Ok, so some of you may have already read Day 0 and Day 1 as I did try to post daily blogs whilst out in the US but with the WiFi not being the quickest I had a few issues firstly getting signal some days and then when I did, it failed to upload the photos. This meant that Day 0 and Day 1 were uploaded but with photos missing, lets face it, we only look at the photos anyway so with them missing that would make for a pretty poor blog. That takes me to the present, I have scrapped the daily blog idea and gone with the DEATH VALLEY CYCLE CHALLENGE 2016 MEGA BLOG idea, so be prepared, this will most likely be a lengthy read…… but on the flip side, lots of photos to look at.
Day 0 – Gatwick UK to Cameron Arizona
Well the day has finally arrived, I fly out from Gatwick airport over to Las Vegas and then transfer to our start point in Cameron Arizona. I travelled down to Gatwick late last night (Friday) after saying goodbye to my wife & daughter for the week. The journey down from Stoke on Trent to London Euston, then over to Victoria on the tube and took the Gatwick express to the airport. This took just under 3 hours in total and I got into my hotel for the night just before 10pm, quick shower and into bed.
I was up at 7am feeling fresh and ready to go, grabbed a big breakfast at the hotel as I thought this would probably be my only proper meal today, airplane food isn’t the best, although improving on the standards 15-20yrs ago. I had checked in yesterday so all I had to do was do Bag Drop and get through security, then I can relax. Our flight was due to leave at 10:15am so I left the hotel at 7:45 walked over to the North Terminal found the Virgin Atlantic bag drop where there were no queues at all and flew through security too, I was sat in departures in Starbucks at 8:15am thinking I could have had another hour in bed!
I bumped into a couple of the challenge guys while waiting around and had a quick chat about what lay ahead, this starting to build the excitement now I am just about the leave and starting to meet up with the team, sharing stories of past rides etc.
The flight to Vegas was long as you would expect, the scheduled flight time was 10hrs 45mins but due to a strong head wind we arrived 30mins late. With landing late we arrived at a similar time as a couple of other international flights which meant the line in Boarder Control was huge and following last weeks attack here the electronic passport gates were not being used and further checks being carried out, which you cannot be upset about, these things are needed in the day and age sadly.
Once through boarder control l saw my bag on the carrousel waiting, boom finally making some time up but no, not my bag, someone had the cheek to use the same design as me!! In fact, there happened to be four bags all the same and as you can guess mine was the forth of the bags I checked. We were told to wait at baggage reclaim and group together. This was where we all met for the first time. I think there are around 44 of us on this ride so it’s going to be a big group, we all exchanged names, most of which I will have forgotten by tomorrow, I am useless at remembering names and with around 30 or so I don’t know, I just have no chances.
Our transfer from the airport to Cameron was just under 320-miles and took 5hrs 25mins, we stopped off at an In & Out burger 2hrs in to get some food, my body clock was telling me it is 2am UK time you should be asleep but I grabbed a burger, fries and 7 Up just to give me some food. I had felt a bit rough on the first part of the bus ride. The combination of not eating properly, so much travelling and the jet lag was taking its toll on all of us.
The food did help and I felt ok, but very bored on the next 3hrs to Cameron. We finally arrived at our hotel The Cameron Trading Post at 9pm, 18hrs after taking off from Gatwick. We were given our bags and room keys and went our separate ways. I am room sharing with Ben who is someone I had been chatting with on Facebook prior to coming out so I had dropped on well there. Ben rides similar to me so we will be smashing it up in the faster groups towards the front.
I sorted my stuff out ready for tomorrow’s ride to save time and also stop me from falling asleep too early, I didn’t want to be in bed and asleep straightaway to try get over the jet lag quickly. Tomorrow’s riding plan has had to be changed slightly due to construction work on route so this meant we would get a later start time.
Day 1 – Cameron to Grand Canyon Village
Here we go, it’s time to get in the saddle and do this!!!
I woke at 6:30, briefly woke around 4am but managed to get some more sleep in and showered before breakfast. We were treated to this sunrise from our balcony.
Once dressed and packed up we headed down for breakfast which wasn’t the usual big American style breakfast I was expecting, just two rounds of toast, 2 sausages, scrambled egg and potato. Next up was bike fitting.
My bike fit was pretty simple, I had the standard Specialized Hybrid and was just going to ride in my trainers, I didn’t want the hassle of lugging my cycle shoes and peddles over here. I had felt comfortable enough on the standard bike riding with in my trainers last year so I though I would save a few hundred £ on upgrades.
