Final Destination: Atlantic Ocean

Yesterday afternoon Mike Halstead and I finished up our ride across South America. The biking on the last day was the easiest of the entire journey. About 125 miles. Was it because it was flat with no headwinds and little sun? Or was it because I was getting stronger and fitter? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between.

Not a remarkable riding day other than the torrential rain again throughout the morning. Many cyclists opted to skip the first leg and join later on. Not us as we needed the exercise. We came in with the lead group. It became more and more apparent to not only me but also to other riders that Mike was the strongest cyclists on this tour. Me? I came along for the ride. Yesterday he made some moves that had the best cyclists shaking their heads. Big shout out to Halstead who let me draft him across another continent.

The finish line was pretty amazing. I was ready to leave not long after we got there but we waited till all had finished. People were genuinely thrilled with the accomplishment whether they had ridden 40 miles a day and taken the bus for the rest or if they had done every mile. One fellow who I very much respected who happened to also be a very successful businessman called the trip the most epic moment of his life. Very fascinating results. My response? What’s next?

We of course were the only two flying out the same night and so we got the firs ride (1.5 hours) back to the hotel. On the ride back I had a great conversation with the trip director who was a horsewoman in a prior life and I knew many of her employers in the UK. Very nice lady. Also learned a lot about her job and the company. Very cool stuff.

We got to the hotel and took our two bikes apart and boxed them up for the trip home. Grabbed a quick shower and packed the dirtiest pile of clothes into our suitcases. Off to the airport.

I have a great number of photos that I will post Monday. I wish I could do it now but not in my pay grade. Thanks for following this trip. Until the next time.

Racing the Storm

Finished day seven. About 125 miles. First 25 miles were great. Then a huge thunderstorm came in and we spent the next 50 miles fighting ferocious headwinds. Not a lot of rain but the wind was crazy. The last 50 miles were much better with headwinds still. Quite a day. Exact same mileage as yesterday but an extra hour and a half more in the saddle.

At around mile 35 it seemed we were turning and indeed we were and we couldn’t have headed in a more difficult direction. On the bright side we had no sun today which was a huge saver. Am I more comfortable in the blaring sun or the blowing wind? I guess I always choose the opposite of what I am experiencing.

A bit more on Day 7….
1. My roommate for the trip Dr Mike is a vet. He helped me change a bandage on my shoulder yesterday. Brilliant work. No dog biscuit however.

2. The hotel for out last night tonight is an old monastery turned into a hostel. Six or eight to a room and no hot water. Just like home. I promise some photos.

3. Why so few photos? To tell the truth few has changed the last few days. Miles and miles of maize fields and not even a building. The Andes was the photo highlight and those gratefully are in the rear view mirror.

4. Looks like rain today. I suppose locusts aren’t out of the question.

5. My personal cycling is getting stronger.

6. Chatted at length yesterday with a guy who’s favorite pub was the one in that recent soccer series. He also said he had his morning coffee on the bench where coach and the star( blimey I can’t think of his name) would meet for breakfast every day. Cool stuff.

7. Why? Well that is a good question. You train for something nearly impossible. The lifestyle spent training is super healthy. The challenge of finishing is terrifically rewarding. And when you stop you grow old. Not planing on that until forced.

The Road Continues

The trip across South America continued today as we wrapped up day 6. Another 100 plus miler (125) with very little climbing and very little head wind. If it weren’t for the extraordinary heat it would have been a straight forward day. And when I say straight forward I mean we stayed on the same road going in the same direction all day. The scenery? Maize plantations as far as the eye could see. So not a lot to discuss about the trip today.

Tomorrow looks like a carbon copy of today. Same 125 miles and pretty much the same road. The hotel is fine and the food has been improving. The aide stations on the course would clearly not satisfy Sally. Ice is a hot commodity (?) and the staff seems challenged to man enough stations. In the incredible sun one needs water much more often than currently supplied. On average once the sun comes up a rider will drink two bottles of fluids in less than 20 miles (it is hot). So we all have begun to improvise and stop at any open facility. Hopefully my concerns have been heard.

My aches and pains were much better today. Mike and I biked hard and finished with less than 7 hours in the saddle. I like to think my biking is suffering because of my accident. Probably wishful thinking. Again today many elected not to either attempt or finish. At the daily staff meeting a couple days ago the staff gave us the option to not ride at all because of the heat index. Why else are we here?

