Another ridiculously early start loomed, just, of course, as I’d stopped shivering in the tent and had actually dropped off to sleep. It was actually warmer outside it than inside so getting up wasn’t a hardship at all. After a light breakfast we all lined up ready for the off at 7am. At 8am we eventually got out of the site – a long wait but passed in relative warmth and a bit of fun as a beach ball appeared from nowhere and was passed about the long queue of waiting cyclists. I had opted for the easier route as the sciatica attack I’d suffered during the previous week had started to niggle a bit. The challenge route included the only major hills in the event, getting up to a 9% at times. Both routes came together again at the lunchtime stop at Bastrop.
I made good progress in the early stretch which ran along the highway, hitting 20mph easily with the help of a little tailwind. Although I had started off alongside Dave and Paul (the other members of the 50+ club), I had lost them in the crowd during a slow section early on. It turned out that they were about twenty minutes behind me and we didn’t meet up again until Bastrop.
The pre-Bastrop section of the easier route had taken in some undulating terrain which although it seldom got above a 3%, was prolonged Most riders coped fine if slowly but the section’s only real “climb” – a short stretch at 6% – proved to be a stumbling block for many, with some riders slowing right down and others resorting to walking up the incline. I was feeling remarkably good so while my progress was slower than it had been (partly because of the volume of cyclists and partly because a 7 is a 7 😉 ) I decided to forgo the first two food stops and head straight to Bastrop. This was the only relatively poor food stop although it did provide enough to get me fuelled up enough to embark on the last leg of the ride feeling strong. Dave and Paul had caught up with me by that point and we decided to do the last stretch together. Both had done the event previously and were aware that the most congested stretch was the ten miles into Austin and up to the finish line. We made good time in the next ten miles but decided to take in the last food stop – mostly because the queues for the wonderfully named portajohns at Bastrop had been too long and necessity had now kicked in.
The trip through Austin was slow as predicted. Apart from having done the ride before Dave and Paul are both Austinites so knew exactly where the hold-ups would be. These were mostly at very busy intersections and I really do have to say just how impressed I was with the policing of these. I am still uncertain who all is who in the hotch potch of uniforms, badges and titles, but Police, State Troopers or whatever – they all did their job well and with a degree of manners I found exemplary given that many of them had been on points duty (not sure if my American friends use that term) for upwards of six hours in the sweltering heat.
The atmosphere at the finish line was amazing – friendly, cheerful, loud. Harriet had arranged to meet some of our online Facebook friends there, so I crossed the line to the accompaniment of loud cheering from Ayne and Mark Ray, Adam and Toni. Dave and Paul also had family to meet up with so we said our goodbyes at the finish line. A short walk took us all back to the support vehicles, and very pleasantly took in two rather dishy young men dressed in cowboy gear who, in a very gallant manner, overlooked the rather noticeable whiff from my oxsters to teach me how to hook me some horns. Or whatever it is Longhorn fans say – I wasn’t really paying any attention to what they were saying, if ya know what I mean. 😉
The Day Two stats were encouraging – 17mph average over the undulating first stretch but down to 12 on the last ten miles. But the enormous feeling of satisfaction certainly compensated in full. Job done and job done well.