All I had to do was fit my GoPro handle bar mount and I had brought my Garmin Edge 1000 with me to track my route and give me my usual stats to upload on to Strava. I had to put my GoPro in my bag though, I had broken one of the clips off “The Frame” housing during Tough Mudder Yorkshire which meant the GoPro kept falling forward. No biggie, just means no filming on this trip, it is my fault for braking the frame and not testing it in the handlebar mount before hand.
So the ride!! Today’s plan was to ride 32-miles instead of the original 50-miles. We would follow the same route from Cameron across to the Grand Canyon where would have lunch but rather than continue on cycling to Grand Canyon Village we would get in the vans and be driven over there. This was due to some construction work going on somewhere in Grand Canyon National Park, the park officials had said no commercial cycling in the park during the construction period. It is a little disappointing not riding the full distance but you have to respect the park officials decision. Our tour guides Arizona Outback Adventures could lose the permit if we did ride on so it’s a no brainer, from last years Death Valley Cycle Challenge experience I know we will have plenty of chances to make up that distance in the coming days.
We set off on the ride as one big group of 44 riders. The first stretch was 15 miles to the first water station and then another 17 miles to lunch and the finish point for the day. We set off and I was able to keep a good steady pace at the front, stopping a few times to take some photos and post some InstaStories along the way. The morning ride was pretty much a constant 30 mile climb but only gaining 3,000ft in elevation which was quite manageable in the first morning section, up to the 15-Mile rest stop I was averaging 18mph. I spent the morning riding with David & Mark mostly, chatting about iPhones before pushing only to catch and ride with Ben into the rest stop. As we were first in we helped to setup the chairs for the guys. Then kicked back and relaxed!!!
We spent an hour waiting at the rest stop clapping in all of the others as they reached us, but as we were waiting around the wind had really started to pick up and was really blowing hard as we left to do the last 17 miles, all of which were uphill and the wind was coming from all angles, sometimes in your face other times from the side yet never from behind!! Typical. This wind made what should have been a fairly easy ride to lunch 10 times worse, there were times when I just wanted to get off and kick the bike into the canyon, yet at the same time, riding alongside the start of the Grand Canyon meant for some spectacular views. I spent the afternoon riding at the front with Matt & Dave with Ben & Rob joining us at the top. We stopped at the Welcome to Grand Canyon sign for some photos but then found out that would be our end for the riding today. To be honest, given the wind we were riding in I was glad to call it there. Although we only got 29.5 miles in, it felt like a lot more with the wind and 30c heat.
After a 2hr wait here we were taken to our lunch stop in the van but ended up missing our turn and going 15 miles past and arrived just as the other groups were packing up and no lunch left? The Arizona Outback Adventure guides quickly scrambled to get us some sandwiches whilst we went to look at the views out of the Grand Canyon.
When lunch did arrive we were told to get in the vans as we were leaving!! We hadn’t even eaten yet and to top it off someone had jumped in my van and left no room for me so I had to wait around for another half an hour before being taken to our hotel for the night, the Maswick Lodge.
All in all today seemed pretty chaotic and poorly managed. The group size feels a bit too big. With the differing abilities of riders this meant some were stood waiting at water stations for long periods of time and also the slower riders felt under pressure to keep up. The water stops didn’t have as good of choice of snacks as when we did Death Valley and we did run out of water in the coolers, having to move on to bottled water, which given the 30c temps was a poor show especially considering today was only a short day.
With bigger days riding to come the group needs to be split into a fast and slower group to stagger the starts. Today is Day one so things can get better and no doubt will do. and hopefully that wind dies down tonight.
Day one Stats:
- 12.2mph ave speed,
- 32mph top speed,
- 3,051 elevation gain,
- 2:25:16 moving time.
Day 2 – Grand Canyon Village to Williams
After a tough day in the wind and climbing yesterday, today’s plan looks a lot easier (providing the wind stays away). 55-miles where the first 25-miles are downhill to lunch then the afternoon ride is 30-miles uphill but with an elevation gain of just 1,000ft this time. Also we are staggering the starts with a slower group going off 30 mins before a faster group of 12, which I decided to go in for. Basically we get an extra 30 mins in bed lol.