For the most part there are lots of nice people. Bikers can be a difficult group and there are clearly a few of them here this week. Two guys in particular are quite affected and are not on my good list.

At dinner tonight the owner and his wife (I assume) and one lad cooked and served and tended bar for over 40 people. Short staffed but been there done that.

Days 4 & 5 on the Road through Argentina

Day 4: Short report tonight from Argentina. Massive long day. Longest ride of my life. Absolutely no time for photos. Biggest challenge was trying and succeeding to stay on the pace line. In the morning the line was 15 people. By the afternoon our line was 9. Shout out to all of them. They say a pace line acts like an accordion. Stretching out and condensing fluctuating between very challenging and easy. Searching for the easy parts.

Great hotel and dinner. Very early start tomorrow morning and another 150 plus mile day. One pedal stroke at a time.

In keeping with my usual tradition I had a small spill today. Just enough cuts on my face to scare all the little kids the rest of the week.

I think tomorrow’s ride is the hardest one. Wish us all luck.

Day 5: Hard to top yesterday. Another grueling day for the Alpha Team in Argentina. Excellent idea to do this in the heart of the summer here in South America. Close to 100 degrees today with the strongest head winds you could imagine. Incredibly difficult start. In fact from mile 30-35 today both Mike and I were ready to get a ride back. Of course we didn’t and latched onto a pace line and worked through it all.

Mike is always kind to me and was sensitive to the pain I had from my fall yesterday. While my face looked horrible it really was my neck and several ribs that caused the most pain. Luckily only when I pedaled.

Slipped out to a clinic last night to get checked over and was amazed at the service I received and the promptness. Of course the flip side of that is that if I needed further care the closest hospital is three and a half hours away.

Saw a group of 5 dogs crossing the road and I looked over at Mike and we both laughed as they all used the crosswalk and appeared to look both ways. Also tens of thousands of acres of farmland with the most popular crops being maize and sunflowers. Will try to grab some pictures tomorrow.

Tomorrow looks like another tough one. Let’s hope the winds are kind.

The more I get to know the people the easier it is to pick out who’s company I enjoy. The list gets smaller everyday. Meanwhile the directing company has improved slightly the meal selection. I am clearly the squeaky wheel there. Very few Christmas cards from the staff this year.

Trying to promote our Hudson Valley Detour program. Seems like great interest.

Four more days to go. Home stretch.

Sunday’s Fuel for Thought

Day three of the trans continental trip across South America is behind us. Both Mike Halstead and I are faring pretty well considering the circumstances. The ride started off with a disappointing breakfast. Rather hard to not take in the correct fuel when asking your body to respond to this challenge. No surprise to anyone that I let the leaders know about my concerns. Seems clear that food and fuel is up to the cyclists. Pity but another good lesson learned. Keep your eye on Hudson Valley Detours.

Ride started out with a military checkpoint about 5 miles in. Quick review of passports and we each were on our way. A little over 106 miles today and about 3000 feet of climbing. So some hills but a nice breather from yesterday. We were rolling along at a good clip when Mike got his first flat. Then 10 minutes later his second. Then 10 minutes later his third. We finally found the rotten little thorn that was causing our problem and after a quick patch job we were back in business. It did separate us from the pack however and we spent the day by ourselves trying to catch up.

Lots of today’s ride was into the wind. Like always Mike led the way and pulled me through the difficult parts. Lunch was around 2 PM ( a long time from the 6:30 corn flakes. Will not happen again. Last hour of the ride took us into the city of Mendoza. This is a lovely Argentinian city.

Decent hotel although not special. Another disappointment. Mike and I rooming with a great South African gent who lives in the UK. No there are no bunk beds but three twin beds is the fancy set up. Mike and I feasted on our best meal so far and had all the protein we could eat. Our strategy is to fend for ourselves and I slipped out to a local convenience store in order to secure a suitable breakfast for the morning.

The team working this event is strong but it seems they have been provided with limited resources. We can handle our own needs. We need to be ready because starting Monday we start going longer. The day four ride is 155 plus miles. The first of two days that long in a row. We will start a bit earlier and hope to finish before dark. Looks to be the longest single day ever for both Mike and myself. Wish us luck.

Saturday – The Climb Continues

Not much to say except ouch. We left the hotel(?) and turned left. Didn’t use the big ring until after 2:30 PM. For the non cyclists that means we climbed. And climbed.

