The 4th edition of the Oregon Gran Fondo is Sunday. As I've said elsewhere, "gran fondo," is Italian for big ride. It is a timed ride, simply a challenge for most of us to finish, a race for some. These are some of the things I've learned from the first three:
1. Dress for spring, hope for summer. All three previous rides have started cool. Two finished warm, one in sun. One rained most of the day.
2. Be cautious on descents. These rides are a mixed bag of skill levels. Two Oregon Triple Crown rides have had serious crashes, one which left a very good racer with injuries that he has not recovered from to this day. In particular, be seriously cautious on the second descent on Territorial on the road toward Drain. There are several ackward curves at speed. This is where one of the crashes happened.
3. Put on new rubber, and consider at least a 25 mm tire. There is over 50 miles of chipseal in the Oxbow area, with narrow, rough roads, and potholes. I have lived by Continental Gran Prix for many years, and while there are many tires that are equal, all tires are not equal.
4. Try not to go too hard in the first twenty miles. This is not easy, with a hyped up mass start, some very fast racers, and the excitement of the chase. You will pay later. Save something for Siuslaw River Road. You think you are in the homestretch, but there is still over 30 miles, and several climbs, one very steep that will really take it out of you. I have seen riders melt here in the past.
5. This also means don't put too much into the King of the Mountain climb. Unless you are a great climber, you're not going to win a prize, and as such it really is pretty meaningless for your overall ride, unless you spend too many matches on this climb. Then it may be of great significance.
6. It is great to stop at all of the rest areas, and chat with other riders and voluteers. It's not necessary. Limit stops, and stay on the bike. If you haven't done this distance before, you may find that long stops make it more difficult to get going again.
7. There are going to be some rough patches for every rider. Most of your body will hurt at some time during the ride. You may get tired, not eat and drink enough, feel like you can't possibly make it. You can. All things pass. I have watched as my brother finished the ride, when he was dead in the water on Siuslaw Road, one of the great efforts that I have witnessed in cycling, and a very proud moment.
8. You're creating memories. While you can't remember most of the rides that you do, if you ride often, you will remember this one, and adversity will do nothing but create a very distinct memory, particularly if you overcome it.
9. When you get to the place deep in the Oxbow area where the road drops to one sketchy lane, don't worry about being lost-by this time you may have few riders around you, you can't get lost in here, there's no where else to go.
10. Take a few minutes when you finish to savor the feeling. Simply breathe in and breathe out, mindful of the heightened senses, the world around you, and your place in it. You have just accomplished something not every one can do.