This was the big year of my big comeback to the 70-mile course of the Tour de Scottsdale. That was the plan.
Back in 2016, I signed up for the Tour de Scottsdale after years away from riding road events. It started off good, but I got a lot of things wrong and wound up finishing in the 13 mph range. Terrible!
This year would be different
Leading up to the Tour de Scottsdale
Had there been a 70-mile course for this yearâ€™s El Tour de Tucson, I might not have ridden in the Tour de Scottsdale. But the financial trouble plaguing El Tour convinced me. Plus, itâ€™s close to home and doesnâ€™t give out the ugliest t-shirts known to humankind.
I havenâ€™t been training my hardest in the last few weeks, thanks to a trip to Seattle and general late-Arizona summer malaise. But I had a good base in mileage and a lot of confidence from good performances in El Tour, Tour de Mesa, Prescott 6er, Taylor House Century and a few other tough races.
The Tour de Scottsdale itself would come in with just short of 3,000 feet of climbing. A bit less than the Taylor House 60-miler, and without the problems of altitude. I had one late-race leg cramp in that ride, but still had a respectable day.
Something Awesome About Tour de Scottsdale
Last time I rode this event, I was frustrated by getting stuck behind some people whose bike-handling skills, situational awareness and courtesy were â€¦ letâ€™s just say a bit lacking. Fortunately, my recent times earned me a place in one of the TdS â€œstarting corrals.â€ They tried to group riders of similar skills and speed together in seeded sections of the start line.
This made the first few miles a far better experience. It was also far safer for all involved. More races should do this!
Whatâ€™s in Your Feedbag?
One of my previous mistakes was relying on the aid stations to refuel me. Pretzels, Gatorade and bananas just donâ€™t do it for me. Even since that first Tour de Scottsdale, Iâ€™ve experimented with my food and drink.
This time, I carried stroopwaffles, a bottle of EFS gel, a fistful of Sprouts electrolyte powder packs, a few packs of GU Roctane and a vial of pickle juice. This allowed me to skip the first two aid stations before stopping at the third to refill my water.
I ate half a stroopwaffle every 45 minutes or so. I saved the EFS for the fourth aid station, and split the pickle juice between stations 3 and 4. The GU Roctane came in handy in the final 10 miles.
Hint: I froze all three of my bottles all of the way. This was a mistake. They didnâ€™t unfreeze in time to be completely empty by the third aid station as Iâ€™d planned. Still, I had to pee by the third aid station, though I held it until the fourth station. That was another mistake.
While weâ€™re talking about mistakes, I also left my heart rate monitor watch at home. And I wasnâ€™t as diligent about pre-loading myself the week prior with Trace Minerals Electrolyte Stamina capsules.
Quick Bike Note
I rode a Lynseky Urbano, which is a titanium frame with cyclocross geometry. Itâ€™s my third event of this type, and Iâ€™ve ridden them all with 30c tires inflated to 60 psi. Itâ€™s a smooth ride thatâ€™s outperformed my previous Lemond Zurich every single time. Which is funny because that was a dedicated road bike rolling 25c tires at 110 PSI. It might also have been lighter.
How I Rode the Tour de Scottsdale
My plan was to find a similarly paced group, maybe some people slightly faster, and shamelessly leach off of them. I have no pride!
It took me about 15 miles to find that perfect group â€¦ which splintered shortly after at the climb up Rio Verde Drive/Dynamite Boulevard. Iâ€™d grabbed onto a few other groups that rode slightly faster than I wanted to go. But I decided to Push It and see if the extra effort would pay off. I only got a few miles out of each of the slightly faster groups, but I think they all helped motivate me.
I also took it easy on the descent down 9-Mile Hill. I maintained a low wattage on the pedals while letting the bike do its thing.
I got through all the climbs in Fountain Hills where my legs had cramped in my previous Tour de Scottsdale, which was awesome! Oddly enough, I had about five different cramps between mile 55 and the finish line – all in relatively flat or even downhill parts of the ride. Iâ€™m a bit flummoxed over this. I also rode through 4 of the cramps, with only 1 requiring a stop to massage the kinks out. And I also made it up one more nasty climb without a problem, which is odd. Why cramping in easier parts? Weird.
Also weird: It took about two miles for my GPS unit to connect to a satellite.
An Observation About the Cities
The Tour de Scottsdale of course goes through Scottsdale. But Fountain Hills and I believe Carefree are part of the route. Iâ€™m not sure if Rio Verde is an actual real town or a county island.
But hereâ€™s the point: Fountain Hilles closed a full lane of traffic on one of its busiest roads, even though it has an ample bike lane throughout its portion of the route. This was a convenient, safe and downright classy of Fountain Hills.
In contrast, Scottsdale did not close any significant portion of its roads. Closing a lane of traffic along Frank Lloyd Wright wouldâ€™ve been a great gesture toward safety â€¦ and actually being the bike-friendly city Scottsdale claims to be. FLW is a terrible place to ride. It has no bike lane and no shortage of ill-tempered drivers who canâ€™t seem to stand bicyclists.
The End Result
I had hoped to ride the Tour de Scottsdale in the top third. I figured this was feasible since I was top quarter in El Tour de Tucson.
Even if Iâ€™d ridden both courses at the same speed, though, I wouldâ€™ve barely cracked the top half. The Tour de Scottsdale seems to draw a fast crowd. I finished in the bottom third.
On the plus side, I knocked 30 minutes off my previous time. Thatâ€™s progress! Iâ€™ll definitely have the Tour de Scottsdale on the calendar next year to see if I can bring it up to my Tour de Tucson and Tour de Mesa speeds.
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