It was another wet and chilly year at the Tour to Tanglewood in 2011. Similar to the year before last.
We arrived at the park and were parked at exactly 7 AM. So we began getting ready, which basically means transitioning over to cycling shoes, topping off water bottles with some gatorade from the cooler, getting the bikes down off the roof rack, putting air in the tires, and trying to decide what exactly needs to be included in jersey pockets. For instance, do I carry the rain jacket or not? Do I wear fingerless gloves or gloves with full fingers? When the temperature is around 55-59 degrees and it isn’t raining yet, but the threat is there, it gets a little hard to decide which option to go with. What surprises does the weather hold for the next three hours?
When we had finally made some of these choices—fingerless gloves, and yes to the rain jacket—we wandered over to the central grandstand area. Ooops, we were almost too late for our team photograph. We saw the team already up on bleachers getting posed so we rushed over and just made it. In fact, our team captain made it over only moments after us. He was running late as well. It’s funny, because until that moment I hadn’t thought we were running late. I was surprised that the team photo was actually happening right at the time it had been scheduled, 7:15.
The start line was packed and we had to wait as they let people go in waves. We finally made the depart at around 8:30.
I was almost instantly hungry and realized that the cereal I ate before we left the house wasn’t going to be enough. We had carried along some muffins, but when I had the opportunity to eat it I had skipped and now I was regretting that. I felt pretty good at the beginning other than some mild hunger pangs. The crowds of cyclists on the road seemed heavier than I remembered from past years, but it’s always fairly heavy in the early part of the course. As the ride continues people spread out, hills and other obstacles slow some riders down, the super speedy ones manage to create some gaps, and before long you might find yourself almost alone on the road.
The crowds were still pretty heavy as we reached the first rest stop. Originally I had planned to skip that one. The first one tends to be a bit of a madhouse. But the hunger pangs were making me want to check out the food table, and the long wait at the start line had allowed my morning coffee to catch up to me so I needed a bathroom break. The lines were long at the porta-johns and then it was difficult to get near the food table, but I did manage to grab part of a banana and a couple of fig newtons. I’m not sure how much time we lost at that rest stop, but later on in the ride I kept looking at my clock and wondering how it got to be so late in the morning.
We skipped the next rest area, and somewhere along the line it started to sprinkle a bit. The crowds were thinning out some now, although car traffic seemed a little heavier than I remember from the past too. By the third rest area I really thought it was about to rain so we stopped and I put on my rain jacket, but we didn’t do anything else there.
The rains never did really materialize during the ride. It would sprinkle for a moment and then pass, or we would ride out of it. Later on I started to regret putting on the rain jacket. It did keep me warmer, but it was also trapping my own moisture. It was wetter on the inside than on the outside. Later on my riding buddy, Scott, dropped his chain and while we were stopped I took the jacket off. Of course the effect of that was that I was chilled when we began riding again as the moisture evaporated. Still, after a few miles I was warmed back up enough.
The rest of the ride went pretty quickly. As we re-enter Tanglewood park it seems like the worst of the ride is over, but there’s always one surprisingly difficult hill within the park itself. One last spike of the heart rate and then just cruise to the finish, which is always pretty fun and exciting as crowds line the finish and cheer and clap as you ride down the hillside and under the finish banner. They hand out little medals of completion at the back end of the finish straight, a little token of accomplishment.
It’s after the ride that the chill settles in. I did grab some good hot lunch from the Carabbas food tent. I will say that to me it was much better than last year, but that’s primarily because it was still hot and fresh. Last year I finished the ride so late the food had been left out for a while. Today I enjoyed it a lot.
I took a brief look around at a few of the other tents that teams had setup, and picked up some items like the annual T-shirt we get and a cycling jersey. But after hanging out for a while in our Team Polo tent and chatting with a few teammates I was starting to feel more chilled than was comfortable. The drizzling rain kept passing through and it was just never possible to get completely comfortable, so we decided to call it a day and make the drive back home.
All in all I would say it was a nice day, but not a beautiful one. The ride itself was nice and went pretty smoothly. But in a perfect world we would have had weather more like we had a week ago which was beautiful. It’s funny how big of a difference just one week can make.
Tomorrow, Sunday, the plan is to return to the park and do another ride. At this point it’s already fairly late Saturday night so I’m going to log-off here in just a moment so I can get my beauty rest in preparation for another early morning on the bike. I think the weather will probably be similar in temperature, but I’m hoping it will be drier. I’ll post another update Sunday night about those events.