There are a lot of awesome things about being part of an race or ride (an argument can be made either way over which Rebecca’s Private Idaho is) before it gets huge.
One of those things is the decidedly mellow vibe at the starting line in the center of town in Sun Valley, Idaho. There was no jockeying for a primo position in front. There were no call-ups. Just everyone gathering in, with Rebecca saying a few words.
And then we were off.
Something’s wrong in this picture. Can you tell what it is? At this resolution, I’ll be you can’t.
Unlike most events — including ones (the Rockwell Relay) where I was the main offender — the neutral start for the first was actually neutral.
Which meant that we got a chance to chat with other riders for the first six or seven miles, after which we’d hit the first KOM segment and the folks who wanted to show off their climbing chops would attack.
That first six-ish miles was maybe my favorite part of the ride.
I got a chance to talk for a couple minutes with Byron from BikeHugger. I talked with Vanessa Hauswald, who many of you will recognize from Singletrack High.
Then The Hammer and I came across Janeen, who most of you know as The Noodle. Janeen was wearing a FatCyclist kit, which matched the bright pink cyclocross bike she was riding.
And we caught up with Odessa Gunn, whom we would have happily ridden with for the whole rest of the day, because I don’t believe there is a single other person in the world who has more of the gift of gab. She told us the story of how she and another pro cyclist got into a hair-pulling on-bike fight in Idaho back in the day. She told us about her negotiation tactics when she recently found an old Scout she wanted to buy (she immediately began kissing it). She told us — as she easily rode alongside us — how she hadn’t been training.
She commented, as we rode past Levi — who was peeing while riding at the edge of the road — “Well, that’s not rude.”
Wherein I Commence to Suffer
Then we hit the timing mat signifying the start of the first of two K/QOM segments in the ride, and conversation ceased.
At least as far as I was concerned.
See, like a lot of Fondos, the RPI has some (two in this case) timed climbing segments. The man and woman with the fastest combined time on those segments would win a custom RPI cowboy hat.
And while I did not expect to win (I knew who I was up against), I was hoping to put in a good showing.
Unfortunately, when I went across the timing mat, I was pretty thoroughly boxed in. So I patiently waited for an opening to the left so I could start passing people. Meanwhile, the lead group disappeared up the road, with a second group pursuing them.
I finally got to a place where I could start passing people. And I did. A part of me wondered, “Is this bad tactics? Am I just being a volunteer domestique, giving a bunch of smarter people a free ride so they can swing around and fly past me two-thirds of the way up the climb?”
“I’m no good at tactics anyway,” I answered myself. “If they can hang, they’re welcome to climb aboard the Fatty train.”
But nobody was hanging. And while I wasn’t catching the fastest group, I was definitely closing in on the second group, which was already fracturing.
I stood up, shifted two gears harder, accelerated, and opened my mouth as far as it goes. The more oxygen the better, you know.
And that’s when Levi rode by me, whistling a merry tune. La-de-da.
OK, I’m kidding about the whistling bit.
He looked over at me and cocked his head upward. Not a challenge. An invitation. I was welcome to grab his wheel as he went to bridge to the lead group.
This photo was taken long after I was out of sight. However, you may be interested to note that the exact same thing is wrong in this photo as in the previous one.
“Go get ‘em, Levi,” I said. I know what I can do, and what I cannot. For example, I can drop most people on a climb.
I cannot, on the other hand, hang with a breakaway group led by Levi Leipheimer and Burke Swindlehurst.
My objective was to sweep up the individual riders from the now-shattered second group. To be the first regular guy to the top of the KOM segment.
I did it. 4.1 miles. 1364 feet. In 26:03.
And I didn’t even barf at the top.
The Hammer and I Ride
There was an aid station at the top of the KOM segment, and I pulled over and filled my bottles, then smeared a glob of Nutella on a banana while I waited for The Hammer to arrive. Our plan was for us to ride together except for during the KOM segments, during which we’d each attack as hard as we could, then regroup.
While I waited, Rebecca pulled up, climbed off her bike, ran over and gave me a big hug. “It’s working!” she cried.
It took me a minute to figure out what she meant. Then I got it.
She meant her ride — the whole event — was working. And she was right. Looking around, I could see it. Lots of smiles, lots of riders high-fiving Rebecca as they summited, with Rebecca cheering them on.
I don’t think I saw Rebecca without a big ol’ smile the whole day.
Rebecca had put a ton of effort — a ton of herself – into this event, and she was clearly ecstatic to see that people were enjoying themselves. To see that her dream was coming true.
Her enthusiasm caught on. You couldn’t help but smile and enjoy this day with such a happy, excited host.
The Hammer rode up — one of the first women to do so with a time of 31:08 (you won’t find her time on Strava; The Hammer’s taking a Stravacation) — and we headed out.
Into a washboard wonderland.
For the next several miles, we descended, sometimes going a little left, sometimes a little right, looking for a line that wasn’t quite as washboarded as the rest.
Every minute or two, we’d ride by someone on the side of the road, repairing their — usually cross –tubes. Or walking: the folly of going tubular CX on this course now plenty evident.
Smugly, I looked at the big fat 2.2 tires The Hammer were using, with our suspension forks absorbing the washboards — at least sorta kinda anyway.
“On paper this might be a dream course for CX bikes,” I thought, “But I’m really glad to be on a mountain bike.”
“Oh,” I appended to myself, “I’m extra-double-plus super glad I’m not on the Buffalo right now.”
We cruised along, sometimes taking turns pulling each other (we were riding against a moderate headwind), but more often just riding side-by-side, talking. We weren’t looking for a fast overall time. We were just looking for a nice, long supported ride in a new an interesting place.
Which is where we’ll pick up in tomorrow’s post.