Gran Fondo, Houston Oaks, TX
March 30, 2014
This is a recommended ride for the Houston MS150. Although several hours drive from DFW, this ride was definitely worth the drive. This is a huge ride with over 2000 riders. The energy was amazing! And unlike other rides, you would never find yourself out on the course alone. The start: This was my first year doing this ride and I had no idea how large it was so I didn't leave enough time to park, pick up my packet, and make the 7:30 start. It took over 30 minutes just to make it 2 miles down the street leading to the start location. But once there, there was plenty of parking and packet pick up was fast. They did, however, run out of small t-shirts (nice tech shirts). So I didn't start until around 8, but there were hundreds of riders who started after me. Advice - get there early, like 6-6:30. Great music playing at the start, btw. The route: Mostly good roads with a few rough spots, but they were clearly marked and were short. I rode the 103 mi route (3200+ ft climbing). All routes were out and back, clearly marked, with the turn-around for the century at the 50 mile mark. They had a gate at around the 40 mile mark, which closed at 10:30, if you wanted to do the century. Not a lot of steep climbs, but lots of long gradual climbs. The ride into Anderson was especially tough - few flats with several steep climbs. The view was amazing in many parts! We just don't have views like that in NTX. Support: The support on this ride was unparalleled. All major intersections had traffic control. Many ride marshals on the route, motorcycle support every few miles, and numerous sag wagons. Mother Nature was not too kind this year. The out route was great. Although it was cold at the start, it warmed up nicely by mid morning. But oh the wind on the return! 53 miles into 20+ mph headwinds. Brutal! The sag volunteers worked tirelessly sagging in what seemed like hundreds of fatigued riders who just couldn't make it to the finish. Rest stops: I only made 2, but both were adequately stocked. PBJ would have been nice at the 50 mi rest stop though. It was, however, available at others from what I could tell. At the second stop, they had a gentleman playing the violin, which was nice. The finish: Boxed deli lunches were provided at the country club at the end, picnic style. They had plenty of bike racks up, which was great. For those that finished around noon, there was also a raffle and entertainment, which I missed. But lunch hit the spot. Note: If you want to bring the family, do, as they let them use the country club facilities for the day. The organizers thought of everything on this ride. Will definitely do this ride next year. I highly recommend it! And if you do, make sure to visit The Backdoor Pizza in town for your pre-ride dinner - a little hole in the wall old-school pizza place serving NY style pizza. As close to NY pizza as I've found anywhere in TX! You will not be disappointed!