Tour Of Hope - City Walk, Universal Studios CA - October 11, 2003

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Jan and I arose before sunrise to get ready and meet a riding buddy (Ken Mercurio) to car pool down to the Universal City Walk. We arrived and got the bikes and bodies ready for the ride. The tires required increased air pressure, and we needed reduced bladder pressure. Fortunately, there were no lines to use the porta-potties.

I had to buy a new bike two weeks before the ride when I found a crack in the frame of my old bike. Such an auspicious event deserved a new bike anyway. My 22-year-old Nishiki with 30,000+ miles had given me good service. My new Trek has 12 more gears, weighs less, and costs less than my old Nishiki - what a deal!

We checked in at the registration desk and received a little transmitter to attach to our ankles. They were used to track the riders in case anyone got off course. This was no ordinary bike ride!

I was one of 500 riders gathered around a stage for a personal message from Lance Armstrong. The 26 riders dressed in their yellow jerseys who would be team relaying across the country were introduced. Lance and the 26 led us out of City Walk to begin the ride. It was slow going at first with 500 riders being funneled through the narrow passage out of City Walk to the main street.

The first 10 miles west passed quickly with mostly a downhill ride across the Valley before we turned to go north on Woodley Ave. at the Sepulveda Basin. That's where we experienced the first faux pas of the tour. A misinformed officer sent a number of riders including me in the wrong direction. The ride was temporarily stopped to regroup. I only saw one of the cross-country riders with a yellow jersey. They had apparently deviated from the published loop course to begun their journey east.

Motorcycle cops blocked cross traffic at intersections, so we didn't have to stop and wait on red lights. Riders were to stay in the right lanes leaving the left lane open for the shuttling cops blaring reminders on their loudspeakers to the riders crossing into their lane.

I was happy that I had the additional low gears on my new Trek when we hit a step uphill as Woodley wound around the Van Norman Dam area in the Santa Susana Mountains. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I tried to keep up with Ken. Despite my best effort Ken slowly pulled away. My 8+ years in flat Ohio hadn't prepared me for this. At the summit we turned east onto Foothill Blvd. I rolled into the 20-mile aid station to fill my water bottle and pop some PowerBar Nuggets. They left my throat dry. I needed to wash them down with more water to clear my throat to keep from choking.

Spinning through Sylmar and San Fernando, the occasional aroma of
Mexican cuisine permeated the air. Unfortunately, a taco break was not considered part of the tour! I stopped at the 30-mile aide station for some PowerGel, guzzling a couple of bottles of water to wash it down. The line waiting to use the Andy Gumps convinced me that I could wait until the next stop. A block away there was a slight delay waiting for a freight train to pass, so it was an opportune time to take a break anyway. The next 10 miles were mostly a long uphill grind through Sunland and Tujunga. I pulled up to and introduced myself to a young rider with UCSD on his shorts. Just before I pulled away I told him that I was in the class of '68. Later near the top of the hill he pulled up beside me. Hmmmm…..could old guy passing young guy be a motivating factor?

Just before the 40-mile aide station the tour was stopped to wait for the stragglers. I met up with Ken and several other young riders from Nestle Glendale. They were easy to spot riding in their PowerBar jerseys. I was in need of water and wondering why the stop was just short of the aide station. After about a 10-minute wait we were allowed to start rolling again. I stopped at the 40-mile aide station for only several minutes. My bladder pressure still wasn't high enough to wait in line.

I jumped back on my bike with a group of other riders with plans to catch the peloton. To our surprise the police escort through the intersections disappeared. It was frustrating to have to stop at intersections at this point of the ride because it was primarily a long downhill through La Crescenta and Glendale to Griffith Park. It's really a bummer to have to brake on a downhill due to the energy and sweat invested to get up the hill, i.e., the downhill ride is the return on the uphill investment.

I passed by the 50-mile aide station in Griffith Park sensing that the end was near. To my relief patrol cars and motorcycle cops were back closing the intersections to cross traffic again. Several miles to the finish there were two relatively short climbs. The heat was rising as my head started a slow bake under my helmet. My water bottle was empty, but the end was only around the corner or maybe the next corner and so on…. until I finally pulled into the finish area. My time was roughly 4 hours to do the 60-mile loop - not bad given the challenges of the course and 57+-year-old legs.

I found Jan and Ken in the finish area. After guzzling down a couple of bottles of water and sports drink, I turned in my transmitter and received a yellow Tour of Hope T shirt. White was the standard issue - yellow was given to cancer survivors.

At the closing ceremony we heard from Lance again, LA's Mayor Hahn, and other sponsoring representatives. The final message was one of hope, awareness, and research to find a cancer cure.


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