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Day 9 – SRAM Team Racing

First some things to say before I go for a long ramble about a long day.

I want to thank each and everyone of you who has joined my ride, spread the word and donated to our cause. We passed the $15,000 mark before I even reached New Mexico, which is wonderful, humbling and unbelievably generous of you all. If you want to see extra pictures, routes and bits and bobs then check out the Facebook page, it is public so I think you can see everything without having to befriend it if you don’t want to etc. Lastly to anyone who majored in English language or literature, I am sorry, enough said.

 

So today started as many have done so far. Out on to the road, find Barry to lead me off safely at a great pace until I can follow no more and then settle into what’s left of the ride. Today when I reached the front of the group, the Three Amigos were moving along briskly. It was great hardly having to turn the pedals and yet travelling at speeds in the 20’s. I felt good, maybe due to Sara and the massage, Epsom salt bath or a chicken tiki masala curry I had for my dinner last night. Who knows but whatever got my legs going allowed me to take a good stint at the front leading a human train down the road at more than 23 mph. I felt like Chris Froome leading the Sky train along Interstate 40 (yes today was mostly on the freeway again). I moved over content and let Barry take the lead. I slipped back into the line and we rolled on with others tagging onto my wheel behind, which again filled me with excitement as it felt like I was now part of a team conquering the road. The words “Chris you have a flat” from behind me soon brought me back to the reality and the realization the only thing I have in common with Chris Froome is the name Chris. So I pealed off right, stopped Irma on the shoulder and sadly waved my train goodbye.

 

Now I must say this turned out to be the best flat ever. Firstly, having turned Irma onto her saddle and bars and got the rear wheel off, Dana arrived to give me a hand, perfect. I had the tire and found a large blowout wire which had obviously caused this latest flat. So as I got my tweezers and started to remove the wire, Dana had the tube out and was preparing to take over. I gave Dana the tire and looked up to see a young blonde girl jogging down the shoulder towards us. I wasn’t sure if she was lost, had heard of my viral social media explosion or had some issue with Lycra wearing cyclists. As it turned it wasn’t any of these as she just wanted to know if we needed some help. I told her that we would be fine and that as we were heading to Boston, flats were, and are, quite a normal feature of this trip. Then a very athletic chiseled man came up from behind her. As I am way past 50 I new he couldn’t be an over jealous boyfriend about to take issue at me talking to this young woman, so who was he? It turned out that this wonderfully generous couple actually work for SRAM racing, a bicycle component company, who had just been at the Tour of California professional race and were now headed to Georgia for another race there. So now with a professional cycling mechanic crew sorting my flat, I stood there feeling like a Pro cyclist again being put back into a race at great speed. The SRAM mechanic also went back to his car to get a pump to blow up the tire with air and not Co2 and even asked me what pressure I usually ride at? I wanted to give him a really good cyclist response but had to be honest and say, well I normally pump them up to just below 100 for no real reason at all, I just do. He smiled and said that was probably not a bad number and finished his work and gave Dana some race tips at the same time. The young female (as yet I don’t have their names but the girl did say she would email them too me, when I get them I will tell you) then offered us water and asked is there was anything else we needed? Again I wanted to say, well I wouldn’t mind a spare $30,000 SRAM race bike but resisted and just thanked them for being todays heroes. Off they went back to their car shouting good luck as I got back onto Irma and pedaled away. A few yards further down the road I heard a car horn blast and looked up to see the SRAM car speed off past with waving hands from the windows, if that wasn’t the best flat ever I don’t know what could be.

 

Dana caught me up and then began to lead me down the road again at a great pace. Dana is an ex-racer and long time cyclist who is at one with a bike. He smoothly makes his bike move effortlessly along the road and is easy to sit behind following his wheel. We moved along quickly and again I felt like some Pro (I know I’m a dreamer but hey it keeps me happy) being pulled back to the Peloton just like I have watched many times during my annual binge watch of the Tour de France. After a while we came upon another Ryder needing assistance and Dana left to help. Alone but happy with all the fun that had just happened I rode on.