We had to do the first 5 miles in the van to get us out of the National Park (construction works going on). The weather today felt really cold, it was just 6c when we got going so I kept my jacket on for the first 15-Mile stint to the water station. This proved a poor decision because I wore my Berlin Marathon jacket with a hood which acted as a sail pulling me back the whole way. The good news was that there was very little wind and a good long downhill stretch to come. Out of the 12 riders in the faster group 9 were on the upgraded road bikes and 3 including myself were on the standard hybrid bikes. My worry before setting off was that the road bikes will fly past and away from me on the flat and downhill sections, I am confident that I could beat anyone on a hill climb even on this hybrid but downhills I stood no chance. Within the first mile that worry soon played out.
I had left the car park in third place just behind David but struggling to keep pace with him the other 7 road bikes all came cruising past me. I was fixing it my all to keep up but just couldn’t get on a wheel and within 20 mins they were out of sight. At this stage I just went into time trial mode got my head down and tried to keep the pace at 23mph. I arrived at the water stop 10 minutes after the roadies hating my bike with a passion but on the other hand. The ride down had been good fun and to average 23mph on a hybrid was pleasing.
I have to say too, I did criticise the day 1 water station. Today’s was much better, plenty of water, fruits and cookies. I scoffed 4 cookies before getting the jump on some of the others and heading out quicker. It was another 10-miler downhill to the lunch stop. I managed to keep a couple of roadies behind me this time with my sneaky early departure from the rest stop. We got to lunch at 11am just 30mins after getting 4 cookies down me, I can’t say I was ready for lunch. We were eating at Bedrock City, home to a Mr Fred Flintstone.
Whilst milling around in the car park waiting for lunch I was getting really cold again, I had ditched the air brake of a jacket at the first water stop so this time I opted for my hi-viz cycle jacket. My 3 top of the morning. A guy from the Netherlands pulled up with us, he had cycled 3,400-miles to reach that point, starting off in Orland and ending in Sam Francisco, just look at the gear he has loaded on his bike!!! I don’t know how he has done that distance. What an awesome achievement.
So after getting a good lunch of a very nice beef burger, the afternoons riding was now 30-miles to Williams which would generally be uphill. I was the last one to leave the car park following Ben & Alex out who quickly dropped me on their road bikes. I was starting to think that the afternoon could be much of the same whereby I am riding by myself chasing hard to try and keep up with the road bikes and to catch up with the first group. The one advantage I had this afternoon was the uphill sections, I am quick up hill. The views and landscape today was not as stunning as yesterday, mostly big vast open expanses of nothing.
The first 3 or 4 miles were flat and I couldn’t see Ben or Alex in the distance now, but I was starting to catch up with the first group and working my way up through the field from the very back was really good fun, it was also really good to chat with some of the other guys I had not rode much with during Day 1. From around mile 10 I had worked past the first group who were mostly all on the hybrid bikes and we were starting to hit some fairly big climbs, not the short steep climbs you get back in the UK but long gradual leg busting 4-5% climbs. At this point I used one of my Science in Sport Go Energy Gels to top up on electrolytes and give my body a general boost and put my foot down, I wanted to keep my pace at around 15mph over these climbs.
I managed to catch a couple of the road bike boys on the third climb and then saw a group of 6 had stopped on a hill in front so I gained so good group there and managed to get past all but Ben, Alex and Rob by the time we reached the rest stop 22-miles into the afternoon. By this point I was absolutely soaked with sweat from putting in the effort up the hills and wearing my cycle jacket in what was now 20c heat. Off came the jacket and I sat in the sun to try and dry out a little.
Although the sun is warm it was still quite breezy and I started to feel cold again so I put on my Berlin running jacket to act as a wind breaker and sat in the back of the van for a bit. The last ride would be 8-miles much of the same as the previous 22-miles. I just took my time on this bit and enjoyed the views as we cycled into Williams.
We arrived at our pad for the night, Days Inn Williams at 3pm to find there was a pool!!! Boom I’m straight in that, a quick shower and change and jumped straight into the pool, which felt so cold after just warming up in the shower, but the jacuzzi was nice and warm, sitting in there relaxing after a good day riding was bliss.
The big story from today was Adam. Who cycled 40 of today’s miles. For Adam this was an amazing achievement. So far this year his biggest ride had been 20 miles. 12 months ago they found that he had a brain tumour which had to be removed and doses of chemotherapy to clear a part which couldn’t be removed. Adam only got the all clear to fly out here 8 weeks ago so for Adam to make the start has been such a massive achievement and the to be out riding 40 miles today is fantastic.