The climb was spread into two sections. The first part was on paved roads and included over 20 switchbacks. Pedaling through tunnels and up to 10500 feet of altitude. Grueling but satisfying to put it behind us. Grades were around 8% average. The good news was that it was cooler with the Andes blocking the sun.

Clearly after my tough day yesterday I did a much better job of fueling and preparing for today. For these types of events what you put in your body is the absolute most important thing. Good for the home team.

The second climbing stage was the most different and challenging of my life. First we let a bit of air out of the tires so that we could traverse the gravel trail up to 14000 feet. This trail was also switchbacks and with the rocks and the soft sand it was a technical climb. All attention had to be paid. There were a couple of big gravel areas that required both Mike and I to walk a bit. Incredibly hard.

One of the concerns was how I would react to the high altitude. Dr Heslin prepped me perfectly and had me drink 10 times the water that I would have usually consumed. Worked perfectly and I had zero issues. Shout out to Gene.

We crossed over into Argentina and have arrived at our lodging for this evening. Just the six of us in the three double beds (there is an advantage to finishing a bit sooner as you can get a bottom bunk.

Tomorrow is an easier day. 106 miles with very little climbing. Good day for our team to go slow and easy and get ready for days 4 and 5 which are each 150 plus miles.

Lots of photos of today. Craziest place in the world to decide to ride a bike!

Go Knicks

Friday – Halfway Up the Andes

Well I have to say I am thrilled to report that Friday’s ride half way over the Andes Mountains is over. It was ferocious. Very hot, very sunny and climbing all day. Over 100 miles and 6500 feet of ascent. A huge wake up call. Where to begin? How about the start.

We left from the sandy beach next to the Pacific Ocean. About 35 of us. Quite a diverse group of cyclists. All in great spirits and very easy to get along with. Mike and I too off with a small peloton that included Jan from Slovakia. He is a very big strong young man and likes to lead which drew no complaints from us. He lead us through the lunch break. Big help. The majority of the riders rode in a huge peloton. Some never finished and got a ride in.

After lunch we rode for 8 miles through an avocado farm. Brilliant start but a treacherous ending. Loose rocks and a very tough go. Mike and I wound up by ourselves (big surprise) and finished the day that way. Did we get a bit lost in the farm? Perhaps but gave us a chance for a couple more miles on the rocks.

The last 30 miles were absolutely torture. What a grind with the bulk of the climbing. Between running out of fuel and horrendous leg cramps I will not soon forget the last couple hours.

The reward? The hostel. Just the 4 of us in the room. Bunk beds and a full mattress. One big happy family. Two great guys from the UK joined us. Quite an adventure. Dinner here at the hotel was disappointing and you had to buy your own water. Learning lots about what not to do with Hudson Valley Detours.

Tomorrow looks like the craziest cycling day of my life. Incredible climb up to over 14,000 feet. Not a long ride but a technical and challenging one. Cool beans.

I know I promised photos from today but I didn’t deliver. Tomorrow for sure.

Adventure Set to Begin

Thursday proved to be very normal prep day. Several meetings which included a visit with the team doctor. Seems all systems go. Learned lots of the rules (perhaps not my favorite thing) and we all got a chance to introduce ourselves and tell the group some personal facts like what our favorite smell is. Kumbaya and all that. I prefer rules. All set though and a very nice group of people. UK, Australia, Canada,Slovakia, and the good old USA. A real melting pot. Not only can I not hear but I also can’t understand anybody.

Mike and I put the bikes together today. Took them for a quick spin and they are ready. Shout out to Mike at the Bicycle Rack in New Paltz for boxing up my bike perfectly.

Both Mike and I hear in Chile are taking copious notes as we too prepare to run some of these same outings in the Hudson Valley with the Hudson Valley Detours group. Enrollment in the spring sessions is starting to get some legs.

Quite a few triathletes here. Can’t help but tell them about Tommy’s races at Alpha Win. I am glad I work on commission. Lots of great athletes are taking part It could be that I am only one a bit challenged by the daunting 9 days ahead. I always say you can do anything for 9 days. The group from Australia biked across the continent last year. About 35 days. Hmmm

Tonight’s race prep meeting was straight forward. Seems tomorrow’s lodging includes bunk beds. Can’t imagine they mean all of us. Ride starts off climbing and we climb for 100 miles and then we stop. Temperature forecast to be 30 degrees( get used to the terminology). Hot, sunny and climbing. Fun mix. No pics today. Tomorrow nights report will include photos and some shots of the accommodations. Don’t miss it.