Friday, May 25, 2007

Tale of two bike rides

Saturday, May 12, 2007 - North Texas Classic, Saginaw, TX

Sponsored by Saginaw Kiwanis, the North Texas Classic offered riders a choice of four rides: 10, 20 40, or 60 miles. I had to be at work on Saturday afternoon, so I chose the 40-mile route. It began at Boswell High School in Saginaw, then headed up along the east shore of Eagle Mountain Lake toward Newark, then north to Rhome, then southeast toward Avondale and along Hicks Airport and back to Saginaw.

Starting area at the North Texas Classic - Saginaw, TX

The ride itself did not seem very well attended; I'd estimate there were less than 300 riders on all the routes combined. This is only their third or fourth year to sponsor this ride, so maybe it will grow more popular in the years to come. I'm not a fan of huge crowds, but when I'm part of an organized ride, I don't want to feel like I'm the only one on the road. 20 miles into the ride, there were many times when I didn't see any other riders ahead of me or behind me, including on long straightaways.

the open road near Newark
(UP Duncan Subdivision tracks at left)

I was a bit disappointed at the 40-mile course. I didn't have any complaints about the route, except that it wasn't 40 miles... just 37.5 as I measured it. I stopped at two of the three rest areas along the course. None were crowded, and all were staffed by friendly volunteers offering Gatorade, water, bananas, orange slices, and cookies. The post-ride hot dogs, Cokes, and chips were a nice finish.

North Texas Classic finish

Saturday, May 19, 2007 - Cross Timbers Classic - Flower Mound, Texas

This was the ride I'd been looking forward to. Scheduled to start at Texas Motor Speedway, the Cross Timbers Classic promised riders on all routes (10, 30, 50, and 100 miles) an introductory lap around the race track.

Cycling at the speedway - Cross Timbers Classic 2007

This ride drew a much larger crowd; I'd estimate there were at least 1000 riders. The morning began with cloudy skies and light rain, but the ride started as scheduled, and we got make a complete lap before we exited TMS and headed out onto the highways. I overheard more than one rider saying that just the TMS lap made the ride worthwhile. It was definitely the most unique feature of any organized ride I've been on so far. I've driven by TMS countless times on I-35 and have even watched a few races on tv, but had never been there in person until the Cross Timbers Classic. Pedaling around the 1.5-mile track at ground level gives you a real sense of appreciation for how highly the turns are banked (24 degrees, according to the TMS website). I had no idea they were that high!

Lining up in pit row for the start of the Cross Timbers Classic

Leaving pit row, heading into Turn 1

Turn 1

Turn 4

I had decided in advance to ride the 50-mile route. After leaving TMS, we headed north to Justin, east to Argyle, and then through a series of backroads east of Argyle before heading back to Justin and TMS. It was a nice course; I'll probably go out and ride parts of it again on my own. I stopped at two of the rest areas for Gatorade, water, and bananas. Only one of the rest stops had cookies. Fortunately, the rain let up, but the skies stayed cloudy so it never got too hot. I finished my 50 miles with energy to spare. Back at TMS, there wasn't much in the way of post-ride festivities... the only food they had was smoked sausage and other barbecue that the sponsoring Rotary club was seeking "donations" for. I didn't have any cash with me and didn't see any ATM's around, so I called it quits and headed for home.

Cross Timbers Classic riders near Argyle

Final thoughts

These were the first two organized rides I have done where the courses use some of the same roads I use during my daily rides. It was cool to be part of an organized group on roads that I normally ride on my own.

As far as which of the two rides was better, I'd give the edge to the Cross Timbers Classic. It's hard to beat that introductory lap around the TMS track, and it was fun to be part of a larger group and not feel like I was out there all alone.

Memo for next year: the North Texas Classic might be worth checking out if you happen not to be doing anything else that day, but the Cross Timbers Classic is the one to mark on your calendar.


nr: June 2006 Railfan & Railroad

np: Mazzy Star - "Ghost on the Highway" from "She Hangs Brightly"

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