My younger brother, Dave, acquired all the talent in the family gene pool, while I acquired all the desire. I asked him to recap El Tour De Mesa's 72-mile race this past Saturday. He's a front-of-the-pack kind of guy. I wondered what that might be like. Here's his review of the fabulously fast Web-Op Focus Team's day at the races. All photos courtesy of Web-Op.
The sun was up and the weather perfect for the 1200 riders making the 6:15 start time. The pack quickly fell into a nice groove and was rolling along comfortably at 30 mph for the first half hour or so of the race.
Being that the first 30 miles of the race is flat, it’s tough for anyone to get away off the front so the front pack usually has 300-400 riders that stick together, although it’s usually up to the top local cycling teams to drive the pace. Bicycle Haus from Scottsdale and RideClean from Phoenix are usually two of the teams with a strong presence, but this year Web-Op/Focus from east Mesa had the numbers and riders up front driving the peleton.
Halfway into the race the climb over Shea trims the pack of those who don’t like inclines, and after the fast descent through Fountain Hills, the climb up the Beeline to Bush Highway trims it a bit more. After a very fast descent past Saguaro Lake where the pace got up to 40 mph, the riders approached the last and hardest test of the day with the 3.5 mile climb of Usery Pass. This road comes around the 60-mile mark so at this point all riders are feeling the miles, fatigue, and heat from the pavement. What was once a pack of 100 or so riders at the start of the climb, quickly turned into small groups all over the road as the elite climbers screamed away at 20 mph, while others less inclined to lose their lungs settled in to grind away at 7-8 mph.
Once over the climb, the front pack of around eight to nine cyclist held a minute or so advantage over the chasing pack. Led by the Web-Op team which had four riders in this elite group, they were able to keep the wolves at bay and bring it in for the closing sprint.
A perfect day for the Web-Op team was just missed when a local rider for Carlos O’Briens narrowly out-sprinted two from Web-Op to take the win by less than a wheel length.
Great weather, great scenery, and better support from local governments this year (thank you Mayor Smith of Mesa) made this a memorable inaugural Tour de Mesa.