Breathless Agony

What a busy couple of weeks! Sitting in the airport waiting for a flight to Denver as I start to write this. The week before Breathless Agony I was a “cabin parent” at Jake’s 5th grade science camp outside of Payson, AZ. Camp ended around 1:30pm on Friday. I drove home quickly, stopped by the school to drop off some people who car-pooled with me (and to give Annette a quick kiss in passing), then rushed home to grab my bike and a pre-packed bag of cycling clothes. I got to Redlands, CA at about 9:30pm. The drive wasn’t too bad.

I was up early and got to the start with plenty of time to get my registration packet and get ready. I wasn’t in a hurry and there isn’t a mass start for this ride, so I took my time before rolling over to the sign-out area. The ride starts with a very slight climb. I met another guy from AZ shortly after the start. He was working on getting a California “King of the Mountains” jersey (by completing 3 pretty difficult climbing centuries). A few miles into the ride I slowed to make a turn and noticed my front brake started rubbing. Weird. I tapped the brake lever a couple times hoping to loosen it as I went around the corner and my wheel just about seized up! I had to hop off and hold the front end up to get out of the road. My brake lever had come lose, slipped down and was crimping the cable. Crap. I wiggled it back up, pulled out my multi tool and found that the allen wrenches were not long enough to reach the bolt to tighen the brake. Dang. Alright, I’ll just keep any weight off of it and fix it at the first rest stop…

A few miles after that we hit the first descent. I tried to shift to my 52×12, but the chain wouldn’t go down. I glanced down and the chain was moving all over the place – wriggling back and forth like a rattlesnake! What the???? I shifted back up a couple gears and looked at the cassette. Before the ride I switched my Powertap from my Trek 5.9SL to my Trek 5200 (with a triple). The 5.9SL uses a 10 cog cassette, the 5200 uses a 9 cog cassette. I put quite a bit of power into a rear wheel and I tend to put gouges in the freewheel (where a cog will cut into the freewheel). So I had trouble getting the 10 cog cassette off and getting the 9 cog cassette on. I should have filed those ridges down, but I was in a hurry. So when I tighted the cassette, the top 3 cogs didn’t go on straight and I didn’t even notice. I didn’t have time for a test ride after switching cassettes, so I didn’t find the problem. This was not turning out to be a good ride!

We passed through Beaumont, so I hoped to find a bike shop that could reseat the cassette. In the mean time, I just couldn’t use my fastest gears. Good for practicing fast cadence! I rode with a couple guys to the start of the first climb and had to spin pretty fast on a couple descents to keep contact. When we turned onto the first major climb up Jack Rabbit Trail. The last time I rode this course, it had rained the night before and I had to dismount a couple times to get around some deep potholes. This time it was dry and I didn’t have any problems. I dropped the guys I was with near the bottom of the climb and just kept a steady tempo pace going up. Jack Rabbit trail is not a maintained road so there’s no traffic and great scenery!

I rode the rest of the way to Beaumont on my own. There was a bike shop, but it looked like it had recently closed. Crap. So I rode over to the first SAG stop, but there wasn’t any mechanical assistance there. Just about every ride in Arizona has bike shops that sponsor support tents along the way. I was disappointed to find this ride didn’t have any of that kind of support. But they did have the biggest fresh strawberries I’ve ever seen! Tasty! The next pass is incredibly scenic and goes through Oak Glen. I has some pretty long and steep grades, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery! That climb is followed by an 18 mile descent! I wish I had put on my leg warmers because it had yet to warm up and that was one fast, cold descent!

The next two “passes” are really one big climb headed up to Onyx Summit with a stop in Angelus Oaks half way up. I was feeling the effects of, yes, starting a bit too hard (I know, I need to break that habit still), so it was slow going for me. I jumped behind a tandem and another bike for several miles, but dropped off and rode my own pace most of the way up. I stopped for a good 10-15 minutes at the Angelus Oaks stop to use the restroom and refuel with some more of those jumbo strawberries and some orange slices. Then it was a pretty slow ride for me to the top. The last couple miles just seemed to take forever, but I made it up without issue. They had a party at the top with the grim reaper greeting folks as they made the summit. I didn’t hang out too long because it actually got colder the higher I got. Someone said they had forecasted snow at the top. Luckily that didn’t happen! But my knees did start to ache a bit from the cold (really should have put on those leg warmers before the ride!).

Not having my full gear range meant I wasn’t able to hit my normal descending speeds, so it took me a bit longer to get down the 40 mile descent. I was pretty happy that it had warmed up by the time I got to the bottom. I checked in at the finish then headed over to an El Pollo Loco for lunch before heading back to Mesa to pack my bags for a business trip to Salt Lake City. Busy, busy! If you ever want to do a super challenging ride, this one should be near the top of your list! Great scenic climbs all along the course!

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