By David Ward
Back in 2015, for the first time in over 25 years, I found the cycling season winding down without having ridden a single century ride. Indeed, the longest ride I had done was a 53 miler from my home in Salt Lake to the Brighton Ski Resort at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
So it was that when I noticed the Tour de St. George Fall Century was set for October 25th, I saw a last opportunity to get in at least one century ride this year. I contacted my friend, Elliot Morris, who I knew did this event regularly. He confirmed he was going to ride it this year, so I tentatively planned to join him. Riding a bike is always fun, but riding with a good friend or group of friends is even better.
I say I tentatively planned to join him because, until the day before, I was still undecided. As I had ridden the LOTOJA as part of a relay team and not solo as I usually do, I had not trained for long distances. Indeed, I had not really trained at all. I just rode.
Having decided I might ride the Tour de St. George, I intended to get in a few rides of longer distance in order to prepare. However, work and life kept getting in the way. Finally, in early October, I got in my second ride this year of over 50 miles, a flat-lander of 53 miles while visiting my daughter in Fort Worth, TX. I say flat, but was surprised at the end of the ride to find my Garmin 510 had calculated over 2000 feet of climbing. Of course, compared to our mountains here, those rollers in Texas all seem pretty flat. Over 50 miles, though, they tend to add up.
Finally, the day before St. George, I decided for certain to go, but hedged by saying I might opt for the shorter 79 mile ride if I was not feeling up to the entire century. That would have also had the advantage of cutting out a good portion, and the longest section, of climbing included in the century ride.
The morning of the ride dawned clear, cool and blue, and at 8 a.m. we set off. For the next 100 miles, I had what I have to consider my most enjoyable and pleasant ride of the year. SpinGeeks, the folks who organized and put on this event, did a great job. Feed stops were well-placed and well-stocked (including home-made peanut butter and honey sandwiches, my main food source that day), the registration and support people were always friendly and seemed excited to serve, and the course, which had about 5500 feet of climbing, was well-laid out, signed and marked.
Indeed, the best part of the course was saved for last, and thankfully I was feeling good that day and did not opt for the 79 mile ride. Instead, I made the long climb to Veyo for which I was rewarded with one of the most beautiful sections of road for riding a bike, the stretch dropping from Veyo and winding down the canyon through Gunlock, past Gunlock Reservoir and on to the mouth of this stunningly scenic canyon.
The Tour de St. George is a great century ride, and a good way to finish off your century season, even if it is both your first and last one of the year. Elliot and I made the journey there and home again together. It was a real treat to spend time with a good friend traveling to and participating in an event doing something we both love: Riding our bikes.
Note: The fall Tour de St. George will be held again on October 26, 2019. The spring Tour de St. George will be held in April, 2020 (date TBA). For more information, visit http://ridesouthernutah.com.