About 7:25 I got on my bike and started looking for the starting group.  Hmmm… plenty of people were milling around, but there weren’t any groups getting ready to leave.  Then I overheard someone ask someone else if they were doing the century or metric.  The answer was that the century group had already left!  What?!?  Crap!  I didn’t even notice a group forming!

So I headed off on my own.  The beginning part of the course winds through Scottsdale, so I had to deal with a number of stop lights that impeded progress.  About 10 miles into the ride I started catching other riders, but still couldn’t see the main group.  I wasn’t pushing myself to my limit, but I was riding at a very steady hard pace.  When I pulled into the first support stop I asked how far the lead group was in front of me.  The answer was that they just pulled out and probably weren’t even to the next light yet!

So I immediately left.  When I made the right hand turn after that light, I could see a group of 10 or so not too far off in front of me.  I kept that steady pace going and caught them about 25 miles into the ride.  There were a number of other Bullshifters at the front, but I was sitting at the back.  The pace was slower than I expected, which explains why I was able to catch them.  Riding on the back of that group, my heart rate quickly dropped into an “active rest” state.

I rode with the group for a few miles, but that pace I had set earlier felt pretty good and I decided to ride my own pace, so I went to the front after a stop light and rode my own pace.  Two guys stayed with me for a bit, but one guy dropped off pretty quickly.  That left me and Brian from Colorado.  I’d take the front on flats or down hill and he’d pull me up the hills.  Somewhere in Carefree we started passing people doing the metric century.  We worked well together through the Carefree to the second Support stop.

We only stayed at that stop for a few minutes, then headed off again. Brian pulled me up the long Dynamite road climb then I went to the front for a relatively fast descent.  Just once I’d like to enjoy the 9-mile descent without facing a head wind!  We took a break with the pace through Rio Verde and chatted a bit.  Brian said the lead group left just afer 7am — almost a 1/2 hour early!  No wonder I missed them leaving!  They spent quite a bit of time at the first support stop, which is probably the only reason I was able to catch them.  Anyway, we picked the pace back up again when we left Rio Verde.

There are only a couple significant hills along this route.  The first one is just before reaching Fountain Hills. I had taken a pull right before that climb, then Brian kept the intensity up going up the hill.  I’d like to say I wanted to protect my knee and just rode easy up the hill, but really, I was red-lined and popped.  I couldn’t maintain his pace up the hill and dropped off.  He was riding easy at the top, waiting for me to catch up.  Nice guy!

We didn’t stay too long at the last support stop before heading toward the next set of big climbs — the 10%+ section on Sunridge Drive followed by reversing two of the three sisters along Palisades.  I still couldn’t maintain Brian’s pace up the steeper climbs (I’m really not built to be a climber), but he was waiting at the top of Sunridge Drive.  I was able to get some good speed down through the dips along Palisades that I was able to carry most of the way up the climbs, so I wasn’t too far behind Brian when he got to Shea.

We worked well together down Shea and through Northeast Scottsdale.  About 6 or 7 miles from the finish, Brian went to the front and hammered the rest of the way to the finish.  We finished fast and strong!  He was using this event as a last “tune-up” ride before El Tour de Tucson where he plans to finish with a Platinum time.  Given how strongly he rode, I’d say he’s got it nailed.  My total time was 5 hours 11 minutes, including all stops to go 97 miles.  Not too shabby.

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