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 -- letâ€™s just say a bit lacking. Fortunately, my recent times earned me a place in one of the TdS "starting corrals." 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 -- 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 -- 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.