Saturday, November 2nd I cycled in the 30th annual Tour de Gruene. This was my first time riding Tour de Gruene, though I had heard of it for many years. 2013 essentially was the first year I did any major bike rides, having focused on running until some injuries forced me onto the bike.
Tour de Gruene begins from the tiny town of Gruene in Central Texas, rides into the edges of the Hill Country, and returns along the scenic River Road along the Guadalupe River. A week prior to the event torrential rains raised the river level ten feet and washed out part of the road, but county crews quickly repaired the damage. Aside from some water still trickling on the road from higher ground, there was no visible sign of damage. Over 2,000 cyclists participated, and the event was split into four distances, ranging from 35 to 65 miles. I chose the 65 mile route, which was advertised as “hilly” and “challenging.” They did not lie.
I arrived in Gruene early, while it was still dark. Daylight savings time didn’t start until the following day, and I prepped my bike in darkness. My goal was simply to finish between 3:30 and 3:45, since I rode with a gimpy knee and spotty training the past few months. At 8am the 65 mile riders took off through the streets of Gruene. First issue was to negotiate and steep downhill, which is easy with few cyclists, but not so easy with many people on the road. I then settled into a normal pace ride, passing many riders (and getting passed by a few). I knew the hills lay ahead so this was my warmup. After five miles the climbing started, a long stretch of rising hills. Here a few stronger cyclists passed me, though some I later saw again when the road dipped or flattened and I could get into decent speed again.
I decided not stop at any of the aid stations, and pushed onward into the hills above Canyon Lake. Saw many home advertised with “lake views” even though the view might at best have been a sliver of blue in the distance. Though the day started chilly it warmed up, and I was glad the only concession to the cold that I had made was an undershirt and some thin full-finger gloves. The gloves later became a liability as I could not open some food bars and bonked ca. 50 miles into the ride.
By then I was on River Road, where I usually maintain a decent 20mph pace. This time the road was clogged with cyclists, and my legs were cramping. I knew at the end a big hill loomed, so I reluctantly pulled over, took off my gloves, and ate some energy bars and chews. I got back on the bike and when we reached the hill found it easier than normal. At the top I surged passed other riders and once again felt good. I maintained that feeling until the end, which taught me that I had not fueled properly through the ride. After 65 miles it was good to get back. I finished in 3:43 so within my goal zone. I’m not a great climber, but on the flats I felt good, and any slight downhill I felt better.
I packed my bike and wandered through the finishing area. In a town hall like bar I attempted to buy a beer to cool down, but after the bartender passed me over for several other people who arrived after me, I walked out and bought one in a less crowded place.
Strangely enough this was my fourth-longest ride of the year – two 100+ miles, one 72 mile ride, and now the 65 miles. Usually I ride 40-50 miles as my long rides, so that might explain the cramping. I need some more 4 hour plus rides to build strength and endurance. I may bike Tour de Gruene again, as I was impressed by the course and organization. We shall see in 2014.