BikeMS Cottonwood and Sedona – Day 1 – my longest, hardest ride

It was a gorgeous day outside. I woke up at around 4:30AM. There were no ghosts to haunt me in the haunted Cottonwood Hotel. All I heard all night was the smooth sound of the fan above me and the mechanical sound of the refrigerator. I was excited. At 7AM today, I would do my longest (90 miles), hardest (3,700+ feet elevation) ride. I decided to wear a long sleeve skin shirt under my Team KLAR shirt. I brushed, shaved used the John about 4 times (ya I know, TMI) and went downstairs to pump up tires and prep nutrition. There were no flats, no forgotten items, no casualties; the morning was smooth. Promptly at 6AM, we left for the starting point to get ready for the group photo at 6:30AM.

A total of 31 people had signed up for Team KLAR, but around 20 or so did the ride. The others missed out on a fabulous day.

Promptly at 7AM, about 800 bicyclists took off. Some were doing 60 miles, some 70 and a few of us were doing 90. The first 25 miles are encircle Cottonwood before heading towards Cornville and into Sedona. It has some gentle and some not-so-gentle uphills and a few steep downhills. There is nothing flat about this course! At about 25 miles, we entered Sedona with its gorgeous red rocks. I have been to Sedona dozens of times, but never on a bike. We were cycling pretty smoothly and in great spirits.

This is where the confusion began. The route was poorly marked.We 90-milers had to follow orange arrows. So far, we had seen ZERO orange arrows. Fortunately, a fire engine slowed us down and Kristi noticed an obscure orange arrow going right. A bunch of riders missed and and kept going straight. We took the right turn, rode up and back for 8 miles before doing a loop on the opposite direction for another 8 or so miles. It was a hill 16 miles and we were ready for lunch! At the 40-mile mark, we stopped at a rest area for refills and sandwiches. I have to give kudos to all the volunteers for making our lives easier at all the rest stops!

So far, I felt great. The temperature was perfect, the crowds and bicyclists were great and we were about to go through Sedona and through its gorgeous red rocks. After a 30-minute break, we were back at it. Sedona has some rolling and challenging hills. Over the past few months, through some strength training, I have become a much stronger climber. My flat riding still needs work, but I am faster than most folks doing the ride on uphills; especially steep ones!

At about the 50-mile marker, we passed by Tlaquepaque and the Y in Sedona before heading uphill and taking a right on CoffeePot Drive for a 14-mile loop. Apparently, the three of us (Angela, Eric and I) missed a short 3-mile loop before making the right on CoffeePot. Kristi (on the other hand) was the only person on our team who did the full 90-mile ride. If I have one complaint about the course, it was that it was poorly marked!

Anyway, the CoffeePot loop was about 14 miles; bringing us back to the 89 (the main street in Sedona). Further along, we went down into Oak Creek Canyon (which is one of the most beautiful parts of Sedona). It was here that the pavement ended and we rode our bike for a bit more than a mile on dirt. I was sure that a few of us were going to get flats, but no such thing happened. The climb back to Route 89 was steep and hilly. I was huffing and puffing and passing everyone. This is where I got nicknamed “Gazelle” (thanks to Kristi).

At the rest stop just before 89, we were told, “it’s about 15 miles down to Cottonwood and it’s all downhill.” For the most part, this statement was true. Unfortunately, nobody told us about the winds. They were easily 25MPH gusting at 40. Even drafting was not easy. I was in my small chainring in the front and pedaling as hard as I could; and all I could manage was a measly 14MPH. Downhill!

Finally for the last few miles, after we took a right turn into Cottonwood, we picked up speed and finished the race.

My Garmin tells me that the total distance was about 87 miles and we climbed almost 6,000 feet. Both are PRs for me!

Thank you Kristen for putting this group together. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the new folks over the past few months (Jerry, Zara, Juan, Lacey, Justin, Mike, Cassie, etc. etc.) and riding with the old regulars (Kristi, Brett, Angela, Eric, etc. etc.). I’m sure I’ll be up for it again next year!

In the evening, after showering, we bought some lottery tickets (the jackpot was close to $600 million); before I ate a hamburger at The Tavern followed by a banana milkshake at Dairy Queen.

Off to bed now to rest for another 50 miles tomorrow!

2 Replies to “BikeMS Cottonwood and Sedona – Day 1 – my longest, hardest ride”

  1. i have to give credit where credit is due… Gazelle belongs to Eric! 😉 great ride by all, however. such a stellar weekend, sure to be a repeat – MS ride or on our own.

  2. Yes. Let's do it again and let's pick a non-windy day! Eric, my bad for not giving you credit for the Gazelle nickname!

Leave a Reply