Day Two Stats:
- 18.5mph ave speed,
- 35.3mph top speed,
- 2,162ft elevation gain,
- 3:00:10 moving time.
Day 3 – Seligman to Kingman
Today we have a choice, 69-miles or the planned 85-miles as per all of the documentation. So obviously most people want to do the 85-miles, which will be my longest ever ride, currently my longest is 73-miles at WIGGLE CHESHIRE CHEETAH SPORTIVE back in June so this would be a nice achievement to put another 12 miles on to that. We are being bused from Williams to a town called Seligman where those wishing to do the 85-miles will be dropped off and left un-aided for the first 20-miles, no biggie, I ride 50 – 60 miles un-aided back at home. The rest of the group will have the chance to take some photos around Seligman and then be bused off somewhere else down the road for the 69-mile ride. To be honest, I don’t see many, if any opting to do reduced miles, especially after we had to cut day 1 short.
So, the bus trip to Seligman was better than the trip from the airport to Cameron and it turns out, we are all cycling 85-miles anyway…. go figure! we over heard the bus driver telling the AOA guys that Seligman was where they had booked the transfer to so he was going no further. It does make you wonder why they were trying to force us into a shortened 69-mile ride. You get the impression that the AOA guides see the challenge as cycling for a day in the stunning scenery of Arizona rather than cycling the distance Global Adventure Challenges stated for each day. I can see both sides of that, it is a challenge to cycle for a full day, but less of a challenge if you are cycling 69-miles instead of 85-miles. The vast majority of this group are cycling for charities and people have sponsored them to set x amount of miles, they will feel like they are cheating if they cycle less. I had this same feeling last year during the Death Valley ride where we had to cut a day short due to a road washed out by a storm. Most of us cycled extra miles down a dirt track to make sure we still hit the full advertised distance. Anyway, we are cycling 85-miles so panic over.
After taking a few photos around Seligman (above) we set off on our way, I hadn’t realised that most of the group had already gone but I was going to have a nice easy steady ride today, not racing at the front like day 1 & 2, plus I felt a bit crappy after being so cold yesterday. Speaking of which, today was a lot warmer even at 9am, jacket was in the bag and I was heading out with just arm warmers on.
I set off riding with Mark, pretty much the last two to leave. The first 7-miles were at a pretty slow 10mph pace, taking loads of photos and trying to get a photo of one of the huge freight trains rolling through this part of the world.
The roads were quiet and straight, you could literally see for miles and we could not see anyone in front or behind, without saying anything, I think we both thought that we are probably a bit too far behind now and both clicked up a few gears at the same time upping the pace to 23mph (it was a steady 50-mile downhill all the way to lunch).
I hadn’t cycled much with Mark over the first two days so it was nice to ride alongside each other chatting and getting on really well, this is what makes these rides and any sportive standout from running events, you can have the chance to socialise as you get on with it. Mark and I were making good progress, starting to catch some other riders by mile 14, which again was really nice too as I had not had much chance to speak with some of these people with racing away at the front for two days. By the first rest stop at 25-miles we had gone past around 20 people, mostly who were taking the same attitude to todays ride as we were, a nice steady ride.
Half of the group had already left the rest stop when we arrived, but we were in no rush. The rest stop was in a pretty strange setting to say the least, I wish I had taken a photo of it. It was like one of those really cheap and dirty motels in you see in a horror movie, tucked away in the middle of nowhere and with a mini golf out front with big metal dinosaurs dotted around…. only in America right! After the rest stop it was 15-miles to the next stop. We were joined by Rob for this leg, just chatting and peddling away we soon ate up the miles, going along at just under 25mph and then bang, Robs front tyre let go, this was the first puncher any of my group had, but certainly wasn’t the last. Luckily for me and Rob, Mark was a dab hand at fixing punchers. Neither Rob or myself have actually had to fix one before and I just had to go and say it didn’t I… “I have never had a puncher before”, as soon as I said it I thought, thats it, I have jinxed it. I was really helpful, taking photos of the pair of them sorting it out.
Just before lunch we came to a proper downhill, the type of gradient you see back home in the UK, 9% and for a good 2-miles, this was one of the highlights of the trip so far. Even on my heavy hybrid I got up to 41.4mph with Rob & Mark hitting over 47mph.
