We arrived into Penticton on Friday, picked up our race packages and browsed at the expo for the “big ride.” Scarfing down samples of the latest and greatest nutritional products. Apparently regular water or sports drinks are missing the boat – a serious athlete needs water that has a high PH number – or a low PH number – can’t remember. But for only 50 Cents per litre, apparently you can be properly hydrated, finally Don’t get me started on the sweat-analysis. On Saturday, we attended the rider’s meeting. In all 2700 will participate. In our distance, 160km, there are 1400 registered and only 300 women, so M will be in the minority. In the shorter distances, women and men are closer to balanced.
We got to the 7AM start on Main Street at 6:45AM, nice that it is only about 3 blocks from our house. The route goes up Vancouver Hill, along a bench road and then down a hill. Our normal pattern quickly got established – I am faster than Michaela uphill, she is far faster downhill, so after this I was playing ‘catch up’ all the way to Summerland, where I caught her on the dreaded Peach Orchard Hill. It was great fun cycling in a pack between Penticton and Summerland – drafting just like the Tour de France racers. We blew past the Summerland rest stop (25 km) and rode back down the highway. Having descended a hill, M was ahead of me toward Penticton – and so as I took off after her, I found myself leading a convoy of 5 other riders – they were using me to draft. Upon approaching Michaela, I checked to see if they were still aboard – one asked if I wanted a break. I said – no, stay there, show my wife that I can pull, she doesn’t believe me! And so they did.
Next rest stop was at Skaha Lake (52 km),we stopped for a couple of minutes, then down East Side road and up McLean Hill, the third of the six major climbs. Still feeling really good. Next stop OK Falls (73 km) and the sky turned fairly black just over the rest stop and I felt a few raindrops, but that was all. After OK Falls, we continued heading south – encountering the first of a few cattleguards, covered for the event but tricky nonetheless. I’m really having fun now – we are averaging about 27km per hour, routinely cruising at over 30 km per hour. A good day to be alive, I point out to M, even as we do the fourth steep climb. We reach Le Vieux Pin (92 km) and its time for lunch. (This is all so civilized.) Then back heading south on Black Sage Road, past some of our favourite wineries and continue through the beautiful countryside.
At about 105km we turn north onto Hwy 97. Into a headwind, a long gradual ascent (at this stage) and the recognition that this is where it isn’t going to be fun any more. Just before reaching Oliver, we veer off the highway and grind up secondary roads to the Fairview Golf Course stop (116km). I got my tires pumped up, and the mechanic from Bike Barn told me that not only was my rear gear cartridge loose, and about to fail, my wheel was bent and the spokes needed adjustment. Glad I checked. Wondering now about the mechanic from Vancouver who installed a new tire just 10 days previously. We are now both dreading the next part and driven to conquer it as it means we’re going to finish.
We are into the serious, no fun climb into the wind on crappy roads, I get up the first hill and promptly fall off my bike in a gravel patch. (Very low speed, so just a bit of a scrape to knee and elbow.) With the wind and the poor roads, even the brief downhills don’t provide respite. We continue to grind away until we reach the last rest stop at the Observatory (138km). Our average speed has plummeted since turning north, but we are still well inside the cut-off time for riders. Gallows humour prevails. On the course overview, it is claimed that this is the highest part of the course, but having practiced here, we know that there are three small climbs left, but at this point we have conquered the six major climbs, Back down Hwy 97 to Penticton, a long descent led as always by Michaela. She waits for me and we proceed down Main Street (closed in DT.) Felt really great to finish. I think I was starting to bonk though, a bit dizzy at the end and felt faint – just like after the Athens Marathon. This was confirmed when my post-race hamburger and beer were left unfinished.