What an absolute awesome day to ride! I mean, it is fall in Southern Arizona and you just can’t ask for a better backdrop to be out in nature! The day started out cloudy and with a hint of rain in the sky, but with a high of 72 if feels like perfect riding weather. El Tour is going on in the background, we pass many riders as we leave town and head down towards Sahuarita for AES’ Kentucky Camp event. I’ve done El Tour probably six years and every year I feel more in danger on the street during the race…since the crash of ’09, neither Kevin or I have ventured back out to do it. I think the last 3 years I had participated, I wasn’t really able to come in any better then 4:50… Some of you may find it strange that I think riding my road bike in a race is more dangerous than riding my mountain bike at high speeds down rocky, cactus filled terrain. Those of you in the know, understand. I am in control of everything I do on a mountain bike (even when I’m out of control…see last post!); on the road, it’s often at the hand of others. Don’t get me wrong, I ride my road bike all the time…there are times I miss that race…maybe next year…
Back to the actual reason I’m writing this! We’ve chosen to ride a mountain event today, get out of the city and down towards Gardner Canyon area. If you’ve never been to an AES (Arizona Endurance Series) event, I highly recommend hitting one up. They are alot of fun. They are usually free to enter…or for a donation of a six-pack of good beer; you can race it, ride it or tour it and there is always an after party to just sit around, trade stories and get to know some of the other local (and some not so local) mountain bikers. Now, AES’ rides are not for the faint at heart! They do usually offer a shorter course, there is still always some big climbs and technical singletrack…but this is why we ride! The whole reason for them is to get out and ride your bike for miles and miles and hours and hours in some of the most beautiful places in the state. Mr. Brown (Chad for short) runs the series and is a local Tucson-ian…he does a great job! Another great thing about the AES, is there are usually quite a handful of women that show up. It’s awesome to see gals, not unlike myself, getting out into the dirt and enjoying themselves! There is something to be said about riding with other women, not just racing; but for fun. And I think that women learn to mountain bike differently then men, so it’s nice to see how another female might take that jump or find a line better suited for them.
I did the Kentucky Camp last year, which was my first. It was also the first time to ever use a GPS (not my own) on a bike. Yes, I got lost. With a GPS. Would it have helped had I acually pressed the start button? Yes, it probably would have. Lesson learned. The look on my face, when I almost ran smack into Beto Villegas flying down the singletrack leading three guys strung out on his back wheel that I was heading the wrong way on, must have been priceless. This year I decided to do the short course with my husband.
We started the ride with a few rain sprinkles falling on our heads, chilly maybe just a bit; but a 1/2 mile up the road we would begin to work as the climbing started right away. Thru a sandy jeep road to some very nice single track on the AZT. Climbing switchbacks. The still air. Clouds overhead. The rain drops ceasing. Only the sound of heavy breath and pedal strokes over the dirt. Very nice indeed!
We go on and climb for a while with a bit of roller coastering mixed in. Kevin and I are playing leapfrog on the ups and the downs. From behind me after the first bit of descent, comes Chloe Woodruff. Chloe is a local Pro whom I had actually just met in person today. I am thrilled to get to ride with her! Throughout the ride we chat a bit and chase each other some and stop for photo ops. We even make a few wrong turns together, but nothing major, just a little temporary misplacement is all. 🙂
On the back half of the course, there are lots of jeep roads connecting the trails. Some are a little rutted and loose, but for the most part fairly nice to ride on. I get hung up at one point after dropping my opened GU packet. I can’t leave that! I need that! So since this is a nice laid back kinda ride, I stop and pick it up; dust it off and eat it. Mmmm…Roctane Orange-Vanilla. Then I catch back up to the little group we’ve created.
At the top of some of the climbs, the view just opens wide up and is stunning. Birds are playing on the light wind and you can see for miles upon miles even with the cloudy day. The desert looks completely different with a cloudy backdrop. At one point the group of us is screaming down some jeep road. Chloe, followed by myself and then Kevin. The road turns and ruts out right in our line. We scuttle thru it, but there lies a long black plastic pipe in the middle. (Wait for it…here’s your incident) I get hung up on this pipe. I pull out of it, but the bike forks sharply to the right…where Kevin is flying thru. I don’t know how we did it; but both of us managed to stay upright and not go down. Other than a nicely colored bruise forming on my tricep, we both came out unscathed. Whew! It doesn’t sound that scary…but for one brief moment, it was. The rest of the ride is the great singletrack we rode in on. Totally different going the other direction. But somehow, it seems there is more climbing then I’ld have thought there should have been when riding outbound…didn’t we climb that whole way out?? Ha. There are some technical descents, rocky. I ride all of it minus one left-hand switchback that I didn’t quite make around. Almost, but that darn tree root got in the way of my pedal as I was trying to save the turn. Oh well, foot down, onwards. Its after this that Chloe puts the hammer down and walks away from all of us. Am I really ready to play with the big girls?!
29 miles and 3600ft ascent later, we are all back at the camp. Sweaty, dirty and smiling! What a great ride! Now its time to sit around, drink some ‘recovery’ beverages and talk with all the other riders as they come in one by one from both the long and short course. This is what it’s all about: the bike, the people, our nature, the comradery. Love it!