Upon arriving in Austin, after a pretty serious "Field of Dreams" traffic jam, Greg and I happened upon Chris Snyder in the parking area a just few feet from where we parked the Eurovan. Sheer luck, especially since we didn't know he rode for/with TeamMBA. So Greg, Chris and I headed over to the start point together. Chris signed up for the 90 mile ride, I believe, but was going to ride 65 instead because of some knee pain. When we got to the start point, he stayed with us with the 45 milers. It was nice to have him along.
As mentioned previously Greg and I switched from 90 to 45 miles due to logistics. In hindsight, we could have easily managed the 65 mile ride, as we had plenty left in the tank at the end of 45, but the 45 mile decision was right on, because Greg blew his rear cluster at mile 43 and that would have been a bummer on the 65 mile course.
We found Marci and the other TeamMBA 45 milers up ahead of us just as were being staged after the 65 milers split, so we moved up to them and said hello right before we were sent off. We left as one group in team colors. Very cool.
I must mention at this point that the Livestrong Challenge ride was the most organized, rider-friendly event I've ever been part of. Every detail made you feel important as a rider. The Powerstops are legendary: porta-potties, massage, food, bike mechanics and espresso station. Peanut butter and jelly never tasted so good! The espresso was also awesome!
The ride started out normally enough - real slow going for the first 4 miles or so, and then the climbs started and it started to spread out. Mostly nice rollers, up and down all day long, with only two climbs I would consider "burners". Everything else was pretty straightforward. It was less demanding than I thought it was going to be. I big ringed at least 75% of the climbs and was amazed that so many people were in their small rings.
The aforementioned Road Tubeless wheels and tires were superb! Apparently there was a lot of chipseal on the ride, but I didn't feel it. Those cattleguards in the road (bastards!) would have def invoked a pinch flat, or two, on my old wheelset, but the tubeless shrugged them off with ease. The wheels are also lighter than my old WH-550's, so they climbed pretty darn well. Pedal strokes easily translated into forward motion. I believe they are a significant advance in cycling technology and I highly recommend them.
The wheels climbed so good in fact, that I found myself dropping folks who appeared to be a lot fitter than myself (or they were at least lighter) on virtually every climb. And that garnered some strange looks! I even climbed one roller at 32mph, and that was surreal because there was a whole line of people spinning away on their small rings chugging up the hill. They MUST have thought I was on EPO. Greg even road up to me at one point and asked me why I was attacking all the time, and I responded that this was the way you are supposed to ride rolling hills - if you don't do them with some pace and take advantage of the momentum gained of the downhills, you will die a slow death climbing a million little hills.
Once we were over the top of the climbs, Greg, Chris and I often laid the hammer down pace-line style, with Greg doing his usual duty at the front. However, even I pulled at the front a few times, as I felt the pace dip a time or two, and I was on good form. So much for the "weasel" nickname! Chris was his usual strong self, humming along on the steel Colnago.
Over the back half of the course we really made some time. At mile 36 or so, Chris was having problems with his cable adjuster just when I started to feel good on a climb, and was starting to rev it up. I thought Greg was ahead of me by a hundred yards (he was actually behind me) so I laid the hammer down to catch "him". When I caught that dude and realized it wasn't Greg, I continued laying down the rubber, what else was I going to do? I was pushing about 28mph on the flats, just flying, passing people left and right. What can I say, I was having a good day! In fact, it was the best day I have had on the bike since my last race in 1997!
However at about mile 40, my right calf cramped (the result of driving straight through a few hours earlier - constant pressure on the accelerator). So I unbuckled my right foot from the pedal and rode one-legged for a half mile or so while I stretched out the calf. Greg and Chris caught me shortly thereafter (Greg was actually about 100 yards behind me) matching my speed on the flats.
My leg felt better the harder I rode, so we were soon back at it plugging away together towards the finish. At about mile 43 or so, Greg's rear cluster came apart. He limped home on the one gear that worked reliably and we all finished pretty much together shortly thereafter. The finish was awesome, like the end of a time trial in the Tour de France or something.
My computer indicated we did 46 miles in 2:57 with an average speed of 15.5 mile per hour. Without the obstacles of the slower masses at the start and slower folks ruining our lines on the descents, I figure we could have laid down 17.5 mph without much additional effort.
But hell, its not a race, it's a party on wheels. Who cares about time other than Lance? Next year we plan to do 90, but I tell you now, I am going to enjoy those Powerstops more! Party!
After the ride, we said our goodbyes, cleaned ourselves off, and all three of us made the pilgrimage to the Saltlick for barbecue. As advertised it was the best barbecue we have had in Texas, outpacing Main St, Bakers and Red Hot and Blue. The attention to detail on every item was excellent. We took more pictures inside the Saltlick than we did at the ride! When we were done, Greg and I said goodbye to Chris and we headed back to Dallas - mission accomplished.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who donated to my ride this year. I know times are tough and I appreciate your financial sacrifice and I hope i did you all proud. We had a heck of a time, but it was demanding physically, especially since I had to pull an all-nighter to make it to the start on time. Next year I plan to get to Austin at least a day in advance and rest before the ride - and visit the Saltlick before AND after the ride!
I believe the Austin Livestrong ride made 3.7 millions dollars this year and that is a testament to the generosity of all of you and the belief that together we can affect change.
Until next year...Livestrong!!