"Do The Duel!" The challenge is issued every year. To turn it down would mark me as a coward. Everyone meets at the chosen spot to faceoff. My legs ready, locked and loaded, thought I might be blown away. Aid stations stand ready to mend the damage if possible, while at home my family divides my possessions.
Why is all this happening?
Because I entered the Desperado Duel bike race in Panguitch, Utah.
It is a big 109-mile loop in Southern Utah from Panguitch > Bryce > Antimony > Circleville > Panguitch with 3,200' of climbing and drop-dead gorgeous panoramic vistas in every direction, including Bryce Canyon National Park.
With a 3-2-1 countdown everyone safely rolls out towards Bryce Canyon via a paved bike path winding between tall pines and large red sandstone formations. The pace is comfortable, allowing time to enjoy a landscape packed with Technicolor pinks, magentas, oranges and reds framed in pine green with brilliant blue sky overhead. Wow! A perfect way to start the day.
Pushing hard on the pedals I join the lead riders thinking this might be a key move. Nada. It's grupo compactoagain within a few minutes.
Miles and minutes click by bouncing across open range on fresh chip seal, only encountering one mini cattle stampede. In Black Canyon we rail a high-speed descent where the colorful pack strings out single file snaking through horseshoe turns at 40mph.
The pace is fast, but steady as the group works silently alongside a milk chocolate colored Sevier River. In Centerville silence is broken when a rider puts a front wheel in a pot hole, going down with a thud and the sound of expensive Chinese carbon scraping asphalt. Luckily, he is the only casualty and is none the worse for wear, showing only road rash strawberries and a bruised ego.
On auto-pilot now with the finish in sight at the far end of Panguitch Valley we pass the last aid station to a deafening roar. "Go Dad! Go Dad! Good job Isiahhhh!"
Without any fans to yell "Go old guy!" I plead with my legs to hold on a little longer as my twinges now include pangs.
I try to pedal gingerly, stretch and think soft fluffy gentle thoughts. This mind-over-matter approach worked 25 years ago earning me a victory.
Today I'm not so lucky. Legs won't turn. Stretching is definitely out of the question and my body won't fall for that whole mind-over-matter fluffy trick again.
Soon Isiah's kids run up to great him, his son beaming with excitement as he says "Dad I want to Do The Duel!"
You couldn't find a better event to start a lifelong love affair with cycling than the Desperado Duel, especially since kids ride free at all Ride Southern Utah events.
It is truly one of the Best in The West.
He writes about his Bucket Rides in all their variety and glory for Granfondo.com. See his pieces here