Wickenburg, AZ to Prescott, AZ
Hills and climbing were the big unknown for me. If you have read my past posts you know that I have limited training and success with hills. So a day of around 5,600 ft of climbing was going to be a test for me today and it was!
Deirdre and I had driven this route in January whilst visiting Ali, Jay and Bella in Scottsdale, AZ. I knew there were a couple of long continuous climbs to negotiate but to be honest seeing a road from a car and from a bike are two completely different things. Additionally, my short term attention span must have ticked this off as doable and so forgotten the steep inclines we drove with ease.
Not sure whether I was going to be very slow or possibly even needing to walk some of the route today, I set out 30 mins earlier than normal with the first group at 7:00 am. I went off expecting everyone to come past me as the road climbed out of Wickenburg and onto SR 89. Mile by mile I headed up the road, climbing gradually the 7 miles to the first SAG stop of the day at Yarnell Pass (4,850 ft). SAG stands for support and gear which really means food, hydration, encouragement and bike repairs if needed. I stopped to take a photograph of the valley we had just climbed out of and surprisingly didn’t see a long line of cyclists behind me on the road. However a few minutes later I heard a voice from behind and Rick came alongside, chatted a bit and then climbed on up and away. Rick is one of the staff members for this tour and this is his 20th crossing. Unfortunately he missed last year due to cancer, but you wouldn’t know it today as he danced on past me. I was smiling to myself thinking the two cancer boys were leading the climb when up came Barry who also urged me on and then danced off.
At the official SAG I grabbed a fizzy drink to brighten and refresh my mouth, which was already finding the taste of Gatorade too much again today. I didn’t want to hang around in case for my legs started to cease up, so I left the SAG alone again and continued upwards on my merry way through Peeples Valley.
Somewhere around the 40 miles mark Barry caught me up again, gave me some more words of encouragement and then rode off. Stopping at a store marked on our route sheet after about 42 miles again gave me a chance to shock my mouth back to life with three ice cold drinks. This part of the route messed with my head totally. First ‘false flats’ lulled one into thinking the road was flat, but it wasn’t and I still had to work a little more than you might think. However far worse were the ‘false summits, quite possibly the worst torture you could inflict on a cyclist and something I had forgotten from our recon mission in January. As I slowly turned the pedals over and over, and I looked ahead up the road the slope in front of me looks to go on up for a while, yet the top of the hills appear to be just beyond the next bend. Up and up I went, working hard to reach anything greater than 5-10 mph. The last turn to the summit was calling me onward. As I finally reached what I thought was the last turn, I then realized that hidden behind the rocks was yet another summit, and and that my what seemed endless climb wasn’t finished for another mile or so. There is one final, even more cruel version of this ‘false summit’ torture and that is the false summit that actually lets you reach the top of a hill, begin what you think is a long descent that ends quickly when you round a corner and find the road actually heads up again!
I really didn’t believe the climbing was over even when I was freewheeling at 40 mph down into Prescott. Thankfully it was over and I finished for the day just before 2pm, which gave me a free afternoon to catch up on laundry, visit the bike shop and refuel at Subway with a pre-dinner dinner!
Finally after a quiet meal alone at Murphy’s (out of choice) I headed back to my room content with the day’s work and my two dinners. This first week is important for my self confidence on a bike and for completing this tour successfully. I’m not in a race nor is it really important if I miss a few miles along the way. Yet for me, as you all know, riding ‘every foot and inch’ is the challenge that I set myself, until that challenge is either done or is not possible to do. Once I make it to Flagstaff I will feel more confident. and have more time and energy to socialize with the group and the staff. Until then it’s me and Irma against the roads, the hills and the weather, all of which set out to test us on week one of this coast to coast challenge.