Riding time: 8:46:48
Total time: 10:01:32
Temp: 67-75 F
Number of clouds: 0
Number of mechanicals: 0
I caught wind that my friends were planning to do an 80-90 mile mountain biking loop in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, about 30 miles southwest of Tucson. The loop was clockwise, and consisted of jeep roads on the way out, and singletrack on the way back.
My friend (and sometimes race competitor) Neil Stitzer picked me up an 6am. We went to meet some people for a greasy breakfast at Bobo’s Diner. Afterwards, seven of us made our way down to the starting point for the ride. Most of the people with us had already rode over 10 hours over the past two days, as part of some innocuous sounding insanity known as Camp Tucson, a three-day training session for ultra-endurance mountain bikers. I suppose this is why, just a few miles in, half the riders broke off, opting for a shorter loop.
We started south on what turned out to be an endless jeep road. It only went up or down, steeply. We fought a stiff cross-wind.
15 miles to the east, we saw the Santa Rita moutaines. We would be in its shadow on the way back.
Jeep road just keeps going.
12 miles in, it flattened out. We found ourselves in a desert’s version of a forest.
We hiked our bikes down to a stream crossing, up the opposing side.
More rolling epic.
25 miles in, two of the riders peeled off to take a shorter (but not short) way home. They were among those who had rode both of the two days before. Now it was just Neil and myself.
1o more miles and we hit pavement, letting the now-friendly wind whisk us east into the town of Sonoita, roughly the mid-point of the ride. There was a store there to supply us with water and junk food (“Boston Baked Beans”), and a cozy spot to momentarily relax.
We’d been riding for about four hours at that point. I remarked to Neil that we were making good time. “Hardest part is coming up,” he replied.
We made our way out of Sonoita, encountering a rapidly spreading grassland fire, egged by the wind. We hoofed past it as we heard emergency vehicles head toward the smoke.
Closer to the Santa Rita mountains now.
One last section of road, then all singletrack.
We rode north on the Arizona Trail, the trail climbing up and down, but gradually descending. Environs changed regularly as the trail switchbacked up and down the foothills. We entered an ocotillo forest.
Sun got lower.
We had been riding for about seven hours. A slight headache and nausea came on. The world was strangely glazed, and it was hard to tell whether time went very quickly or very slowly. I resolved to drink more water.
Just a few more climbs.
Now nothing but a gradual descent.
In the last few miles, Neil found a second wind, and I had to chase him through twisty desert singletrack, back to the car.
We arrived. I wished aloud for beer. He had some.
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