 

 

After a while another group caught me. It was Captain Century (Mark) leading a fast 4 man, 1 woman team. I tagged onto the back and tried to hold on to their tail. I am not as happy at the back of groups, as it is sometimes difficult to slow so you don’t hit the wheel in front but then hard to speed up so you don’t lose the wheel and the train. Anyway in a short time I had to drop out as I really wasn’t comfortable at their speed and didn’t want to be the cause of any accidents on this trip. Happily I let them go and settled back into my solo daydreaming of SRAM tour racing and other mental chewing gum.

 

After our first SAG at 40 miles it started to become a tough day. We had to ride pretty much the whole 93 miles today with either a strong crosswind or headwind. This stretch from the SAG to Winslow was hard going. Now if you have read my Blog from the start, you will know that winds in Florida are normal and not great fun unless they are blowing you along  from behind at great speeds. Twenty miles today on a gravelly Interstate shoulder with now strong crosswinds was hard going. However I had no other choice than to just put my head down and pedal for a couple of hours. It also doesn’t help when there is nothing much to see on this dry, flat open expanse of land. The Interstate here runs alongside a train line for miles and miles and I did entertain myself a couple of times pumping my arm up and down in the air trying to get one of the mile long freight trains to blow their horns. No luck and stop acting like a child.

 

 

Finally I entered Winslow and headed to the corner where I am told there is someone always waiting. If you are 50 or older you may know what I am saying here. Winslow was made famous or at least to some by a song from the band the Eagles. ‘Take it Easy’ was a hit in the early 70’s and I remember it as my brother Tim had a copy of ‘Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975’ and this was a song on the album. As kids my brother and I both loved music but didn’t have lots of money for a huge LP collection (again under 50 think black dinner plates that made music) so we tended to listen to ours over and over. So the song that made this corner in Winslow was familiar to me and now sort of fun to see. I did the tourist photographs with Irma and other CrossRoads riders then went up the street for a drink and Lime Ice lollipop at a cafe where a few of our group were settling into to some serious Mexican food.

 

 

Leaving my fellow riders enjoying their lunch I headed off back into the winds on I-40 E for another 15 mile stretch to our 2nd tourist stop at ‘The Jackrabbit Trading Post’. Once I had completed this tough stretch of riding I saw the SAG vehicles outside a small low store in the middle of nowhere. This is a usual stop for this tour and I knew that a tradition is for everyone to mount a large rabbit outside the store for a picture. When I asked the lady inside the store, while buying a soda, what was the rabbit all about, she told me that the original owner of the store had a large rabbit and put it outside as a gimmick. Fair enough. It seems that it was a good idea now as many people come for the rabbit not the store itself. Anyway once outside I slowly mounted the Jack Rabbit and managed to stay on it for more than the required rodeo 8 seconds for a couple of photos.

 

 

Irma stood silently by the store while I released the days efforts in a moment of fun. We then got back together to do the final 20 miles to the hotel again on the interstate. Once I get to 20 miles or less to home I feel good as I know I can grit out 20 miles in any conditions. One by one I watched the miles tick off my Garmin until we arrived at Holbrook. Just down the street from the town sign was one of the few Wigwam Motels left in the USA. I can not tell you anything about the history of these fun stops except the fact that I loved them in the animated film Cars.

 

 

Less than a mile from home I saw a DQ (Dairy Queen) with a line of bicycles lined up outside, so I crossed the road and joined the others. I am pretty sure this is my first time at a DQ even though I have heard them mentioned many times by cyclists. Once inside I ordered a chilli dog, coke and vanilla milkshake, I know its not a classic combo but its what came out of my mouth when asked what I wanted. DQ done and the final half mile over, I had made it through the winds of a long ride to complete another day of my journey.

 

Today was hard in a different way than the others. Climbing was defiantly more of a physical challenge than today and the long rides in the desert tested both body and mind more. The wind, Interstate and lack of variety in the scenery made today just a tough day to make yourself keep moving forward. I knew we would have days like this and know we are going to have more.

 

Today I will enjoy remembering my Pro Race Tire stop with the kind SRAM crew and ‘Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona’. I can say I have ridden a huge Jack Rabbit and eaten at a DQ. The wind I will remember isn’t always your friend and as someone called Jim Rohn once said (I just did a google and liked this) –

“The wind blows on us all, but it’s how you set your sail that makes the difference”.

My sail today was set to ‘Ride my own ride’ until there was no more riding to do. It worked.