Saturday was the 2012 version of Viva Bike Vegas and it was a blast. There were 4 distances riders could choose from, 122 miles, 105 miles, 75 miles or 17 miles. Since I haven't been riding as much as I would have liked/needed to for the longer distances, I opted for the 17 mile route. This route started at Town Square at the south end of the strip and headed north on Las Vegas Boulevard to downtown Las Vegas and then made its way back south to the starting point.
I woke up early on the day of the event and got ready to head out. I visited the restroom twice before leaving home as my stomach prepared for the day. On the way to the event, I stopped and picked up a couple of Powerades in case I was thirsty. I had opted to not bring my camelback as it was only a 17 mile ride and I figured at most it should take 2 hours. I've ridden almost as far without hydration so I figured it was no big deal especially since we were starting in the absolute cool of the day.
On Friday night as I was reviewing my packet I found out that the 17 mile ride was going to be a mass start at 6:00 am. This was different from what they said online which was that the event started at 5:00 am. The longer distances started at 5:00 with waves leaving every 7 minutes or so. Part of the reason for this was to control traffic on the strip for the event.
I arrived at Town Square at 4:40 and started going about preparing my bike for the ride. I inflated the tires, checked my lights and made sure everything looked good. I hadn't ridden the bike since i had gotten the rear wheel back from being trued on Tuesday. I figured that if the spokes were going to loosen again, I wanted to make it through the ride so I didn't want to take any chances. While I was preparing I heard the first wave leave the start with much fanfare and even some fireworks. I then decided to go and investigate where I would line up for my wave.
As I rode around to locate the rear of the staging area it struck me just how many people were actually there for the ride. They were lined up all the way to the center square of Town Square with many more milling about. One look told me that I need not get lined up yet as there was plenty of time before I would leave. So I did what many others were doing, I located the restroom for one more PRP. As I walked into the restroom, it struck me that as a group we cyclists were a pretty trusting lot. Everyone was leaving their bikes unattended while attending to their bodily needs. Anyone could have walked up and ridden away with multi-thousands of dollars worth of bikes. Happily that didn't happen!
After attending to my business, I headed back towards the start corrals and decided to grab a picture of the sea of cyclists. It came out a bit dark, due to the lack of light since it was pre-dawn, but it does show how many people were there:
Instead of standing in line for 35 minutes waiting for the start, I decided to go and find a bench to relax. While I was watching the mass of people heading back and forth towards the restrooms, Mary Jo from work stopped by to say 'Hi'. Her and I had ridden in the Corporate Challenge and were close to the same pace. We decided to do most of the ride together. Her husband had already left with one of the earlier waves as he was doing one of the longer distances. She went to find our corral and I said I would look for her in a few minutes as the start got closer.
At 5:45 I decided ti was time to get ready and find the group for the start. I had been thinking that the larger number of riders would be doing the shorter distance, but that wasn't the case. There were maybe 200 riders doing the 17 mile course and some of those had signed up for a longer distance but decided to do the shorter distance that morning. I moved through the corral and found Mar Jo towards the front of the group. As we were waiting I decided one more trip to the restroom was in order so I hurried back and took care of business. I wasn't gone more than 5 minutes, but when I came back they had moved the group up to the starting line.
As we waited for the time to count down the announcer went through the crowd asking where people were from and if it was their first time doing the event. There were several people from California, someone from Portland, someone from Seattle, someone from Arkansas and several from Las Vegas. Finally it was time to go and we headed out onto Las Vegas Boulevard and headed north. I was glad to be riding as the anticipation was getting too much.
We set out at a fairly good pace. Not having done many group rides, especially with so many people in such a tight group, I was a bit tentative at first not wanting to get too close to anyone else. Within a half mile or so the group seemed to stretch out a bit and there was a bit more room to maneuver. Since I had made the last minute restroom stop, Mary Jo had ended up towards the front of the group and I was at the back. I started working my way slowly through the pack and caught up to her just past Tropicana.
I loved riding up the length of the strip in the pre-dawn light. Most of the hotels were still brightly lit and there were even a number of tourists walking along watching the 2000 or so crazy cyclists riding along. The temperature was around 70 with a light breeze so it was a very enjoyable ride. I especially liked having the police escort with the intersections blocked so we didn't have to stop all the way up the strip until we hit Charleston.
Thee was a bit of confusion as our route directions had us bearing left onto 4th street just past the Stratosphere, but there was an officer there with the turn blocked off with cones and he was forcing several riders who had ridden through the cones to turn around and continue down Las Vegas Boulevard. We then decided that since we would have had to make a left from 4th Street onto Wyoming, when we got to Wyoming and Las Vegas Boulevard we made a left. There were no signs or route markers at this turn. As we got to Main Street, though, there was a route marker so we knew that had been the right move.
Once we left the strip, we left the part of the ride. As we continued on we went through some commercial and industrial areas of the city. We also lost the police escort and blocked intersections. This meant stopping for lights many time over the last half of the ride. It also meant that our essentially flat ride also had some hills as we went under the I-15 freeway and up along Dean Martin and Industrial Dr. In fact it was on the uphill just past the I-15 that I dropped my chain.I hadn't really gotten the shifting of the front derailleur dialed in since I had the cranks replaced and I was trying to downshift to my middle ring heading up the hill. I clicked the shifter but it didn't shift so I hit it a second time hoping it would go to the small ring.
It didn't. It went past the small ring and right off into space. Leaving me with a dropped chain. No big deal except there went any momentum I had and now I had to get greasy putting the chain back on. Of course I shifted back to the big ring, but that didn't help so I got off and place the chain back on the big ring, but then it was off on the rear. SO after moving it around and telling the 15 people who asked that I was OK, I was back in business, except I walked up the hill because I wasn't going anywhere in the gear I was in.
That was my one and only issue for the day. A little grease on my hands was the only casualty.
As we worked our way along Valley View I realized that there was a bit of elevation difference between where we were and the starting line, especially when we turned onto Sunset and I realized this was where we were crossing back over the freeway. The overpass was high, but there was a slight downhill leading up to it. I got up a good head of steam and used my momentum and 4 gears to get to the top. Unfortunately there was a light at the bottom of the other side of the overpass where we had to make a left and no police to stop traffic for us so we couldn't take advantage of any gravity assist. We of course hit the red light and as we waited we weren't enough to trigger the sensor in the left turn lane so when we got the chance we had to ride through the red turn arrow.
We then made out way around, under the overpass we had just crossed and into the rear of Town Square and into the finish chute. I received the finisher medal and was very happy to have ridden the 17 miles in just over 1:30. There was a lot of tents set up in the finish area, but most of them weren't really ready for finishers yet. Outback Steakhouse was there to provide lunch for all of the riders, but they hadn't started cooking yet. So after a brief look at the tents I decided it was time to head home. I was home before 8:00.
All in all it was a great event and it pushed me over the 500 mile mark for miles ridden this year.