[This year's Courage Classic was so awesome, it's gonna take three posts to tell you all about it! Part 2 of 3. - Matt]
I didn't sleep very well on Saturday night because my giant 3-man tent catches ALL of the wind that rips through the Suncadia Lodge field. I woke broke camp quickly, anxious to ride into Cle Elum for breakfast and coffee.
When we arrived at the Sunset Cafe, many bikes were piled outside, including this Sekai single speed! I didn't find the owner, but noticed that the gearing was slightly taller than mine, and the build was likely much lighter.
I also spotted this trail-a-bike rig, which left me wondering how long it's going to be before my oldest daughter will be willing and ready to ride her first Courage Classic. She's only 6 and riding her own bike to school, but she also helped me raise $25 in loose change for Courage Classic that she personally donated. I'm thinking she'll be chomping at the bit to ride with me by 2014!
Terry and Jaarvis and I rolled out of Cle Elum with the sun rising and a cool morning breeze blowing. Blissful...
The course tracks through flat countryside, passing fields of horses and crops, old barns and homesteads. As you turn onto WA-970, the grade quickly steepens. My breakfast had kicked in and I charged up the hill, knowing that the guys would catch me on the descent to the WA-97 interchange. The Day 2 climb up Blewitt Pass over WA-97 is my favorite part of the ride and I planned to show it.
We regrouped at the North Tacoma Rotary Rest Stop, which was rather cool in the shade. They make the best coffee of any rest stop on the tour and I had my fair share! We left as a pack of 8 or 9 riders, just like last year.
Rick, Terry, Nate, Rich
The shoulder is wide enough to ride two abreast most of the way. We struggled to form a paceline and find a good rhythm, with many of us taking turns at the front but no one really finding that perfect pace.
At some point Nate and I pushed off the front. We stayed together until the last mile or so, when Nate finally backed off.
I won! I didn't ever tell them we were racing, but, you know, I was still first. I think I did the climb in 40 or 41 minutes, compared to 47 or 48 minutes last year on my road bike. I was sucking some serious wind at the top, but feeling like I owned that mountain.
After a bowl of delicious tomato bisque and a big sandwich, we rolled down Blewitt Pass. This was a part of the weekend I had been dreading. The headwind coming up the pass creates a challenging descent that requires you to pedal most of the way down in order to keep any real speed. Most folks with road bikes can keep a solid 25mph pace (or faster) and paceline their way to the bottom. The headwind compensated for the grade and I found myself coasting at a speed just higher than I could pedal. Whenever I approached a wide turn-out on the shoulder, I would look back for bikes. If anyone was visible behind me, I'd just pull over and let them safely pass. I did this three or four times. The descent felt like an eternity.
Once at the bottom and refreshed with a few sno-cones, we headed for Leavenworth. I had packed an apple in my back pocket and it seemed like a good time to eat it, riding through the apple and pear orchards.
Some of us stopped at a road-side lemonade stand where this girl had smartly setup shop with an assortment of ice-cold drinks. That was the best $1 of pink lemonade I've ever tasted! She said her mom made it, so she couldn't reveal the recipe.
Once I reached town, there was some confusion about where I was staying. This was the first time that I wouldn't be camping for the night; instead sharing a condo with a friend. I didn't know where the condo was and couldn't reach him on his cell, so there was a bit of back and forth around town until I figured it all out. Since check-in wasn't until 4, the Worldmark Leavenworth staff let me get my bag, gave me a towel and access to the pool shower, then stored my stuff so I could rejoin my friends. I was really impressed with the hospitality and the facilities.
Gordon and I are the only two original HBC riders that have ridden all four years that our team has participated! (No, we didn't plan the matching jersey photo shoot.)
I met Terry down at the Icicle River to soak my knees in the frigid water for a while before we headed to dinner. Afterwards, we all went to the beer garden.
Our Tuesday Night Rides always ended with beers at the Harmon Tap Room, so our team felt right at home!
I had a solid 8 hours of sleep that night; another Courage Classic first for me. That condo was worth it!