At 0705 hrs a cannon fired across Scott Street, Witchita Falls to set the mules off on their very first organised centurion ride. 'The 2009 Hotter than Hell'
From 0600 hrs we had queued up with 14,000 other cyclists in what must be the biggest century ride in America, if not globally. Prior to the start we were treated to Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson singing the American national anthem and a flyover from Sheppard Air Force Base with their T38 Trainer jets.
At the start the temperature was a very pleasant 64 f .
The locals and more seasoned Hotter tan hell competitors described this as being cool.
I thought the whole thing was 'cool' but that had nothing to do with the temperature.
I thought that the temperature was perfect.
I can just imagine waiting with my bike in England at six o'clock in the morning.
At the very least I would have required a mug of steaming coffee, coat, woolly hat and ear muffs even if it was the middle of the summer.
We set off in 'the scorchers' category about one block from the start line or about 2,000 people back.
The 'scorcher' status apparently meant that we expected to maintain an average of between 18 and 20 mph.
The first few miles were very tricky with thousands of riders jostling for positions and trying to find their own rhythm.
Despite that, the Mules soon established got going with a high tempo and developed an early pace line.
We scorched up the outside of the pack at about 25 mph.
With our distinctive blue and red shirts and tight disciplined formation we looked great and soon had a stream of riders hitching a lift onto our ever increasing 'mule train'.
(L to R - Kenny, Simon, Paddy and Me)
As the sun came up the temperature rose into the high 80's f warming our limbs and casting a stream of symmetric shadows onto the road, illustrating the precision our riding.
It was like the scene from a western, alongside the 'mule train' there was the good, the bad, and the dammed right ugly.
The good was exemplified my the camaraderie, support and warmth of other riders who we encountered.
The bad was the lack of consideration by a few riders. If it was not for the individual skills and dexterity of a large number of riders there would have been literally hundreds of accidents and casualties. I personally lost count of the near misses I witnessed where riders completed daft manoeuvres putting everyone around them at risk. On two occasions I had to break so hard that my rear wheel locked up. It was only through good fortune that I did not join the 'honorable Road Rash Society'
The Uglywas the the sight of other cyclist in pain or cut and battered by the side of the road
(L to R - Sean, Kenny, Dave)
(L to R - Sean, Kenny, Dave)
After 60 miles we were averaging 21.5 mph and looking to set a great time, however Paddy was starting to suffer. He was still suffering the after affects of a crash two weeks previously where ha had broken a couple of ribs he was in a lot of pain.
We started to stop at all of the rest stops to give him a break and to show our unity.
It was great to see the abundance of local volunteers handing out drink, food and wet towels with a smile and supporting encouragement.
The last forty miles were completed at an easier pace and we all crossed the line together at an average speed of 19.6 mph The finishing line was punctuated by a strategically placed fire hose that cooled us down, I needed no invitation to joint the wet cycle kit contest.
The Mules did good !!!!! Well done guys.
The rest of the day and evening were highlighted with serious hydration treatment and actively publicising the virtues of the Mules. This will be covered in Hotter Than Hell part 2 tomorrow.