By Greg B.
Just wanted to take an opportunity to pass along more commentary on the day. The “e-mail after-party” is one of my favorite things about the ride – we all ride the same course, on the same day, but under vastly different circumstances and outcomes. Yet somehow, we all share a commonality.
For me, it was another day of Gregtopia – sure, there was the morning discomfort that sent Terese scrambling for Imodium, the continued GI discomfort on the bike that resulted in eating and drinking way less than I should have even for a ride half the distance, and the inconvenience of a neuroma in my left foot (surgery on Monday to fix that bad boy!!). But on the balance, I had a great day! A great day because as my crew I had Jenn and Terese, on the line I had Ken (More on that later), along the way I found friends and family as support or in the race (Jeff, the boys from Logan), I suffered no equipment failures (Kevin), kept my front wheel clean and the bike off of the pavement (Sal), have no lingering issues (Anna), and at the finish I found my son and his wife waiting just to say hello and job well done.
The ride?? I took Ken’s wheel as soon as I could after the turn at 1000 West, and just as Ron did last year, Ken kept us mid-pack in the draft for an even pull to Preston. I think there may have been some carnage in back of us, but absolutely nothing in front of us. We stopped long enough in Preston to grab a fresh bottle, and headed for Strawberry. Made one stop at a tree, and was actually acknowledged by one of the female riders for having the discretion to hide behind the bush instead of just (no kidding, these were her exact words) “hanging the hose in public.” She also commented that the issue was really flaunting our ability to relieve ourselves anywhere – a luxury she didn’t have. I thanked her for having the babies and she thanked the men for fixing her flats. Ken said that we definitely got the better end of the deal. The remainder of Strawberry went pretty well, and the descent felt fast.
Pulling into Montpelier, Ken and I were getting worked over pretty hard by a surging pack that was fairly unorganized – I went off the back and Ken muscled through to the front. The wannies in the line didn’t seem to appreciate Ken’s mad BMX skill sets, and commented vehemently to me as I came through the pack over the railroad overpass into town. Not knowing how to respond, I wished them a pleasant day and decided to keep moving instead of hanging around to visit. Terese, Jenn, and Debbie were waiting patiently in Montpelier with anything we could want, and in my case, a lot of stuff I didn’t. I put away some meat and cheese, grabbed some fresh bottles, and we left for Geneva. We didn’t get the luxury of Kevin pushing us uphill, but it went about as well as Strawberry except I started what would be a series of multiple cramping episodes so decided to rest on the descent (which was still fast since I drafted Ken). Salt River flats went by pretty fast, but I knew the grind of Salt River pass was looming. Ken and I stopped long enough at Allred Flat to get fresh water, and were surprised when we saw Kevin. Seeing Kevin could mean only one of two things: Ken and I were having the ride of a lifetime, or something had gone horribly wrong for Kevin. Sorry for all that it was the latter of the two.
After getting handily dropped by Kevin on the climb, Ken and I worked through Star Valley on and off with a variety of groups and individuals. At one point, I lost track of Ken, only to find out that he had bridged a gap as the rest of us napped/sucked wind. I was one wheel back at that point, and as I asked the rider in front of me what happened he replied “too strong for me” – not surprising since we were going 27/28 at the time, so Ken had to be at 30+ to make the bridge. I pulled around to try and catch, but noticed on the next rise that Ken had sat up, he may have even been riding no-handed. As we rejoined Ken, he was still happily munching on a Salted Nut roll. I don’t know what it is, but Tootsie Rolls and Salted Nut Rolls must be the go-to snack for riding Star Valley (I’ve made a note of this for next year).
My day really started getting long as we wheeled into Alpine. We stayed a little longer in Alpine than we should have as we took our first nature break in one of the blue huts. We entered the canyon with a tailwind, which I was grateful to have. About midway through the Canyon, Ken bridged us to a group that had come by at a pretty good clip (1700 class riders all wearing matching Castelli jerseys with the big red scorpion). Ken kept us in the mix to the Kings Wave at Astoria. I was at the point of wanting/needing solid food at the neutral stop, but decided to stay on the road since the rest of the group was more than happy to keep going. The scorpion boys pulled in, we stayed on the road, and Ken seemed to do most of the work if we weren’t working with another group. Just before the stop sign at Hoback, I got pegged from behind by a mirror on big red Ford – using quick wit (and poor bike handling skills) I deftly rode the bike off of the pavement and into the gravel/dirt/weeds ala Lance Armstrong (and by “rode,” I specifically mean I stayed upright as the bike careened through the wilderness). Although I have no idea how, I found the pavement just before the stop sign and managed to keep the bike upright. As we completed the grind up the recycling center hill and approached the turn at Southpark Loop Road, I really started to feel the duration of the day. At this point, I was pretty much a fixture on Ken’s wheel. I couldn’t believe how far it felt just to get to the bike path, let alone the finish line. We were “poached” at the line by a few riders that had been sucking wheel, but I really didn’t care. Each year has been meaningful at the finish, this was certainly no exception. Oddly (I’ll bet everyone does this) I immediately wondered how the day had been for others. That’s when you realize that LOTOJA isn’t about a single day of racing/riding: it’s really about the summer of shop rides with friends that are bonded by the common occurrence of a Saturday in September.