I teamed up with a friend from work and two of his friends who are avid cyclists. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up as they both had pretty good riding resumes and I had a little trouble with cramping up when I pre rode the second half of the course the week before in the heat of a summer afternoon.
The roll out through downtown was fun as the nearly 40 riders crowded the right lane, fracturing into smaller groups at red lights. Our team of four hit the centennial trail and quickly organised into an efficient paceline. I'm used to riding alone so drafting 3/4 of the time made for a nearly effortless 22mile ride to the Idaho state line.
As we headed south and began to climb it became clear that Joe, one of the stronger riders in our group, wasn't feeling too good. A sore throat and chills/fever were creeping up on him. By the time we got to the end of Linke Rd he was starting to fall back. Fortunately we had some ibuprofen which he took and started to recover a bit. I can only imagine how rotten he felt. At that hour I'm sure I would have been on the phone giving my wife directions where to pick me up.
We continued on and eventually regrouped at the top of Bruna. I led the descent with Joe right behind. I saw his light right behind me until the ascent on Excelsior so I stopped to regroup again. He quickly caught me and we waited and chatted for about 5 minutes until we realised the others weren't coming.
After a phone call we learned that Matt had taken a good hit on the initial descent off Bruna and had a characteristic lump on his shoulder--AC separation. It happened quickly but sounds like his front wheel got caught in a rut and sent him over the side and augered his shoulder into the gravel. We rode back and grouped at the side of the road, painfully watching group after group of riders pass as we waited for Matt's wife to come to the rescue. Matt was riding really strong and it was really sad to see him holding his arm in pain, done for the night. The guy had torn up the centennial trail on his mountain bike with three road bikes barely holding on to his wheel. At the time of his accident we were on a solid sub 7 hour pace--and I'm certain he could have gone even faster. But no matter, we were in to finish the ride and enjoy the group atmosphere and it was a bummer that he wasn't going to be able to continue.
After an hour and 15 minutes of shivering and watching the first light of the morning, Matt's wife found us, loaded his bike, and drove him to the ER. The official word is a grade III AC separation. He is in a sling for a while but will hopefully heal quickly. And it goes without saying (though I'm saying it) that he'll be there next year to finish the job (unless the early morning phone call has his wife thinking differently-which also goes without saying).
Anyway, we eventually continued in earnest, passing a few groups as we went. We refilled water at Dunn road with a stash of water I left the day before. I wouldn't have bothered if I knew someone was going to leave all those bottles of water further down the road--a really nice surprise. If I was a nicer person I would have done the same. I also left a bag of chips that tasted really really good when we made a stop in Spangle.
The rest of the ride went quickly as we weathered the gravel, washboard sections, and climb up Spangle Creek. I must admit that my legs felt surprisingly good and stomping along the gravel roads really started to grow on me--totally different than either a smooth and fast road ride or a rocky rutted technical trail ride. The gravel suits me since I tend to enjoy long, gradual climbs that require a moderate, sustained effort, be they asphalt or dirt.
We made it to the Fish Lake trailhead where Joe had his final dilemma--ride to his home in Cheney and get to his sick bed sooner, or finish what he started. Again, it goes without saying so I won't bother.
We made it back to the Elk without too much trouble and enjoyed a nice snack at Tully's before heading home.
What a unique ride. It was really a lot of fun and I really appreciate the rogue, grassroots nature of the event. A real no nonsense cyclists' challenge.