Lancaster Rally 2009

One might think that after having done the same basic route on a bike rally, year in and year out, you might be forgiven for not wanting to repeat it. However, some courses remain both challenging and beautiful. It’s the reason that I continue to return to Ft. Davis, and it’s one of the reasons that I enjoy rallying in North Texas.

Lancaster County is about 15 minutes south of Dallas, and it’s almost like entering another world. The roads are rolling, the temperature is about 10 degrees cooler because you’re outside the urban bubble, and in April, you’re surrounded by fields of Bluebonnets and Indian Paints. I love it.

Despite the economy, local rallies have been at or beyond capacity, breaking attendance records, which continues to impress me. This points towards a dedicated cycling population, despite a few misgivings about Rallies implying that they might be the only safe way to enjoy weekend rides. But that’s an urban vs. group ride issue, not relevant to this discussion – I’ll get in to bike politics later. This is about Saturday’s ride – 100k give or take, which ended up becoming a test of mettle, strength, and stamina.

The rally was held on a weekend when the only race was being held in Houston. As a result, A LOT of the top dogs in North Texas, including:

Chris Powers
Randy Eller
Colt Trant
Nick Kiernan
Brett Crosby
David Orteaga (who is quickly becoming quite famous locally)
David Arruete

And a few others, showed up to turn this in to a free-for-all race sim. I was honored to be with them, but also more than a little intimidated, given their collective horsepower.

The Pirates of the Peloton REALLY came out in force for this one, with over 13 jerseys lining up, most of them for the 100k. Jim, Bill, David, Michael, newcomer Craig, and many, many others all participated, contributed, and rode strongly. It really was a perfect day for a ride, especially one with friends and competitors.

300m from rollout, we made a right hand turn and started riding to the South. That was about all it took…. Crosby and Surfer took off, and everyone else accelerated to chase. 600 riders quickly became no more than 40, as we pumped out the miles and watts, pushing through 10 miles, then 20, on the rolling terrain. There were a few foul-ups in terms of directions, but overall, it was a pretty course… not that I saw much of it. Two clients from the indoor cycling class were right there with me for that first hour, so Chapeau to Matt and Craig, for helping bridge, and also pushing the pace when appropriate. 

About 22, maybe 25 miles in, I think we were down to maybe a dozen riders, when the Top 7 put on a superior show of strength, and got away. I rode as absolutely hard as I could, only to see those seven, plus maybe 3 more, including Jason Butler, get a gap, and hold it. The group I was left with had nothing as well, and even though I rallied, and tried to get us all working together, it was pretty fruitless. We picked up Ben Sewell after about 30 miles, and around mile 35, we caught Jason – riding like a man possessed, in his solo effort. Our pack grew larger at around mile 40, when we picked up two more stragglers from the lead group, and around mile 45, we passed two  other riders who were from the lead group, and had stopped to fix a flat. They ended up going through maybe 3 tubes…

Ben, Curt, Randy, and a couple of other guys whom I can’t directly remember – all of us worked together, and we actually made it in to the finish at roughly 2 hr 38min. I think the leaders did it in 2:32, but there were really only six of them. To add to the great day of riding, several Pirates came in not too long after that, in about 2:48 and 2:52. Matt brought up the rear in a slightly over 3hr effort, with stops. I was really proud of him, and in that first hour of riding, he really did NOT look like a beginning cyclist. He looked like someone with some years under his belt. If I can improve his stamina, then LOOK OUT, because he has POWER. 

The afternoon was probably even more fun, because we sort of ad-hoc invited a bunch of people to join us at one of our favorite restaurants in Oak Cliff, the Beckley Brew House. Ben and Katie joined Amy and I, along with David McIntosh, The Gaar’s, and Colleen Klaudinyi. We ate, drank some good beer, and retold our tales of the day, and previous rides. Over 1000 people entered this rally, so I’m excited that this season is actually now upon us. Rallies are de facto races, but they’re also social events, and I’m going to use as many of them as I can to prepare for France and the Alpe d’Huez.


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