It often takes me a good 30 minutes to get my breathing totally right for some reason in a morning at the start of a ride. This has almost always been the case since I started cycling. Today was no different as we climbed out of Las Vegas, NM. I noticed quite a few riders left me for dead on the first few hills as I struggled to get my breathing consistent. When I finally found my rhythm with both my breathing and my cadence I was off and running at a much better pace. I began to pass the odd rider in front of me until I found Terry and I tagged onto his wheel for a while. When we came to a good decent I speeded up a bit thinking Terry and later Mike would tag onto my wheel. As the land flattened out you could see just flat grass pastures all around and I also noticed I was alone with the others not having come with me. On and on these pastures went with just the occasional farm/ranch dotted around. So it was a surprise to see a sign for a post office in what was for all intense and purpose a wide open prairie, with hardly a building to be seen. Maybe everyone out here uses Amazon and the postal service is booming, who knows.
A little later I was looking down the road and saw a group of cows all huddled up in a group by the fence just off the road to my right. As I got closer I thought it looked as if the cows and now one bull clearly visible were really very close to the fence. When I was almost upon this group of cattle I quickly realized that the bull, with horns attached, was actually on the road side of the fence and the other cows he was obviously entertaining were on the other side of the wire fence. I wondered how he had got out, where had he come from and should I do something about this bull who was obviously not where he should be. As I drew right alongside the now quite large bull with some pretty dangerous looking horns, he looked straight at me startled by the noise of a bike and the site of a large red Lycra lump flying past him. Our eyes met and I decided a red shirt might not be a calming influence on this escaped bull so I gunned it off down the road not looking back to see if he had moved or not. I didn’t get a photograph unfortunately but I was not that brave or quick enough from a standing start to try.
As the land changed from these wide open grasslands to the Red Rock mountains and pines we came upon a really great decent which took us down to the wide valley below. With not a car in sight it was fun gliding down this road on Irma for a couple of miles alone. At the next SAG stop I entered first which was a surprise to me. This was an old abandoned gas startion which now served as a refueling spot of a different kind. As usual not wanting to cease up I filled my bottles again, grabbed some snacks and was off.
I passed the 50 mile mark and thought I am not even half way yet. Oh well, the scenery was beautiful and varied and the road was quiet and generally smooth so there was no worry about the miles to come. I then noticed that the next feature on my notes clipped to my handlebars was ‘begin 0.7 mile climb’. The Wall which I had heard so much about and the subject of many quiet words last night was approaching. I got my first glance of ‘The Wall’ from about a mile away and it did look visually impressive. As I got closer and closer I reminded myself that it was not as steep as a few climbs I have done during my training and to just take your time going up. At the bottom of the hill I changed right down to my granny gear and settled into a steady workman like rhythm and began my ascent. It took a little time as I steadily climbed up and looked at my Garmin to see the gradient, only because a friend had asked me to note it for him. In general it was an 8% gradient with literally a couple of seconds at 9%, not anywhere near what I was expecting or had imagined. Once over the top I was thinking what was all the fuss about this hill especially as we had done way harder hills back climbing from Wickenburg to Flagstaff. Anyway on I rolled now content that the wall was behind me and I was arriving at the last SAG for the day at 77 miles.
Just after I arrived Barry, accompanied today by Bruce from Nashville, also arrived despite having began the day 30 minutes behind me at the start. These are two strong riders and I do love how easily they make it look when they ride off down the road. I planned to set out with Barry and Bruce hoping to draft behind them for as long as I could hold on and get some more miles completed quickly. So as they mounted up I grabbed Irma and saddled up ready to ride out with them off into the red rocks again. A shout from behind about sunglasses scuppered my plans as I had to turn back and retrieve my sunglasses from Paula smiling by the SAG car. Back on the the road Barry and Bruce were just to far to catch and soon I lost sight of them down the long straight rolling roads ahead of me. The ride then became harder for me. The roads had enough inclines to make you have to work especially as the wind was now at best from my right and at worst hitting me from about the 1 o’clock position. The headwind and long straight hills made it a slow final but picturesque 30 miles to Tucumcari. Anyway I finally made it and therefore had just completed my second longest ride ever.
Looking back this was a great ride and if we had had the normal tailwind for this ride I am sure it would be one of my favorites. As it is, I am enjoying the ride more as time and my fatigue passes. Tomorrow we head into Texas with a 96 mile ride to Dalhart, lets hope the winds decide to help us.