A stage race in February. Seemed like a good time to wake up out of a short winter layoff. I think I actually took off one week in December to travel to Europe for the Holidays. But, with the mild winter (again!) on the front range this year it was back on the bike the day after I got back. February came up and it was time to see what I needed to work on and The Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix seemed a perfect opportunity.
Day one saw a time trial. First time I had ever started on a ramp, just like "them" pros! In spite of my non-time trial bike, I held my own with riders who had been training in the warm weather of Arizona, New Mexico and California.
Day two was the main event, a road race through the Indian Reservation just outside Phoenix. Phil Davis and I drove to the start together where we had a 7:00 a.m start time. We warmed up in the dark where it was a cool 43 degrees. At the start line, I saw the sun start to break over the horizon and knew it would warm up soon. So it was off with the old Shaver Sport leg warmers at the start line. The long sleeved jersey stayed on.
We all rolled out and stayed together before the first time up the hill. I got dropped, but lead a group of seven or so to the lead group about 1/2 way around. I kept thinking, "This is great training!" Decided to sit in until the last time up the hill and managed the same placing (14th) as my time trial.
That evening, Phil and I joined Mike Carter, his wife Nanci and several new friends including a designated driver or two for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. Several of us consumed large numbers of Margaritas on someone's assurance that we would recover nicely before the next day's criterium. That person must have had a late race start. My group was first at 7:00 a.m. Fortunately, I had consumed a large amount of food as well during the two hours we were at the restaurant and didn't feel badly the next morning.
The master's criterium was scheduled for thirty-five minutes duration starting at 7:00 a.m. We were on our trainers while the parking lot lights were still on. At least this was Phoenix and it was warm here in February.
The course was a little rough with raised reflectors in one of the corners. After a few laps, I quit trying to avoid them and my speed picked up. Along with several other riders who were off the back we were determined not to get lapped and actually started to gain on the lead pack.
Then at about eighteen minutes, the counter went from time to five laps to go. The race ended after just twenty-five minutes. Seems that ten minutes were needed to ensure enough time for all races that day. Again, the same placing for me as before. Guess what my overall result was! (Hint:14th)
Following a breakfast meeting with a friend of my wife's, I returned to the race to shoot pictures and enjoy the rest of the day. Most of my pictures are of the Category 2 race and a few of the Cat 1/Pros. Then it was on north where I couldn't resist doing a sixty-mile training ride at The Grand Canyon two days later in 37 degree, but sunny weather. Needless to say, I wasn't a typical tourist as I saw no other bikes.
Landis Cyclery in Phoenix put on one heck of a race. It was well attended by racers from all over the country. The criterium was held near downtown Phoenix where there were lots of spectators, many of whom may have been exposed to bicycle racing for the first time. The event is supported by both the Phoenix fire and police departments. It was a welcome break from the cold weather that week up north in Denver.