Monday, May 21, 2007

Skagit Headwind Classic

On Saturday, May 12, six cyclist set out to Burlington, WA to enjoy a 62-mile venture around Skagit and Whatcom counties in what is known as the Skagit Spring Classic. We, however, have renamed this year's ride the "Skagit Headwind Classic." And with good reason.

The weather, for an early May morning, was surprisingly pleasant. I decided to remove my fenders and throw caution and superstition to the wind... literally, it would turn out. The sun was burning through the clouds and the rain was nowhere near the Skagit flats. Oh, but there was wind.

This year's route was a reverse of 2006, which was a nice change. We set out riding south and a short loop to the east before heading north to Chuckanut Drive. Riding south, we would discover, was the best direction of all with a nasty wind coming from the northwest. But our south and east riding was very short lived and once we turned north, we tucked into a tight paceline, fought for all we were worth, and maintained a 16-18 mph pace that felt like we riding hard enough to push 22 mph. At one point, we wondered what speed we could ride into the wind to stay upright yet perfectly still. Yeah, the wind was brutal.

We found relief once we reached the protective covering of Chuckanut Drive with it's old growth trees lining the cliffs overlooking Bellingham Bay. The sun shining on our first rest stop--with a huge spread of homemade cookies and the usual biker food--made the day look like the worst was behind us. We bombed down the descents of Chuckanut and then turned east to Lake Whatcom. We broke free of the trees and found bright sunshine warming us up.

After crossing I-5 and turning south, we reached our second rest stop at Donovan Park and gave thanks for a southerly heading. After grouping back up, enjoying the spread, and making the necessary visits to the boys' room, we began our return to Burlington. We met our biggest climb of the day as we ascended Bow Hill Road. We were once again riding west and finding that the headwind from the morning was still blowing strong. In fact, it was now a will of the spirit to keep the cranks churning forward with turn to the west or north. We turned at Edison and headed south along Padilla Bay. The views along the water were gorgeous and to add to our pleasure, we were finally riding south with the wind at our back.

The finish line was now in sight and the taste of Elementary kitchen-prepared spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad, was tantalizing our taste buds. Hey, we had just ridden 62 miles with more than a third of it in a nasty headwind... We wanted our darn spaghetti! We were hungry and we earned it! We congratulated each other on a strong effort, chatted about our next ride, agreed that the day was beautiful and the wind was awful, but to steal the old golfer's quote, "The worst day cycling is still better than the best day at the office." Then again, my office sure doesn't have a headwind like today.

Dist: 62.48
Time: 4:11:33
Max: 31.7
Riders: Johnny, Bob T, Jim, Bob H., Bryant, Rick

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