Monday, February 13, 2012

Tour de Palm Springs Ride Report

This was my second time to do the Tour de Palm Springs ride. Last year the first 12 miles were tough, because of hills, and then the rest seemed like a breeze. As I thought about the ride this year in the weeks prior, I realized that last year had almost perfect conditions and this year the windy cities could be fierce.
I left 10 minutes before the official mass start time of 6:30 am to avoid the swarm of slow, squirrelly riders. There were already a significant number of riders who had started early. Well, sure enough, it was very windy. In fact a wind advisory was issued this day! On our first 12 mile stretch which went north and then west, then north again we were facing 30 MPH side and headwinds and occasional clouds of sand blowing into us! Riders have to be highly motivated to get through the first 12 miles. Whether or not it's windy, this section is miserable, but the wind only makes one want to quit even more. Knowing that soon the route would turn east with a tail wind and slight decline kept me going. Once I made it onto that eastward direction I was flying! I cruised at about 30 MPH with little effort, reaching about 38 MPH sometimes. By about mile 40, somewhere along Dillon road, a group of about 7 riders assembled around me and we had a nice pack together, which would be much more helpful later. As we looked out we saw the paved road and dirt plowed to the side a foot high. There were mountains in the distance, almost no homes or buildings and nothing of a city. It felt like we could be riding to the middle of nowhere. At one point we were cruising down a 3% grade at 46 MPH! At about mile 55 we turned back into the wind. Fortunately the wind wasn't nearly as strong as at the start, but still about 15 MPH. Our pace line became very desirable and we operated a single file line, each rider taking about a minute pull. The wind was still too strong for any of us to do longer. The course was very poorly marked this year. A couple of riders stopped at the rest stop before we got to the climb. Our group was down to 4 riders. As we came into La Quinta we turned up the Ave Bermudas climb, assuming it was still part of the course this year. As we got to the top of the climb and started descending through the neighborhood, we didn't see any course markings and figured they must have cut this section from the course. We found our way back into the main road and a few turns later were on Washington St and back on course. We dropped one rider, we were down to three. We accelerated the pace, trying to stay ahead of the dropped rider and the 55 mile riders that would try to jump in our pace line. As we came into Cathedral city, we stayed along highway 111 all the way to the finish. We had no idea what road we were supposed to be on or how far off course we were. When we came to the Indian Springs road split we went up that and shortly after found the finish line. Had it been marked better I would have expected a sprint between the three of us, but we almost missed the finish line and it was crowded too. After we crossed the line we congratulated each other and talked for a few minutes, then went to get recovery food.
This year’s ride was definitely tougher than last year and I also made it more challenging for myself. It certainly felt like a race those last 30 or so miles. This was a good early season century. I like to use it to gauge how I'm doing for the Solvang century which is in March.
I definitely recommend the Tour de Palm Springs ride to everyone. It's a fun ride and lots of great riders to hang with.

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