Friday, September 13, 2013

Jens Voigt Army Velodirt Rapscallion Gender Neutral Mt. Hood Reacharound

A ride / race almost as long as its title.  84 miles.  9860 feet of elevation gain.  5 miles of dirt.  45 riders.  Starting teams are sized anywhere from one to five.  The twist: riders must finish in a team of exactly three.  Doesn't matter if they're the same or different people than your starting team.

I gathered up a group to be on Team Messerschmidt then promptly quit when I learned smaller teams start earlier.  Team Blood Fire Death Brigade (me, alone!) took off at about 9:15am from White River Snow Park, riding down the mountain in the mist.

A team of two flew by about twenty minutes later.  Then another, followed by two groups of five.
Ex-teammate number one passed me about a half hour in.  The white trash bag he wore as a jacket rattled in the wind as he madly sucked the wheel of a larger group.  Ex-teammate Tex passed me soon after.  "Hey!  What's going on?!" he yelled, planting that song in my head for the remainder of the day.

Just before Zig Zag, a wolf crossed the street in front of me.  Some say this is coyote country and wolves would be far from home but he was too big, fluffy and pale gray to be a coyote.  He looked right at me, looked the other way and darted into the bushes.  I darted into Zig Zag for a water refill and came out just in time to see ex-teammate number three.  I never did see ex-teammate number four, the Kid.

We rode up Lolo Pass together and were soon joined by self-described new rider, Berta.  Berta the bad-ass, I call her now.  She just got her bike last year.  This particular ride was her longest to date.  She paced us more seasoned riders, seemingly easily.  It's as if she just got delivery on a pair of brand new legs.  Low-mileage, un-cramped, un-compromised, ready-to-go legs!

Lolo felt relatively easy, which was good, because it was only the first of four climbs.  We had the good fortune of seeing Donnie, our host, at the next two turns.  After a nice dirt descent, we began climb number two.  This one was steep and the heat of the day was showing its big hot face.  With only an inch of water left by the top, I about kissed the gentlemen waiting there with water for us.

This road was magic.  A beautifully paved one lane road with views of the far-off gorge and crossing back and forth under electric thoroughfares.  Summer was still alive up here.  By the time the three of us rolled into Parkdale together, we felt cemented as a team.  Enough so that when my OBRA Team Slow teammate Ed joined us and asked about our team, I told him it was us three and he was out.

We climbed Cooper Spur.  The first false flat part was very hot.  There was a good amount of moaning.  The four of us plodded ahead as I mentally ate my words describing Cooper Spur as the "easiest climb" you'll ever do.  Finally at the top, we put our feet down.  Ed and I agreed: beer.  Michael and Berta declined the rest stop and descended to route 35 and the final climb.
"So nice to see you again" was the greeting from the barmaid at the lodge.  Ed hadn't been there for over a year, so it's likely she was remembering a visit I made there a month ago with someone else.  In any case, she was friendly, the beverages were cold and we enjoyed a nice little rest break.

After the lovely descent, we were on the relentless bit of 35 that generally gets smeared from memory.  It changes everything when you're planning to finish at the top of the mountain instead of dreading a long cold ride back into town.  We spent those last few miles conjuring up a team plan.  We felt that as a pair, we were in the power position.  So, imagine the surprise as a single rider blew by us without a care.  A second single rider flew by moments later.  We decided we'd have to do the asking.

Next rider up was Donnie, the ride (dis)organizer.  This was big fish.  Hell, Ed was big fish.  We had come up with a really fabulous team name to tempt our third.  The Rap-Stallions, the horses of hip hop. Donnie said no, then called back a maybe over his shoulder.  Finally, just outside the snow park parking lot, when we should be racing down for PBRs, we waited.  And waited.

After almost ten minutes, or maybe it was five, Donnie yelled up at us.  He had signed us in at 5:30.  So, basically, we killed it.  Finishing way before dark, around 18th out of 25 recorded finishing teams, no crashes, no flats, and on an amazing little team.  We hung out and enjoyed watching the riders drizzle in.  It was a huge highlight to hear Sassy say it was her hardest day on a bike ever. God knows I've said that after many of the Velodirt rides.  These days are made to let us know how rich we are.