I did the 15th annual Tour de Palm Springs this morning. What a ride! I opted for the 100 mile course. It was a benefit ride for non-profits in the Coachella Valley area. While technically not a race I decided to push my race pace anyways and see how fast I could do the dessert course. I wasn't the only one with the idea. It was fast and furious from the start.
I clocked the fastest time of the day, finishing the 103 mile course in 4 hours and 49 minutes, averaging close to 22 mph. Certainly the fastest I've done a century. Not sure how many were in my group, but it was definitely in the hundreds, if not thousands out of the total 8,000 riders, doing various course lengths.
The start of the race (above) was a mix of casual riders and some serious looking teams. It was also near freezing at our 6:30am start time. The pace was quick, but not too fast. We all knew it was going to be a long day in the saddle. I easily kept up with the lead group, splitting it apart on the first gradual climb, a sleeper with 1000' of elevation gain. We battled heavy side/head winds for the first 10 miles. It was just me, and two other guys at this point before the course turned east, and we just let it rip, reaching 42 mph on some stretches.
We hit the first SAG and decide to keep going, putting in a good solo effort before getting caught by a fast-moving group. I jump on their train, and ride it out till the next climb where I distanced myself once again. I was riding solo for a good 10 miles before getting caught by a smaller group of six. We worked together across the rolling dessert roads before a crazy fast descent where I had a hard time just spinning fast enough to not get dropped. We hit 48 mph, and I knew it was crucial for me to hang in this pace line as long as I could, but I kept saying to myself if this was the pace for the remaining 60 miles I don't know if I have it in me to survive.
We reach the 3rd SAG stop, and everyone in my group decides to stop to refuel, but I kept rolling. After all it is a century ride. I had enough water and food on me, but I knew it was risky going out on my own for 60 plus miles. 10 miles roll by, and I keep looking back to see how much distance I've put between myself and the next chase group. What am I thinking?! It's not a race. It's a ride, but it didn't stop me from pushing hard. I was really into a nice groove up until I started hitting more traffic lights, keeping a keen eye out for all of the various course directions. By mile 80 I was convinced I was going to get caught, but still no sight of any chasers. I've got this.
With 20 or so miles to go I dig deep and continue to drive a steady state pace, watching my heart rate drift. I'm going to pop at any moment. Luckily with all the stop lights and eventually running into other riders from the 55 mile course I found my second wind and brought it home, feeling really good. I've never really done a proper road race before, so this will be close enough in my books.
My bike, artfully pictured above, proved, yet again, to be a great machine. It felt really good and responsive, especially in all of the climbs. It handled the flats and various attacks with ease, but most importantly it was comfortable over the 100 miles. I had my GoPro camera attached, and captured some great footage of the start through the first 20 miles. I hope to have an edit share by next week.
Now it's time to relax and enjoy the rest of my weekend in Palm Springs. Where's the beer at?