Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ride Report BIKE:MS Vegas Challenge 2013

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the BIKE:MS Vegas Challenge 2013.  I have to say up front that this was one of the best run, most organized and well supported rides I have been on.  It was relatively small, only about 230 riders, but the support and organization were outstanding.

This was actually a 2 day ride, but with family commitments and lack of recent riding, I only did the first day of the 2.

The weekend started with packet pick-up on Friday evening over at Pro Cyclery.  I was pleased they were the LBS supporting the ride as that's where I got my wheels and I am very happy with them.  I was in and out in less than 2 minutes having signed the waiver, picked up my packet and my event T-Shirt.

Saturday was a perfect day for the ride.  The temps started out around 50 in the morning and warmed up nicely into the 60's with bright sunshine and very little wind.

The courses for day one all started downtown at the Lou Ruvo Center, which is part of the Cleveland clinic, and then followed the strip south to Silverado ranch boulevard, by the Southpoint Casino.

Uncharacteristically, I wasn't at the start really early.  I slept in until 5:45 and then got the carrier and bike on the car, loaded up the rest of my gear and headed over to the start bay 7:00 or so.  The ride started at 7:30.

As I got out of the car and unloaded the bike I realized that I had left my bike pump sitting in the garage. I looked for someone to borrow a pump from, but all the cars near me in the lot were empty as everyone was heading over to the start area.  I rode over on my soft tires and the great folks at the Procyclery tent hooked me up by pumping up my tires for me.  The front wasn't bad, but the back was down to about 40 lbs.

After I got all aired up it was time for a trip to the port-a-potty.  My usual pre-ride ritual.

The safety crew was there with their vehicles.  Many were on motorcycles and trikes.

After taking care of business I was waiting near the starting area when someone called my name.  There was Stephanie and Georgette that Michele used to work with.  They were volunteering at the registration tent.  It was good to see them.

It was now just a few minutes until the start.  I was near the middle of the group waiting near the starting line.  The music was playing and the DJ counted us down to the 7:30 start.  I had expected them to let us all go at once, but that was not to be.  They let 30 or 40 riders go and then held us up for a couple of minutes so there wasn't a huge blockage on the roads. This was a good strategy as they on had the one intersection blocked right by the start.  The rest of the ride we were on the roads with traffic.

The next wave went and I wasn't in it, but I was now near the front.  Finally when they let the third wave go I got through the start and got rolling.  While I give them kudos for the organization and support on this ride, I have to say it made me appreciate the Viva Bike Vegas traffic blockage along the strip.  The first 2 miles of the ride had over a dozen lights and it seemed that we had to stop at every one of them.

Once we got to Las Vegas Boulevard and made the turn south it wasn't quite as bad, but again, there were very few lights all day that the timing worked out for me to ride through.  I swear I had to stop at over 50 lights over the 30 mile ride.

I did get my picture taken shortly after making the turn onto Las Vegas Boulevard:

We cruised down the strip past all of the mega resorts.  Traffic was fairly light, being Saturday morning, but it was far from non-existent and there were a few impatient drivers who made for some closer calls than were necessary.

Here I am cruising the strip near City Center.

BTW I have to give a huge shout out to SunRidge Photography for taking the pictures and then providing them to the participants free of charge.  The full albums are available on their Facebook page.

Once we got past the heart of the strip the riding got better.  The traffic thinned out as did the number of lights. One interesting note was that as we passed Mandalay Bay Resort I noticed they had an event lining up in their overflow parking across the street.  This was the ride 2 recovery ride and they had a bunch of police motorcycles and cars lined up waiting for the ride to start.

We got a bit farther down the strip and passed the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign,where several riders were stopping for a photo op.  I decided to just keep riding.

From here on to the turn at Silverado ranch was a nice little ride.  Once we made the turn, heading west on Silverado Ranch we were faced with the toughest hill of the 30 mile route - we had to ride up and over I-15. Now I've ridden over this bridge many time in a car and it wasn't bad, but on a bike, I was certainly glad I had my gears.  I dropped down to my middle ring and hit my lowest gear and just ground up the bridge to the top.

Just as I neared the top, the light changed so I had to stop which wasn't all that bad as I got a minute reprieve before restarting.  I got over the top and started heading down, but of course had to stop for the light so I couldn't take full advantage of the gravity assist.  I did enjoy what I could, though.

Now along the way I had been seesawing with a couple of the safety crew riders. One in particular I remembered from the Tour De Cure back in April.  We rode past each other many times over the course of the ride:

I just want to say thank you for being there and making sure we were all safe.

We rode down Silverado Ranch to Arville and made a right towards the midway point and the rest stop. The volunteers were all upbeat and helpful and the rest stopped was well stocked with beverages, fruit and various nutrition bars.  I still hadn't opened my powerade so I didn't grab any hydration, but I did grab a banana and ate it.

The photographer caught me while I was there:

(Boy do I need a hair cut!)

Then it was back on the bike to finish off the second half of the ride.  What was nice is that there was a slight elevation gain most of the way south on the boulevard so I knew that I was going to benefit from heading back down that elevation change.

The biggest chunk of it was along Alta Drive where at one point there was a decently steep downhill that I took full advantage of. It was interesting.  I would catch up to my friend on the motorcycle at each light.  He would pull away from me but have to stop at the next light where I would catch back up to him just before it turned green.  We repeated this for 4 or 5 lights down Alta.

The next hing I knew I was riding under I-15 and coming up on Central Parkway and making the turn into the finish area, back where we had started.  The DJ was announcing riders as they came in and I stopped and got my finishers medal.

There were lots of volunteers and quite the party atmosphere at the finish:

Unfortunately it was still a bit early for the post-ride lunch so I decided to load up and head home.  All in all the ride took 3:07, but my actual moving time was only 2:32.  The other 35 minutes was spent sitting and waiting for lights along the way and the 3 or 4 minutes I spent at the rest stop.

It was a very enjoyable ride.