So, have heard about this special group ride out of Tucson called, "The Shootout" and been wanting to check it out. To save yourself some time, I'll give you the short version first and then the long version. The short version is it's identical to our Thursday New Albany rides just lots and lots more "A" riders and the distance is longer.
Now the long version. Read that the ride started at the corner of University and 6th at 7:30am. I left our place at 6:00am to allow for my usual wandering endlessly driving mistakes. First thing I noticed was the lunar eclipse underway over a cloudless sky, very cool. After a half hour of driving I arrived in downtown Tucson but there was no large parking lot where I assumed the ride would start. Spotted a policeman exiting a doughnut shop and asked, "Where does the large bike ride start?" He had no idea what I was talking about, which is odd since there had been an issue between this ride and the police a couple of years ago. Something about the large gang of cyclists riding through down town causing havoc. I continued to do loops around the area looking for clues and came across "Fairwheel Bikes", a bike shop which I think started the ride a long time ago. I parked in the lot and walked to the front of the shop, note it was still kind of dark at this hour, hoping to see something in the shop window but nothing. Walked back to the parking lot and just then a guy pulled in with a Michigan license plate. Great, I have no friggin idea where the ride starts and the first person I see is a scUMmer. Anyhow, I approached him and asked about the ride and was in luck. He was here for it too, loaned me an allen wrench to tighten my seat and turned out to be a very nice guy who had a home on a cliff over looking the Pacific in Hawaii and a home here in Tucson. Has to be the most successful person out of the state up north because not many of those people can even read!
Actually, my Michigan buddy was here for what they call the "Senior Start", an alternative for those who want to avoid the "A" ride and start 20 minutes early. I thought, gee, maybe that would be a good alternative since I don't know this area and likely getting dropped by the "A" group would put me in oblivion. Pulled in to the start area just as they were rolling out, maybe 30 of them. We rode through the down town at a modest pace and frequently passed 1 or 1-2 cyclists who were waiting for the "A" group to come by or who would join our group. At one point, a batch of 6-8 young phenoms swung around a corner and joined in too so by the time we exited Tucson, our number was up to 40ish. This is down a little because this December has been the coldest on record so far and at the start, the temp was around 40. I had read that the ride starts modestly until they hit Vistualla Road, which I had no idea where that was but nervously read each road sign as we approached them. After maybe 8 miles, (my Garmin was in my back pocket so I could not keep track of accurate mileage), I saw the sign for Vistulla and the speed began building as we climbed out of the valley. The grade is modest going south and at first, everyone hung together but soon, some guys began sliding back but the gaps were covered and we were still a large body, then after a couple of miles a guy in front of me pulled out, I covered, then another pulled and ahead more dropped and the group shattered. I passed the Michigan dude, thank goodness, and was just a couple of pedal strokes behind the main body.
Unfortunately, I ain't in midseason form and so, latched on to the wheel of some kid who had an adult coach alongside screaming, "They regroup at the bridge, keep digging, you can do it Mckenzie (yeah, a 15 year-old girl), hang in there, keep digging, dig deeper", etc.... I wanted to slap this guy. I finally got around them and eventually, came to the bridge, roughly a 12 mile climb but the road kept going up, and up, not at all steep but still, up. We had climbed 2000+" and, after riding around a large mesa, had reached the top. I waited at the top and here came 8 people that included the Michigan Man. Turns out he had ridden the Tour de Tucson, trained for it and had a time around 5:30. We rode the ups and downs of a ridge line close to Green Valley, south of Tucson before finally going on a 7 mile steep down hill that was a lot of fun. We were finally overtaken by a group of 15-20 "A" cyclists and I hung in there for 3-4 miles before fatigue caused me to drop out, soon another group of 10 steamed by but I had no energy to jump in, then another group and again, no chance of hanging on....what's this? The Michigan Man hung back to nurse me into and through down town Tucson and finished with 60 miles. This ride is the real deal. They ride the same route each Saturday, just a modest pace to the outskirts, then hammering out of the valley to the bridge, regroup a little, then bomb the down hill and then the flat stretch into Tucson. Really enjoyed it.
So, while it was mid-60's here in Oro Valley on Saturday, a few miles up it was an entirely different world with some wild scenes, about which I will report soon.