This past weekend, Paul and Franz competed as a two man relay team in the 25th Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race (see Prairie Dog Team Website). We were lucky to have Russ and Sheila crew again for us. We started on Saturday morning at 9:00 am and finished on Sunday afternoon at 5:17 pm, for a total time of 32 hours, 17 minutes.
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We started the trek on Friday. After loading up the van with bikes and supplies we headed down to Santa Clarita.
We had a few mishaps on the way down. The first one was Paul seeing in his rear view mirror that one of his spare wheels had bounced off the top of the van. We were on a freeway so we had to go to the next exit several miles down and back track. It was hard to figure out where the wheel was, so we stopped at a rest stop and searched. Sheila finally found it, still in good condition.
The other mishap was some exploding coke cans. We had put them near the dry ice to cool them fast, but they froze and exploded.
After arriving, Russ and Paul worked on getting the signs on the van and then we had the inspection.
Saturday morning it was up early and get ready. Since the start hotel was not that far from where we were staying, Franz decided to just bike over there instead of try to put his bike up on the top of the van.
It was a lot of fun to have so many friends at the start doing the race on other teams. Franz, Gary F. and Joe F. were at the starting line.
Franz did the “A” rider stages again this year so he started out with the first stage from the start to California City.
We had a police escort for the first 5 miles. The support vehicles have to drive out to the 24 mile mark and wait for the rides.
The 84 mile ride over to California City was fast with both a tailwind and a cross wind at times. Franz arrived at 1:25 pm and made the hand off to Paul. He then headed to Trona.
Paul made very good time on this state, averaging 20.3 mph.
This year we were doing much better which allowed us to drive the support vehicle on to Trona and wait. Last year we had to go into the follow the rider mode at 6 pm. Since we could get to the time station before 6 pm, we could drive ahead and be ready before Paul finished the stage. Franz decided to switch to his bike with the triple since he would be climbing Townes Pass.
Paul arrived at 5:27 PM, and Franz made my way towards Townes Pass as the sun was setting.
One stage that Franz didn’t feel like he did well on last year was this stage 3, from Trona to Furnace Creek. This year his time was 6:03 compared with 7:17 last year, so nearly a 45 minute improvement.
It was now dark as Franz started to climb up Townes Pass. Unlike last year, it was much warmer, but there was a strong headwind. Once he reached the summit, Franz switched to his other bike, which had the bright light on it. It was then a 5,000 foot drop down into Death Valley, then the long ride over to Furnace Creek.
At 10:56 pm, Paul took over and started the stage to Shoshone. That involves considerable climbing, up out of the Death Valley.
He arrived at 5:27 am, so we needed to do a night time switch, which meant Franz could not get out of the car and get the bike ready until after Paul reached the time station. It was still dark as Franz left for Baker. After 7:00 am, the support van could go ahead and get to Baker in time for Paul to enjoy a milkshake before Franz arrived.
Franz came flying into Baker at 8:53 am.
The stage to Baker was slower than last year but there was a headwind instead of the tailwind Franz had enjoyed previously. He was glad to get off the bike, if he could only get his leg over it! But when he did he found they had bought him a cheeseburger and fries. Wow that was great.
Powered by the milkshake, Paul made his way towards Kelso.
At 11:30 AM, Paul arrived at Kelso and Franz took the hand off and headed to Almost Amboy.
Being his last stage, Franz took off fast with the plan to ride this 33 miles as fast as he could, despite the climbing. Besides Franz had that power from the cheeseburger that he had eaten in the van on the way over.
After the 2,200 foot climb, it was a very long descent down to Almost Amboy. It was not as fast as last year when we had the tail wind but Franz still was able to average 18.9 mph. Paul then started the last stage to the finish.
Just before the finish, as is customary, Franz got back on the bike so we could cross the finish line together.
It was really the effort of the entire team, both riders and crew, that made this such a rewarding experience.
We were happy we finished 69 minutes faster than last year and within 7 minutes of our target (See Results).