Saturday represented Cycling Season’s glorious turnaround.
After missing Tour De Gruene (for the totally understandable reason of Non-blob Newbie’s deployment date) and missing the Real Ale Ride (for the totally inexcusable reason of this Blob’s abject slothery in the aftermath of The Work Exam), and shortening our LBJ Ride from 80 to 60 miles, we stormed Atlas 4000 with vigor and vim.
Well, maybe not exactly a storm of vigor, but something closely approximating, at least.
We got off to a wee bit of a late start which resulted in us limbo-riding under a rapidly deflating starting-line arch and getting a good laugh at that. Undeterred, we blew past the first rest stop hoping to gain a little ground and get back with the pack. On arrival at the second rest stop — the now-infamous Men From Boys fork in the road (where the 70-milers go one way, and everyone else goes another) — there were plenty of folks still “resting and stretching” (which is long-rider speak for “shnorfing down pbj, bananas, and smoothies, while not-so-discreetly re-upping on chamois butter).
With no discussion whatsoever, we headed down the road less traveled by: the 70-mile route. With a laugh, we recalled from last year that no sooner do you make the decision to head down the 70-mile route, than does the course, for the first time all day, spike to an all but insurmountable grade (At least 65%. I’m sure of it.) Of course, that “laugh” quickly softened into a steady wheeze as we huffed the next 20 or so miles uphill. At least there was still cloud-cover, though, which for late-morning in Central Texas is really saying something.
This leg of the route juts out from the route everyone else rides, is supposed to include two of its own rest stops, and then rejoins everyone at the fifth rest stop. Last year, we missed one of the stops, either because it wasn’t there, it was only a mere blur as we raced by, or we were deliriously heat-stricken and just missed it. Nevertheless, we made all the stops this year, which kept this leg of the route from seeming as awkward and interminable as it was last year.
The good fortune of cloud cover stayed with us until the fifth and last stop and as happy as we were for that, to say we were burned when it finally cleared is putting it, well, mildly. Another pitfall of this particular ride is that the 70-mile route really isn’t. It’s more like 73 miles. Reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking: “Oh, big deal. By the time you’ve gone 70 what’s another three?” Well, dammit, it’s ANOTHER FRICKING THREE AFTER YOU’VE ALREADY GONE FRICKING 70. (That’s more long-rider speak for: “It’s a mental game, see, and when you tell yourself it’s a 70-mile ride, and all through 66, 67, and 68 you’re counting down to an icy finish-line beer, miles 71, 72, and 73 are the most unfathomably unjust fates that could possibly befall you. Really.”)
The final mile of Atlas 4000 is always set up as the Mile of Silence with road signs inspiring the search for a cancer cure. Now, that’s serious business, of course, and deserves respect and reverence. But I can never help but laugh at making mile 72 a “mile of silence.” Like, duh. First of all, if you haven’t said it over the past five hours of riding, it simply doesn’t need to be said. And secondly, if you can breath enough to talk while hammering uphill at that distance, then you’re made by Hoover and are no friend of mine.
Late start, late-ride heat, and bonus miles notwithstanding, we rode to glory finishing for the second time our longest distance yet. And for the second time over post-ride icy beers we decided we could totally do a hundred.