February 2, 2019

AES: Tor de 50 (DNF)

This time of year there are often scheduling conflicts each weekend. Gotta pick & choose. This weekend was no different. The AZT annual meeting was being held and I enjoy hearing the updates & future plans first-hand. Then there was Singlespeed AZ, a weekend of fun & beer drinking with a bike ride tossed in. Add to the mix, the AES Tor de 50 event and you really couldn't go wrong with any decision.

I'm really trying to stay focused on my Tour Divide training, so I opted for more pedaling and less beer. Is that a violation of mountain biker code?? I hope not.

At any rate, I made my way down to Catalina on Saturday morning for the Tor de 50...arriving early for a change.

There were a bunch of familiar faces getting geared up and quite a few newcomers to the AES scene. One in particular was great to see and finally meet. Lael Wilcox was in town for the winter and had a break in her busy ride/touring schedule. How cool is that? For those who don't know, she is a real life superhero on a bike. Not only has she ridden some of the premier bikepacking events, she crushes them. Lael currently holds the women's record along the Tour Divide. She won the overall title during the 2016 TransAM race, helped develop the Baja Divide and she is passionate about getting more women on bikes. The list goes on. So, to say we were excited to have her out to an AES event was an understatement.
The group listening intently to Chad's eloquent course description.

Rolling with the fast crew during the neutral start: (L-R)  Lael, Chad, Courtney & Christine.

The rest of the gang, don't worry, they'd all be in front of me soon enough.
Chad halted traffic the bottom of a downhill so the riders could cruise through before hitting a steep, short paved bit. The climb helped spread the field a bit before hitting the first singletrack of the route.

The first couple of miles went by quickly, then I blew by a turn. The small group I was riding with flipped positions and I began to peel off the back as the trail began to gain elevation and chunk. I soon found myself alone, pushing, lifting, carrying my bike over boulders on Cherry Tank trail. I knew this section was going to be work, but I just couldn't wake my legs up. I felt residual fatigue from the hard effort the day before.
The tight rocky chutes of Cherry Tank were a bit of a chore to maneuver through.

I finally punched through the rough stuff, but just couldn't get anything going.
Charouleau Gap road finally appeared, but I forgot there were a few punchy climbs on the way down. This 'road' is not one for daydreaming, it commands attention!! Dave caught up to me on his singlespeed and I mentioned that I wasn't really feeling it and was probably going to bail early. He was feeling the same way, but we figured we'd at least get over to the Honeybee system. I thought if I somehow got things together, I'd continue with the route otherwise I'd just add some easy miles and spin out the rest.
Rolling the Havok, the rigid fork was dishing out some bonus punishment.

Cherry Tank.

Cool section on Charouleau Gap rd.
I ran into Evan near the bottom of the descent. We mostly rode together heading north across AZ77 into the Honeybee trails.
The Honeybee trails are very similar to Brown's Ranch in Scottsdale: Buff singletrack.

Evan made the trek over from San Diego and brought a couple of buddies, both of whom were well ahead of us.

Gentle uphill on Honeybee East.
We arrived at the windmill and I was still in a funk, so I made it official and called off the rest of the route. I knew what was coming, lots of climbing and hike-a-bike. It would've been a slog and I really needed to keep spinning. We ran into a couple of other riders along with Dave, who was also calling it off. The three of them rode off, heading back towards our staging area. Evan kept going on the route and I made my way over to the Badlands of Honeybee for some bonus easy miles.

The singletrack out here feels like the middle of nowhere.

I took the spur onto the Window Rock trail, lots of neat rock features.

Twisting, winding through the boulders.

It's not a huge window, but a window nonetheless.

Back at the windmill, now ready to exit.

Now this is a good use of barbed wire!!

The winter wonderland atop Mt. Lemmon is oh-so-close to the land of the Saguaro.
By the time I reached the staging area, Courtney had already wrapped up the full route!! Beast!! Dave was there as well and we tipped back some cold ones while the other fast riders arrived in short order.

In the end, I was bummed to not complete the route as I missed one of my favorite trails: Ridgeline in the Tortolitas. I still managed a good ride in spite of my dead legs, 41 miles is still a solid day on the bike and I'll take it.

As always, it was great to meet new friends and shoot the breeze with the old guard. Next up: Ripsey!!



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