Monday, October 29, 2007

Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour

The Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour (SBOBT) took place on October 28th. In its third year, the SBOBT has become the primary fund raising event for University of Texas Cycling. As both a student organization and competitive sports team, the club seeks to promote the sport of cycling on campus and facilitate rider development.

The route was though the Texas Hill Country, starting in Blanco and proceeding past many small towns, notably Luchenbach.

The weather has been very nice for several weeks now, with the exception of the wind, which has been rather strong on several occasions. Fortunately, for this ride, the wind was manageable, a welcome break from the Outlaw Trail experience. One section of the course was about due north and into the wind, and that section was tough.

When I left to drive to Blanco, the temperature was about 55 (about 6:45am), by the time I arrived in Blanco (about 8:00am), the temperature was 43 (Brrrr!). I had worn a long sleeve jersey and a vest, so I was not uncomfortable, except for my fingers. I rode around some to warm up, and given the later start, I knew the sun would be shining for a little while before the ride began. That helped some but getting the ride going was the only way to really get warm.

The ride begun at about 8:30am, and there was a bit of jostling during the first mile or so as riders attempted to get closer to the front of the pack. I rode a fairly constant speed since there's little point jumping out fast on what will be a multi-hour ride. One strange occurrence during the first 5 miles was a rider coming to a complete halt at the bottom of a hill within a fairly large group of riders. I can only imagine they had some sort of mechanical issue, I don't believe anyone crashed because of this, but it was unexpected.

Once the group stretched out some, I spent a little while with a group of 4 to 5 riders, one of them a gal, from what I could hear, she was a racer, not sure for who. That group was fairly quick, and we stayed together until they stopped to take a look at her front wheel, there was some play in the wheel (I think) they wanted to examine. One of the other riders was wearing a Bicycle Sport Shop jersey, and could have been a worker there.

From what I could tell, many riders on the 80 mile route took the wrong turn at the spot where the 45/80 course diverged. Apparently, some riders wanted to do this to provide themselves with a longer course (80 miles was fine with me! I took the right turn).

My first stop was at rest stop #4 in Sisterdale.

Some other riders came by about 5 minutes later, and proceeded without stopping, one of them being a buddy from work (who is a strong rider). I chased them down after a few miles (there was a bit of a climb immediately after the rest stop) and stayed with the group more or less until rest stop #6 in Luchenbach. This was the lead group for the 80 mile route, the support truck leading the way was immediately in front of our group.

In between these two stops was rest stop #5 at the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area. The stop was at the end of a long, difficult climb, one I felt was the 2nd hardest of the ride. During the climb, I was behind another rider that slowed more than I estimated, and I had to veer some to the right to make sure I would not collide (although we were both going quite slow). I lost some more speed and rode off the pavement a few feet and stopped. I got the bike back on the road and resumed climbing, by myself now. Once reaching the top, the view was quite nice, with a several observation platforms.

The stop in Luchenbach was welcome, the route had turned back to the southeast. Most of the rest of the group was already there. While resting, another group of riders came by, and did not stop. Most of 'my' group hopped on their bikes and joined up. I decided not to and rested a while longer. I discovered while refilling my bottles that I had lost one of my water bottles, I suspect I had not completely seated it, and it bounced out when I traversed one of the low water crossings (the road was rather rough over many of these). I left the rest stop with another rider who had been in the lead group for a while, although we quickly got separated on the 1st uphill (he fell behind).

The remainder of the ride was on route 1888, with some seriously steep climbs alternating with fairly level roads. The hardest climb of the ride occurred in this section. I heard later the lead group splintered on this climb, it was a quite difficult and long climb. I noticed on several climbs that I could catch and pass riders, however, they would catch and pass me on the downhills or flats.

Near the end of the ride, the road paralleled the Blanco River, it was very pretty and calming view.

I believe the bike computer worked ok on this ride, the time and distance looks reasonable, although the distance was less than advertised (but that may be the case). The average speed was 17.9mph, good for me, and fairly high given the hills.

After the ride, there was BBQ at the square in the center of Blanco. They had the standard fare of sausage, brisket, beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and bread. The local brewing company, Real Ale Brewing Company provided free beer.

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