Ben Houston writes…..
This annual BP sponsored bike ride supporting people living with MS is a truly Texas sized event. It’s a 2 day bike ride, from Houston to Austin; day one is a 100 mile mainly flat route and day two 76 miles taking in some Texas hill country where Lance learned his trade. Some 13000 riders took part this year. Bob & Ben Houston rode with Team SBM Offshore – one of the many corporate sponsored teams in the event.
Day 1 (Houston – Bellville – La Grange)
The day started before dawn with the first of many sandwiches eaten and a quick photo shoot outside Bob’s apartment before we set off. The official start was about a 10 mile ride away, so we headed out with lights on at a leisurely pace. Upon arrival at the SBM office we found that the rest of the team were so eager to get going that they started 10 minutes early! Luckily Team Captain Brenda Shumate was on hand to give us directions on which way to go. Soon we formed a small group of 4 riders and were collecting more as we got nearer the official route. Once on the route there was no need for a map, every road junction was marshalled by a sheriff and there was a huge pack of riders, strung out for many miles occupying the entire right hand lane of the road.
A low level fog most of the morning kept the temperature below 25°C, and a gentle tail wind saw the first 50 miles fly past in just over 3 hours. We had caught and passed quite a few of the SBM riders by the food stop in Bellville, where more sandwiches were consumed (Peanut Butter and Jelly this time – surprisingly quite a good combination!).
The next 50 miles were considerably tougher, as the fog and tailwind both disappeared to be replaced with 30°C sunshine and a gradually more rolling terrain.
We crossed the day one finish line having covered 108 miles in 7 hours of riding, and the sight of a margarita machine and beer cooler in the team tent was extremely welcome!
Day 2 (La Grange – Bastrop – Austin)
Another early start and we set off as soon as there was sufficient light. 1995 was the last time I rode more than 100 miles in one day (and on that occasion it involved a low profile TT machine and an Essex dual carriageway) so I had all sorts of aches and pains for the first 10 miles. Bob had done a few events like this one (although not for a couple of years) and was in much better shape during these early miles.
There was a choice of routes on Day 2, and we elected to take the ‘Challenge’ route which took in 15 miles through one of the State Parks. Fortunately we both had triple chainsets as we saw quite a few riders run out of gears and forced to walk up some of the steeper inclines. Descending these steep narrow park roads in a loosely grouped bunch was sometimes a bit hairy, especially when crossing boarded over cattle grids.
More sandwiches at the food stop, this time courtesy of Subway, then we pressed on to get to the finish before the temperatures creeped up again. The rest of the days terrain was more rolling than day 1 but not as severe as the State Park. We did not really take advantage of the downhill sections as I needed these to freewheel and rest!
Finally downtown Austin was in sight, although there were a few short sharp hills before we could ride through the closed city centre circuit with barricades, crowds, music, just like a Tour finish. Day two’s 76 miles took us 5 hours and 15 minutes, which meant that we had done just enough to keep the average speed over 15mph for the weekend – much quicker than either of us had anticipated. A well run event, which we’d do again (although would think twice about the Challenge route!) and made possible by our great support crew.