Ok, so I left off with the poor night's sleep that was had by all three of us. Neither of us brought any kind of a pad for the ground and we all paid for that choice by getting very little sleep. Two years ago, I had the same experience... but nobody ever said I was very smart.
Morning did come early, as predicted. We all scrambled to get our gear packed for the transfer to Austin and to get ourselves chamoised-up for the day. It was still pretty darned cool when the sun came up so I opted for the full compliment of thermal arm warmers and knee warmers. It turned out to be a good choice...
The day offered two routes to Austin- one was roughly 70+ miles and the other was roughly 60+ miles. The longer route, the Bechtel Challenge Route, took a gorgeous detour through a park (the name of which I can not remember at the moment) with tree lined rolling hills. It was beautiful! But also painful for the legs with a series of short, punchy climbs. I managed to stay in my big ring for all but the one steepest/ longest one... but it was a challenging loop for my tired legs.
Early in the first few miles, I ended up rolling off from Brian and James again- totally by accident- and settled into a pace that I hoped would keep my legs from exploding like the day before. However, it didn't take me long to realize I'd started a little harder than I really should have. Not long after getting separated from my fellas, I got into a nice rhythm and briefly thought to myself, "my legs don't feel too bad today". Shortly after that, on a short downhill, I was joined (passed) by a small group of pretty quick riders who were obviously club riders/ racers. Three different teams/ clubs were present and they all seemed hellbent for speed. Oddly, after chasing me down for a couple miles, they didn't seem interested in working with me and would not let me rotate through to take a pull. Granted, they were moving quickly enough that the pace was more than I had a right to be going so soon, but I held on and enjoyed the free ride. Not too long later, on a longer and steeper downhill section, I pulled to the front after one of the guys began sprinting the downhill... being a race dork, like I am, I chased him down and passed him... only to drop the entire group of riders and end up all alone again.
Shortly after that episode was the beautiful park section. The rolling hills through the park, though punchy, were brief and produced a beautiful ride. I stopped at the last rest stop in the park for my first stop of the day. I topped off both bottles, grabbed a couple slices of orange and headed out to the road again.
Because we'd started in a later group during the morning roll out, there was a never ending line of riders to roll through again on the second day. That morning, the announcer at the roll out said that the forecast called for much lighter winds for the day... but he was wrong! Very, very wrong. Admittedly, the winds were a touch lighter, but they were still quite significant for nearly the entire day. Like the day before, I spent the bulk of the day rolling along on my own, in my own paceline of one rider. From time to time I would be joined by a rider or a few riders, but mostly I rode alone to take in the scenery in by myself. At one point, after my second stop for water and more fruit and energy bars, I was riding along with a song in my head (though I can not not remember the song). I looked over my shoulder because I thought I heard one of the ride marshal motos pulling up and saw a line of about 20 riders behind me on my wheel. The poor, panting guy behind me said "thanks for the pull" between gasps for air. I let him know it was ok and simply kept pulling the group for a few more miles before losing them on a series of rolling hills. I'd hoped to keep them a bit longer just to be nice and provide them with a good draft, but the miles must have caught up with them.
Probably about 20 miles out from Austin, I began to fade a bit. Not bad, just a drop in power and a bit of frustration with the wind. Not long after, a "Race Dork" caught and passed me. His riding was erratic. He didn't say a word to me- like I wasn't on the road- but he was wanting me to work with him to get him to the "finish" line. We traded pulls for a bit and he was plenty strong, so I fought to stay with him a few times. But in the end I let him go as he was riding through traffic across the yellow line and riding through the pack a bit too aggressively for my comfort on a charity ride. During this time, I was joined by a young college student racer. He's a local Cat 2 and college student, so he's racing and training as much as he can between his busy class schedule. He wasn't feeling his strongest either, so we ended up riding together all the way in to Austin. We rolled through all the closing hills leading to the city, trading pulls and talking about racing and riding. I sure wish I could remember his name or the team he races for... but he's a good kid and it was a pleasure to ride with him.
In the final mile or two of the event, he and I caught and re-passed the Race Dork... much to his chagrin. Together, we "raced" to the finish line... culminating in a three man "sprint" to the line. Since it was a charity event, I didn't want to get out of the saddle for a proper sprint... so I stayed seated and let the other 2 fight it out. Still, it was an awesome experience to pour into downtown Austin with thousands of people lining the streets.
I really can not say enough good things about this event and the people behind it. It is by far one of the most professionally run events I've ever participated in. And the people participating in the event become like family. Sun & Ski has done a great job selling the bikes and I got to spend a lot of time thanking all the Masi-owners out there riding in the event.
I'll have more comments and photographs to wrap this all up tomorrow.