Written by Vince Jones Friday, 23 March 2018 00:00
The North Texas T-shirt circuit is underway. I chose my first event this year to be the Beauty and the Beast ride in Bullard Texas. This is the 30th annual Beauty and the Beast ride and over 550 riders participated. This year's event was a fundraiser for the Tyler Junior College Promise Scholarship. The idea behind the name is that you tour the beauty of east Texas before you face the Beast of a climb just a few miles from the end of the ride. There are several different routes to chose from for this ride and I picked the 62 mile route. Going into this event I was a little apprehensive for two reasons. The first reason is that this is the first event for me on my new endurance bicycle frame and I was not sure how it would feel or handle. I have been riding my old road bike for 14 or 15 years and changing is difficult. Second, I have only ridden outside once this year. I purchased a smart trainer last fall and hooked it up to my phone and a big TV in my garage and have been riding Zwift all winter long. My goal was to ride 1000 miles in my garage before this ride and I just made it. I felt strong on Zwift but i was not sure how that would translate to the road.
Bullard is about two and a half hours from my house and I had to drive through calls so I was up early and on the road. The forecast for the day was good. We were suppose to have a mild morning with a a chance of showers in the afternoon. When I left home the weather was great but somewhere near Canton Texas there was a wall of clouds and a line of rain showers. As I approached the storm, the temperature actually went up about 10 degrees. Fortunately, I passed through the rain quickly and did not see it again for most of the day. I arrived at the Bullard High School and got my registration packet and prepared for the ride.
I staged near the front of the group and waited for the start. When the gun went off, the front group of folks took off and I was anxious to get going but it took a little while for the start to work its way back to me. When we got rolling I could see the riders on the bumper of the sheriff's car a hundred yards in front of me so I worked my way thru the crowd in hopes of catching up before we got out of town and the sheriff pulled out of the way. I did not make it all the way to the draft before they were off and I was on my own. I picked my way there with several more groups of riders before we reached some hills. I passed two riders on one of these climbs that passed me on the back on the downhill side. I thought maybe I could ride with these guys for awhile. The three of us worked well together for awhile, so much so, that we started to pick up a few of the riders that were being dropped by the front group. We eventually came to a group of riders that had three members of the same team in it. I decided that I was going to mark them and make sure they did not get away. That proved to be a wise move. Through several towns and over many hills we lost a lot of the early group that had formed. By the time we reached the town of Troup Texas there were five of us and we were moving fast. As we blew by the rest stop in Troup, the folks were hollering "Sopapillas". My plan was to stick with this group as long as possible and not stop so I passed on the rest stop. The not stopping part changed quickly due to a train crossing our path just down the street, I thought great, here I am waiting on a train and the sopapillas are right behind me. I fought off the urge to circle back and grab one.
The train that had stopped us also stopped the group in front of us so when the road was clear we had a much larger group and we were moving a little faster. There were two other teams that had several riders in this other group so now we had three teams well represented in our group. I knew that if I could hang onto this group I would do well. For the most part this group stuck together all the way to the Beast. I know we dropped a few folks along the way but I was able to stay attached and respond to every hill and every acceleration.
I have ridden up the Beast three times already and knew that i was not going to be able to drag my old 200 lbs up that hill as fast as a lot of the riders. When we reached the climb I just pushed on with some words running thru my mind that Troy Nye told me a long time ago. "everyone climbs alone" (i think he was quoting someone else at the time). The Beast is not a long climb, maybe half a mile, but it does become a 12% grade at times so it can be a struggle. As I crested the top, I could see some of the folks from my group stopped at the top to celebrate and recover. For me I put the hammer down. As hard as the Beast is for me the next several miles are my favorite part of the ride. This section is northbound on US highway 69 heading toward Bullard and Tyler. I reached this section and I went fast. I get going between 26 and 30 mph and start blowing past more of the folks from my old group. Several of them try to catch the draft behind me but I am going so fast they do not have a chance. About halfway through this section I am passing one more of the riders from the old group and they do catch the draft. I had slowed just a little as I passed and they got in behind me and yelled I'm on. I got the speed back up to 30 and we roared down the road headed towards the finish line. I crossed the finish line feeling that I had done well. I picked up my "major award" and got out of the way. When I checked Strava it said 62 miles at 19.7 mph. That is a great speed for me this early in the season and it gives me high hopes for the Hotter than Hell Hundred later this season.
As for my apprehensions from before the ride, the bike worked well as far as comfort goes but there was more than once when I was cutting a corner that it felt a little unstable. I had never felt that before on my old "racing" frame. As for riding my trainer in the garage i think it worked wonders. I had the power and strength to match every move on the road except for the Beast hill climb. The Zwift program keeps me interested while grinding away on the trainer and I can ride anytime I want, night or day.