Cool, clear, and no wind! That’s how I like my riding conditions. But hey, who doesn’t right? Nobody could ask for a better day than this, that’s for sure. 17 of us Nevadan’s took part in the 3rd annual Tour de St. George hosted by Red Rock Bicycle Shop and the gracious townsfolk of St. George. I think most of us were looking for a change this year, and boy did we find a sweet ride in this one. I was already fairly familiar with the St. George area from doing several unofficial rides up there in the past, and finishing the HooDoo 500 one month prior. But, on this ride we discovered new routes and a whole lot of back country not seen before.
The town folk offered up the newly remodeled downtown square as the starting point which showed us a bit of a history while we waited for the starting pistol. I couldn’t help but notice that the original construction on the town square church that started in 1861 and finished up in 1871. Man, ten years to build one building. We have progressed a long way since then…well, come to think of it, maybe not.
As cyclists, I think one common element amongst us in planning for these rides is checking the weather. I’m no different and may even be a bit neurotic about it. I’ve been to Utah many times and more often than not, I’ve been on the severe side of changing weather. So, I knew I should be prepared for just about anything. I’ve been out there on those beautiful deserted back roads, cold and soaked like a rat with no rock to hide under too many times to come up here unprepared. So, on went the arm and knee warmers along with my trusty vest.
We started out heading Southeast out of town and this start was no different than any other Century I’ve been on. Everybody was chomping at the bit, all fired up to burn as many calories in the first 10 miles as they would burn all day. People went racing by like rat’s trying to get to that last hot biscuit. Our first real climb of the day followed shortly thereafter, Telegraph Hill, a climb that put the brakes on a few of the fast rats. And what a special climb it was…just enough 8% grade to get the lactic engine started and quickly up to full power. Rolling gently out and onto the Washington fields, you get that “Back home again in Indiana” smell. That, piggy, horsey, Moomoo kinda smell. State fair, 4H…well, you get the idea. Not great for early in the morning, but reminiscent anyway. Great fun those back roads in Washington, but maybe next year, the smell will subside a little.
Our first “real” stop of day came in Hurricane, pronounced “Hurricun.” Why? I have absolutely no idea. It’s kinda like New Orleans, as the locals would have it, you don’t pronounce the word(s) as they are spelled. It’s just “Nawlins.” I guess living in small towns in Utah makes you speak differently. Great rest stops on this ride by the way! Boy scouts holding your bike while you pee. Tons of food too…most of it not that great for serious cyclists, but there was a really good selection, and even a smattering of Hammer products stood out amongst all the goodies at a few of the stops.
Leaving Hurricun, we promply arrived in La Verkin, gateway to Zion National park. Only this time we skipped the climb up to the Zion plateau and headed into the land of Toquerville. Dr. Dog commented that we just past a sign that said, “drug free community” and now we are going into Toquerville?? “What gives with that?” Toquerville was also the start of a very long grind up to the I-15 frontage road that lead us to bomber down hill run and onto lunch back in Washington. What a great run that was…30 plus miles per hour in multiple paceline teams…a real blast!
I gotta tell ya, after all that climbing and chasing all those fast rats in the first 50 miles or so, I was plenty hungry. In fact, so was everyone else in our little peleton. To our surprise, the ride hosts purchased about 5 giant cooler loads of sandwiches from Subway. The choices were many indeed: Turkey, ham and vegetarian, on both wheat and white, complete with cold drink of your choice and…a bag of chips. Yum, Yum! So good in fact, that Cynthia or group social director ate two and a half sandwiches, which she later paid for dearly on the climb up to Snow Canyon. After lunch, we hopped back on the bikes and headed Southwest towards St. George. The route runs a bit urban but quickly turns Northwest bound on Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive is pretty cool really. The road is pretty good and the scenery is spectacular. On your left, you look down into the mini-metropolis of St. George; and on your right is unspoiled red rock walls and canyons complete with picnic areas, hiking trails and single track. What a great place!
The route takes a right onto Hwy 18 for a bit of a grind up hill for about 7 miles towards the Snow Canyon entrance. The view, once again, is just spectacular as you grind your way up. At about 80 miles or so, Snow Canyon provides a welcomed respite from climbing with a bomber downhill all the way through the park. We had heard about the strong winds picking up at about 2 pm and it was amazing how timely that forecast turn out. Bang, right in the face as we headed Southwest towards Kayenta! Undaunted, we battled our way in and through Kayenta for the final rest stop of the day. Kayenta is a unique community in that all the housing is nestled into the existing landscape in such a way that you can’t even tell that the houses are really there. Green thinking is definitely the mindset in this unique little community. Turning back due east we were greeted with our friend the wind again, but this time the wind became a staunch ally the whole way back to St. George.
I’ve often said, “this was a great ride” but the Tour de St. George is by far one of the best events I’ve had the pleasure to experience. The organization, support, and route were just top notch. I’ll be back next year for sure!