After lunch I wanted to stretch my legs out a little, thinking that Mark had already left with Dave I set off from the lunch stop with about 7 people still behind me but went for it from the get go, it was 10-miles to the next stop and I wanted to catch back up to Mark so I went off flying down the road at 30mph going past everyone, each time thinking that the person in front was Mark until I passed Martin and there was nobody else down the road. Ah shit, maybe Mark was one of them 7 still at lunch when I went, oops. I got to the rest stop first, just as the van was setting up the turning arrows. I do like to have a least one section where I am first home on a sportive so thats me done for this ride now and yes Mark rolled in behind, saying he saw he set off down the road without him haha.
Having done my stint at the front the remaining 25-miles were a coast home again riding and chatting with Mark, passing the same bunch of people we had passed twice already today, not sure how we kept ending up so far back but it was good fun and I was enjoying the cycle challenge now, the first two days I had not really enjoyed but this has turned it around for me.
With about 7-miles to go, riding along a fairly busy highway in the cycle lane, a lane that was covered in all kinds of debris, I herd a funny noise coming from the rear of my bike. At first I thought it sounded like the noise you get when you have some paper stuck on your tyre that catches the frame as the wheel turns, I looked back and couldn’t see anything so carried on. Then I got it, it was a loud hissing sound, I stopped and saw it straight away, a puncher!! I did jinx it earlier on. As far as punchers go, this one was pretty easy to spot, a 3 inch nail going straight through the top of the tyre and out the side wall. Again, Mark was on hand to help out, this time I was even luckier as I had seen how he did it earlier, but then I had no gas in my saddle bag, its a tiny shitty hand pump. Thankfully we used Marks gas to inflate the tyre.
The remaining miles were pretty dull and uneventful but at a slower pace with so many stop lights being on red for us. We arrived at our hotel for the night, 3rd from the back of the pack. Everyone was in the pool so I went straight up to the room, changed and was straight in the pool and OMG!!! it was freezing, not like last nights warm hot tub.
I was spending the night with my bike alongside me…. not the best picture, but you get the idea.
Dinner was really nice, lots of pasta and meats to recharge the body. Then Alex gave us the briefing for Day 4, a 75-mile ride. 60-miles to lunch and then bus to just outside Hoover Dam where the last 15-miles will be up and down and over the bridge by the dam, a pretty spectacular end to the day. Or, for those fast riders (or crazy ones) there is an option here to cycle the full distance from Kingman to Hoover Dam, a 110-mile ride but he wanted us to be in two groups, team A (super fast guys) team B not as fast but still capable of the distance, so that we can work together as a group and get the miles in quickly. Having never do a 100-mile ride, today was my longest ever ride at 84.5-miles, I really wanted to do it, but then I had this doubt in my head that I have just done 84 miles and tomorrow at its shortest is still a good challenging 75-miles (which would have been my longest ride not counting today) and I have the New York Marathon coming up in three weeks time, so do I really want to push it to 195-miles in two days? Lets sleep on it and see how I feel tomorrow.
Day Three Stats:
- 17.1mph ave speed,
- 41.4mph top speed,
- 1,499ft elevation gain,
- 4:56:58 moving time.
Day 4 – Kingman to Hoover Dam
Well here we go then, the big day, 110 miles or 75 miles, either way it is going to be a tough ride following on from yesterday’s 85 miles. We were down for breakfast at 6am and luckily sat on a table right at the front so we had our breakfast quickly and were back in the room packing up within 30 mins. I had to restock on tubes after the puncher yesterday, I thought it best to check my tyre pressure to see just how much air the gas had put in….. 35psi, clearly they don’t get much air in after all. A quick pump back up to 80psi and we were ready to go. With riding the hybrid I decided I would be best riding in team B rather than the faster team A, it seemed like a few others had that same idea. Team A was made up of the four Brixton Boys who were beasts on the bike and had been flying for the first three days. Team B was made up of 14 riders who were all setting out to do the 60-miles to lunch and then make the call on whether to go ahead with the extra 30. It was a pretty warm morning already so this was going to add to the challenge, but then we did sign up for a cycle challenge in the desert.
The profile was fairly favourable for a long ride, a short climb in the first 10 miles then the majority of the next 35 miles is downhill, 45 – 60 (lunch) is uphill but nothing more than a 2% incline so it looks like an easy mornings ride…… on paper. The extra 30 miles are all downhill and then the last 15 which everyone will ride is up and down.
So we set off riding in a peloton left out of the hotel, a team of 14 that would soon become 8 for the rest of the morning as the first hill saw some of the guys drop back, they said they were fine to ride on as a group so the 8 of us ploughed on. To be fair, the 8 of us were all good strong riders, Ben, Rob, Martin, Dave, Mark, Laura all on road bikes and Dave (big little Dave) and myself mostly bringing up the rear on our hybrids.
