On Sunday I participated in the Epic Tour Halton, or the GTA Gran Fondo. Despite the name confusion for me, it was the same event I took part in last year. If you recall, last year’s event took place during a rather windy and cold day that I was unprepared for. For those looking to revisit that post, and relive my foolishness please click here.
I signed up early for this event…probably in February or March. Having survived the 125 kilometre route in 2015, I had high ambitions to take on the 140km route. I figured that a second solid season of group riding would prepare me for such a ride. Fifteen kilometres would only add less than an hour to my journey; less if I improved my fitness over the course of the year.
Well….the summer was great for my riding. I didn’t get out nearly enough times. I could blame the club for starting earlier, or for dropping me a few times, but the truth is that I made some choices. I opted for Friday nights out trying to meet people and not getting back on a sensible food regimen. As early as a month before the big ride, I was starting to regret my choice.
The event started the longer distances earlier and staggered the starts. The idea was for everyone to finish about the same time and have a real festival atmosphere at the end. (Last year the rain seemed to kill that plan) This meant that I should get there at a particular time to do the route. Owing to my typical lack of get up and go this year, I did not make it in time for the early start. Fortunately, I had decided the night before that I would just do the 80km ride.
There were, according to the announcement I heard at the finish line festival, 3600 people signed up for the event. I have no doubt that was true. There were so many people on the course and the weather was fantastic. It was perfect riding weather. It also meant that most of the people were wearing their jerseys. Last year, most people except myself had on lots of cool weather and rain protection.
The event went off without a hitch. The rest stops were well equipped and had lots of food, snacks, drinks, and lip balm (raspberry/chocolate) to boost the riders. All of the organizers and participants were very friendly.
Unlike last year when I met some people to ride with, I didn’t manage that this year. I couldn’t find anyone going at my pace until the end when a gentleman called me by my name (it’s on the back of my jersey) and explained that I had been ahead of him the whole route. We got to talk while they were cleaning my bike at the end pit stop.
I did manage to meet someone at the food festival. Since a meal and a beer were included in the ticket, I took the opportunity to sit down at a vacant seat at a picnic table. Being alone, I just took a spare seat. Fortunately, I was joined by a lovely woman who had joined the event last minute but had really enjoyed herself. Her enthusiasm was quite powerful and really helped put the day in perspective. I wish I could have sat there for a few more hours drinking beer and chatting…but then I would have had to reapply my sunscreen.
Last year, I set my all time speed record going downhill in the rain racing against a much better female cyclist. I was motivated to cruise down that hill quite fast. This year, I came upon the same downhill slope again and incredibly bested my speed from last year. I think I could have gotten up over 80, but there were people I was coming up to and was afraid they might swerve. I didn’t brake, but I changed my posture to absorb a bit more wind resistance. It was still an incredible feeling, and I would probably drive to that hill to do it all over again.