When we picked up our packets, we were given our assigned start times and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Where last yer I was able to ride the strip while it was still dark since our wave started at 6:00 am, this year we weren't starting until 8:20. The sun was well up by then and that was a bit of a disappointment.
With an 8:20 start it wasn't necessary to get there too early since we would be sitting around and waiting. We agreed that we would start loading up the bikes, etc. at 6:30 with an eye to a 7:00 departure for the 15 minute ride to Town Square for the start. Well I was up early as was my dad and we got the new bike rack sorted out and installed, the bikes loaded and were ready to go by 6:35. We didn't see a need to hang around at home so we headed over to Town Square with a stop for some gum and powerade on the way.
We got to town Square about 7:00 for our 8:20 start time. We unloaded the bikes, checked tire pressure, put our race numbers on our bikes, helmets and my jersey. Then we put our timing chips on and were ready to go with well over an hour to kill.
We decided to ride around a bit to warm up and check out the area. We saw many riders on many different bikes. As some of the longer waves hadn't left yet, there were many riders in full kit on expensive bikes. There were also many others on hybrids, single speeds, hybrids, beach cruisers and even a pennyfarthing! The rider was decked out in old fashioned dress, complete with knee socks and handlebar moustache.
Since we had so much time on our hands we decided to find a bench and relax until it was time to line up so we found a bench and relaxed for a bit. While we were sitting there we talked with a woman who was also riding the 17 mile route. She was doing this as her first group ride. She said that she rides just about every day and it wasn't the distance that had her worried, but riding with other riders. I assured her it would be fine as this group would be very relaxed and tended to give each other lots of room. She was suitably impressed that my dad had driven all the way from Michigan to do the ride.
The bench we had found was strategically placed near the open restrooms. As we were talking there I realized I had left my cycling gloves on top of the car so took a quick ride back to get them. Fortunately they were right where I left them. By 7:45 we both decided on one last trip was needed to be ready for the ride.
At 8:00 or so we rolled into the starting coral and I was surprised at how few riders were actually there. I thought that maybe they had already let a wave of 17 mile riders go. As we were there we noticed the gentleman on the pennyfarthing lining up near us towards the back of the group. Also there was a tandem and a husband and wife with the husband pulling a trailer with their daughter.
Music was playing, the MC was talking to the crowd and the excitement was building. Finally it was time to count it down - 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO!!! everyone was starting out, some a little less sure than others, but it was a clean start as we headed out onto Las Vegas Blvd and made the left headed north towards the heart of the famous Las Vegas Strip.
We started off slowly but the main group quickly started moving away. We knew we would be among the slowest riders on the day. We actually were maintaining a faster average than my dad was normally used to. Looking at the record from my garmin, we were running 15 to 18 mph down the strip. We found ourselves with a group of cyclists including the tandem and the pennyfarthing we had been close to at the start.
They had warned us at the start that we would be detoured into the Southbound lanes near the Venetian as the police were investigating an earlier accident. Fortunately for the cyclists it appeared the crash involved 2 cars and no cyclists. It certainly felt interesting riding along the strip while the police held up traffic for us. As we passed each of the officers my dad and I thanked them. We certainly wouldn't have had the experience without their work.
Farther down the strip we passed Gold and Silver Pawn of the TV show Pawn Stars fame. Unbelievably there were probably 20 or 30 people already lined up to get into the store before 9:00 AM. Once past them, we were nearing Downtown Las Vegas. This is where the old casinos are and it is experiencing a rebirth.
As we made the turn off Las Vegas Blvd, the officers near us were warning us to sty to the right as there was soon going to be traffic around us as we had left the closed road part of the ride. Looking around we were astonished to see the pennyfarthing was still with us. Up until this point it was just a matter of turning the cranks for him, but now it was going to get interesting as we would be dealing with the stops and starts of traffic lights. Pennyfarthings don't have brakes.
Having left Las Vegas Blvd, we realized the easy part of the ride was over and now we needed to do a bit more work. We had enjoyed a relatively flat ride so far with a 1/2 - 1 % downgrade the length of the strip. Now we had to deal with regaining the 200+ feet of elevation we had lost. Certainly not lot of climbing, but it added a degree of difficulty to the ride.
Once back out of downtown we headed through much less picturesque parts of the city. Along the way we crossed under the Sahara overpass and we decided to stop in the shade for a drink. Pennyfarthing had kept going and we honestly never saw him again. After a quick drink we got back at it.
Further along we passed under the I-15 expressway and hit one of the steepest sections of the course as we climbed back up from the underpass. I was super impressed with how well my dad did, pulling away from me on the uphill. He had far less trouble on the climbs than I and I had more gear choices. A bit farther along after couple of more steep sections we hit Valley View and it was time for another drink. We pulled over into a lot and had a nice drink.
We then took off to tackle the last 3 miles or so of the ride. We rode down Valley View to Sunset road and made the left towards Town Square. That's when the last obstacle came into view - the overpass back across the I-15. It seemed a bit cruel to put the toughest climb of the day at the end of the ride. There was a slight downhill run up to the overpass and I took full advantage of it. I made it up and over and was enjoying the wonderful downhill, but had to make a u-turn back to the service road under Sunset Road. It wasn't fair that we had to slow down and stop for the light to make the turn.
Once under Sunset we were in the final stretch with a turn into the finishing chute. There was the finish line. We had done it! We hit the dismount line and walked our bikes towards the volunteers.
We were given our finisher medals and offered water bottles and Gatorade right at the finish.
Here are our official finishing times:
The official time was 1:45:11 but according to my Garmin it was over 12 minutes less than that. The reason for this is the starting timing mat was well before the start and we crossed it heading up to wait for the start of the ride.
I have to say it was great fun and I totally enjoyed the ride with my dad. At this point I'm not sure if he will do it again, but I just might. Thank you Dad for doing this ride with me!