The morning was broken down by water stops every 15-miles which I found really helpful and not like it was one big 100 mile slog, which would be what I would do at home. We reached the first rest stop in good time, keeping our average speed at 18.2mph, well above the 16mph we were told we had to ride at to get these miles in. Again, I think the guides were trying to put people off doing the extra by making it sound like it was going to be a really hard ride at a high pace. They basically sold it as the first 60-miles would be feel like yesterday’s 85 mile ride. I found yesterday to be quite easy and looking at the profile, I don’t see any great challenge today apart from a few bumps in the tail. With team B getting to the rest stop at 18.2mph, clearly shows it wasn’t that tough.
After the first rest there were some great downhills where I got the hybrid up to 39mph, taking great pride in overtaking Dave who had brought his own Boardman roadie from back home…. on a 14kg hybrid. To be fair, I have given this bike some stick on this blog but it was a really good bike, to take a hybrid 300+ miles across the desert, up some big hills and down the other side at pace, keeping the average speed over 17mph along the way just shows that there is something in it and it can keep up. It is just let down on the flats where the road bikes can pull away with little effort. The downhills I have found that if I tuck in and peddle hard I can keep up and pass most of the road bikes, not the most efficient way of riding but it gives a good workout peddling for 100% of everyday.
At the second rest stop the two Dave’s swapped bikes, big little Dave took little Dave’s Boardman so I spent the ride to the 45 mile stop on big little Dave’s wheel getting a tow which was nice and very welcomed. There are too many Dave’s and Mark’s in the group of eight! Lets break it up with a photo of Rob powering down the road.
and the two Marks, reunited for another day of fun in the sun.
I am sure you can guess, there wasn’t much going on during this 15 mile stint, one long straight road, the heat getting up to 80f, oh actually!! I nearly forgot, we saw a rattle snake or at least me and Rob saw it and then saw the mother of all roadkill!! I full grown cow, that thing was absolutely massive, whatever hit it must have been totalled, cow included. So yeh, we arrived at the 45-mile rest stop, the last stop before the “big climb” all 2% of it, up to lunch and decision time.
After a quick water refill and munch on a few double stuffed Oreo’s, about ten of them, we made our second and last turn of the day. It was a difficult race brief to follow, turn right after one mile, turn left at 45-miles, then end. Imagine how many turns you would need to get a 110-mile ride in back in the UK. Although the right turn at 45-miles to the Grand Canyon Skywalk seemed very appealing after missing most of the Canyon on Day 1.
The first 7 miles up the hill were uneventful, big little Dave was struggling now back on the hybrid again, the group would ride off from him then drop back to pick him up and bring it home as a team, Team Bravo as we now called ourselves. 52-miles into the ride, the wind started to pick up and I think we all had visions of Day 1 in that 30mph wind, it wasn’t quite that bad but it wasn’t nice thats for sure. A head wind on the last 8-miles dropped our pace from 13mph down to a struggling 9mph, first Dave dropped back with Martin sticking with him, then Laura and Mark dropped back leaving Rob, little Dave, Ben and myself. We reached the top of the hill with around 2-miles left to lunch and decided to stop and wait for Mark who was a few 100 yards back, I think secretly at this point we were all gladly using that as an excuse to rest, once Mark joined we thought it best to wait for Laura who had just come over the top of the hill in the distance, and then once Laura arrived Martin and Dave appeared so again, we waited and waited a further 10 minutes to let everyone catch the breath before heading off to lunch, which thankfully was downhill for the last 2-miles.
Having reached lunch and feeling fairly good the decision would have been a simple lets go for it and smash the extra 30, then there is that wind that was blowing for the last 8-miles now putting extra strain on the knees, do I want to ride 45 miles into that wind risking an injury just three weeks out from the biggest race of my life, or rest up at lunch, get the bus to mile 90 and ride the last 15 in. I think the sensible option is to take my time over lunch and get the bus, so I sadly let Team Bravo head off without me, a tough decision to make as I wanted to finish the epic ride with my team of 7 but for once I listened to my head. Or did I?
