Saturday, February 09, 2008

California - Day Nine - Tour de Palm Springs

Today we did the Tour de Palm Springs. It's a massive stage race, with a prologue, circuit race, crit, and a road race. Hundreds of racers show up to fight for a prestigious win or two.

Or not.

It's actually a charity ride, a fun ride, with ten thousand riders (we didn't see that many).

And it was fun.

We parked at a random curb a couple blocks away from the start, prepped the bikes, and got under way. With a bit of a desert chill in the air we started out decked out in long sleeves, possible knee warmers, and vests. But in the 30 minutes or so it took to get ready, register, and get going, we were down to short sleeves and maybe a vest.

Within a few miles the vests were also jammed in our pockets.

It's the desert climate after all, and once the sun hits, it's gets hot.

We started out at a leisurely pace. Very leisurely. Perhaps too leisurely. A bunch of riders passed us, including kids on mountain bikes, a couple members of a soccer team, and an assortment of recreational riders.

I was leading our trio, a bit worried about the expected heat and the "cold turkey" method of approaching the ride adopted by my hosts (i.e. not being able to train) would lead to cramps or some other ride ending incident. After the soccer guys passed us I asked if maybe picking up the pace would be okay. I mean, at that point, we were going about 12 mph.

Rich big-ringed it, we started going, and we quickly pulled clear of the uninterested "pack". I rode up to him at some point.

"We are sprinting for town lines, aren't we?"

To his credit he pretended not to hear me.

Me (green and blue shorts, on my Liquigas Cannondale), talking to a guy on a 55 mile "test ride" on a loaned SuperSix with Dura Ace. Nice. Julie was my teammate for the day. Check out the windmills in the background. We'd shed the vests already and our full pockets are a bit tight.

The ride (we did the 55 mile route) was a lot of fun. Some of the more interesting moments:
1. Town line sprints - we never actually sprinted for them, but I did practice my bike throws a couple times. Hint - on the 55 mile loop, there is one bit where there is a town line sign, you turn a corner, and another sign proclaims your arrival in the same town. Double points!

2. Rest stops - they included middle school or high school cheerleaders ("Go bikers go!"), live music, delicious oranges, and water, Gatorade, and all sorts of other goodies. We loitered for a while at each of the three stops. Each time we left we'd pass the same riders we just passed a few miles before. The rest stops were well worth it though. They even had an abundance of portapotties.

3. Very nice police marshaling the course - they were very helpful, had no urge to needlessly assert their authority, and were polite above and beyond what the law required.

4. Nice route - it's mainly flat (55 miler anyway), was mostly downhill at the end, and had great views. At least for someone that doesn't live in the area. Snow capped peaks circled us, lower mountains towered over us, and the basin (where we were) contained desert like stuff that made me think of my stereotype of Iraq. There were a lot (hundreds?) of windmills, big towering ones like the ones at the end of the movie "Less Than Zero".

Another day in Palm Springs, CA.

Rich was nice enough to video tape what other riders saw when they follow me. He showed me the resulting short clip. I guess I looked.. normal. I don't really spin much until I go hard (my average cadence today was under 60 rpm) and the clip showed me at my "easy day" low cadence. At least I didn't look tremendously unfit.

Towards the end of the ride I started getting antsy. Because of my fatigue from Wednesday I took it easier than I thought on Friday, even with my various sprints and jumps. I felt I had plenty in the tank so I told both Rich and Julie I'd be jumping after something at some time before the end of the ride. Eventually I went out and chased after a truck (unsuccessfully) and sprinted a couple more times and did one hard "pursuit" effort, rolling along at 30 mph. Interestingly enough I was better than I was yesterday (when I went out to do sprints). I hit a peak of over 1400 watts, a 30 second best of over 800 watts, and a 450+ watt minute. This all in the fourth quarter of a very long day on the saddle, 4 hours of pedaling, 5.5 hours of actually being out there.

"Chamois time is training time", as one our friends used to say. Which is to say that when you're hanging out at the coffee shop mid ride, that's training time. And the long stop at the beach to check out the sights?

Yep, training time.

I should point out that my training log has 4 hours listed for today, not 5.5 hours.

We passed by our car a few hundred yards from the finish - we happened to park right on a corner of the route. And when we took the final turn, an MC was riling up the crowd, "Here they come!". Lots of hooping and hollering and about two dozen little (elementary school) cheerleaders giving high fives to all the finishers while the band played in the background.

Very nice.

We collected out t-shirt and medal. This made me feel like a kid that just did his first race where everyone gets a medal and t-shirt.
T-shirt and medal. Yay!

We got back to the car. I felt really zonked and didn't do much of anything for a bit. I did take off my helmet, at which time Rich laughed at my helmet strap tan (it looks like I was sweating bleach from my sideburns).

The strap lines are much more obvious in person (no flashes to saturate the color).

I hadn't realized how much time we spent in the very powerful sun today. I looked in dismay at my "sag/rest stop wristband" tan line.

My arm tan lines. From left to right: sleeve line, ride wristband line, and on the fingers and thumb, the glove line.

I'll spare you my leg lines.

I asked the police officer directing riders and traffic next to the car for food recommendations. He told us of a good place (it was), gave us directions, and then actually traffic-directed our car out of its spot. The "You can pull out" motion, the "Turn around" motion, and then a thumbs up to tell us we were good to go.

Above and beyond.

I was sitting in the air conditioned restaurant, drinking water, Coke, and still feeling warm (burnt is more like it).

It felt like summer.

You know. Long ride (or race). Feel pretty good physically, legs decent, no aches or pains, just a sore tush and some pleasantly fatigued legs. You change, rinse your head with waterbottle water (and taste the salt as it gets rinsed off). You feel hot, you go someplace cool and drink cool refreshing fluids and you're still hot. You drive home, listen to retro alternative music (we got an excellent mix off of Sirius which included Echo and the Bunnymen, FGTH, REM (I forget the song), The Cars, Human League, and more). I felt like I was back in my heyday, driving home from some long-forgotten race. Tired, fatigued, but feeling like you've accomplished something. The drive home is nice, A/C on, warm air outside.

Summer. June. Or maybe July.

Except for one thing.

It's February!


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