As Team Bravo headed out, a couple of the Welsh lads landed for lunch, they were saying that they wanted to carry on after lunch to get in an extra 10 or 15 miles then pick up a lift from the bus to mile 90, this then got me thinking, these guys are not as strong as the Team Bravo riders but more than capable of riding the full 45 miles to home, let alone an extra 10 – 15 miles so I thought I would ride with them and help them out, maybe by doing so I might make their afternoon a little easier, maybe I could pull them along to a bit more than 15 miles, maybe they don’t need me and would ride off into the sunset, who knows, but it will be good fun getting to know more of the team. So, against my best judgement, I headed out for an extra 30 miles, into what was now getting to be a pretty damn stiff head wind. We had 6 miles downhill before turning right onto the highway.
Those first six miles down the hill were tough going, we were peddling on a downhill just to keep up to 10mph. The three of us worked well together, each taking a turn on the front until we got to the gas station at the bottom. We stopped here to re-group and all decided to press on along the highway. This is when the fun started for my new team of three. As soon as we turned right the wind was on our backs, pushing us on, we were motoring along the highway at 22mph, then Matt’s rear tyre let go, a 3 inch nail through the top and out of the side wall, exact carbon copy of my puncher last night, the puncher that Mark and I said was a million to one. Obviously the mean streets of Arizona are a hotbed for nail punchers.
We fixed the puncher, but with being on the hybrids we only had a small pump, all three of us took turns pumping this tyre up, at the side of the highway in 85f sun. Just as we had got it to what we felt was like a rock and had the wheel on, the support van pulled up, typical!! could have come 3 mins earlier boys. They brought out the foot pump and found we only got 30psi into the tyre, oops. Once inflated correctly, we were on our way, I lead the train for 10 miles along the highway, a steady downhill but powering along at a good 24mph pace, we were quickly eating up the miles and using little energy. Not once did any of us ask if we wanted to call it and get in the van, we were going the full 30 miles. With about 2 miles to go to the rest stop / start point for the rest of the group, the vans came past with everyone on, all cheering us on giving us a great lift, we arrived just as the last few were setting off for the final 15. A quick top up of water, in my stupidity I had left the lunch stop forgetting to fill my water bottles and grab any snacks so I cycled those extra 30 miles in 85f heat with no water or food to get me around, luckily it was downhill with a tailwind.
We were the last three riders to take on the extra 30 miles after Team Bravo and Team Alpha. This meant that we were right at the back and last to leave the rest stop 15 minutes behind the next group. The final 15-miles, started off with a few big downhills, immediately followed by an uphill to match, so our speeds were 35 – 40 mph then down to 10mph back up the other side. We were chatting and having great fun, then on what was the final big downhill, a good 2 miler at 6%, where I got up to 42mph and the other boys were in front of me, my rear tyre instantly deflated causing the rear of the bike to snake around, braking as hard as I dared whilst trying to stay upright, I managed to stop. No massive nail sticking out this time. Time to change a tyre all by myself, with all of other 43 riders in front and down the road, all support vans off down the road at the hotel. I managed to get the tyre off and swapped out, found a tiny piece of glass in it which had shredded the tube. Got the tyre inflated using that shitty hand pump, knowing all too well, at best I have 30psi in this thing but only 5 miles to go so I went for it, head down cycling as hard as I could to make up time over some of the inclines, which are my strong point. Then I came to the bridge which overlooked the Hoover Dam and saw about 15 of our riders stopped, taking photos. I made a split second decision that I have seen the damn before so carried on cycling hard, phone in my hand, arm in the air taking this photo.
I thought that came out pretty clear for a throw your phone in the air and shoot moment. Just as I came off the bridge and was overtaking Adam, I left the rear of the bike feeling really spongy, looked down and could see the tyre was deflating again. I had no spare tubes left and just the less than useful hand pump, but I could see the hotel in front of me so I cycled on, riding out of the seat putting as much weight on the front of the bike as I could and somehow managed to get the bike into the parking lot. When I checked the tyre later on, it had 10psi left in it and a small tac sticking into the tube. What did I say 36hours ago? “I have never had a puncher before”, three on the bounce.
What a ride that was though, 110 miles on a hybrid, 60 miles with Team Bravo and then 45 miles with the Welsh boys bring the hybrids home.
In reality, this was the last proper day of cycling, tomorrow looks like a procession into Vegas. The hotel was big and had a casino so this left like we were coming to an end now. We even had decent WiFi and a gym, I had a quick 1 mile cooldown on the treadmill before showering for dinner.
Day Four Stats:
- 17mph ave speed,
- 44.3mph top speed,
- 3,304ft elevation gain,
- 6:29:34 moving time.
Day 5 – Hoover Dam to Las Vegas
I woke early today, still not fully over the jet lag despite being here for 5 days now, I decided to go for a run around Lake Mead, just as I was kitting up I had a message from little Dave saying that he was down at the trail head and would I like to join him for a run. Sure do!! To be honest, it was probably 15 minutes too early to run down a trail with steep drops on one side in the dark just using the torch on our iPhones to light the path, but we made it and got in 4.6 miles, catching an amazing sunrise over the lake.
That was the running done for the trip. Back on the bike for a late 9am start. The plan was to cycle 15 miles along the cycle path around Lake Mead and then 5 miles into Henderson, the we would ride the final 14-miles as one big group of 44 cyclists into Las Vegas.
I figured the first 20 miles are my chance to have some fun before riding in convoy. Not learning from my mistake of riding at the back last night, I left the car park last, we had 2-miles on that highway before turning onto the cycle path. I planned on hitting the path in last place and then seeing just how far through the field I could get.
Once off the highway and on the cycle path, it was a dream, so smooth and no nails, screws or glass to spoil our day. I cut past at least 25 riders on the first downhill to the cycle path before decided to ride and chat with Andrew for a bit, I had met Andrew last year on the Death Valley ride but had not had much chance to chat with him this year until now. After leaving Andrew I caught up with Ben and Rob at the front where we cycled into the rest stop after we were joined by Dean. At the rest stop Alex, the AOA guide was getting pretty stressed out, firstly saying we needed to get a move on and get into Henderson, then saying we couldn’t go because we had to cycle the last 5 miles as a group, although we were to be grouped up and riding the last 14 miles as a group, this didn’t make much sense but you just have to go with it. Once he let us ride, we were on the last 5 miles of free riding for the trip, it felt pretty sad that the cycling was coming to an end, but we were soon picked up when we turned the corner to see the Vegas Strip on the horizon.
Once in Henderson, we spent more time waiting around so Mark, little Dave and myself went to get a milk shake, just as we got back we were heading off on the last 14 miles. I thought this is a slow coast into town so ditched a water bottle and replaced it with a milkshake.
There is not much to say about those last 14 miles, it was a slow ride in stopping and starting as we hit red light after red light. We were getting so many shouts and waves from passers by, it was a really good atmosphere coming in together. I know the slow speed and stop/start was frustrating for some of the faster riders, but for those who were riding for a charity or for a loved one, those last few miles really meant something, they had just cycled 300+ miles along the Grand Canyon, over hills, through a desert from Arizona into Las Vegas and in the process of their 2yr journeys raised many thousands of pounds for their chosen charities. For them to have this last ride in all together and crossing that symbolic finish line was so special and the sight of their faces when they were surprised by family members waiting at the finish is something I will never forget, it was such a lovely moment.
Here are a few snaps I took on that last ride into Vegas, before I give my final thoughts on another great ride with Arizona Outback Adventures.
Day Five Stats:
- 11.6mph ave speed,
- 28mph top speed,
- 1,594ft elevation gain,
- 2:49:45 moving time.
How do you sum up a 5 day, well 4 and a half day, 313 mile cycle ride? yes the scenery was stunning, the weather, mostly hot, the miles tough, the bike, lets not go there again. All of these were tough, challenging and rewarding all the same, but from the two cycle challenges I have now completed in the US and I am sure other people will same the same from various rides around the world. What makes these rides special are the people you share your days and nights with. This time we had a big group of 44 riders, it was hard to get around the group and get to know everyone, but those I did get to know really made this trip for me. Especially my roommate Ben and Dave & Mark. I spent the majority of my time with these three and we had an absolute blast, it was a pleasure to ride with and call them friends. Another plus point for these rides are people’s stories, just why are you out in the middle of nowhere cycling 300 miles? everyone had their own personal reason and I mentioned Adam’s above in Day 2. One of the evenings we all wrote down how much had been raised for own charities and causes and totalled it all up. In total the group had raised over £131,000 by doing this crazy ride. How amazing is that?? 44 amazing people doing something amazing to help others out.
- 313.7-miles cycled by me
- 11,611ft of climbing by me
- 19:41:37 moving time for me
- 3 punchers
- 2 chains coming off
- 0 crashes
- New Fastest 40k
- New Fastest 50-Mile
- New Fastest 100-Mile
- New Longest Ride
Here are a few final photos from around Vegas, which was still a pretty somber place, 10 days after Route 91 Festival shooting, but the tributes and memorials are pretty moving.