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Special WOW Race Report

Ride Report for the Fairbanks WOW at the July 13, 2024 Fireweed:

I personally had never done the Fireweed Bicycle Race Across Alaska (Sheep Mtn Lodge to Valdez) before and decided this would be the year to do it! The 200 relay sounded good. Maria and Mallory both agreed right away to joining the fun and we signed up at the end of May. (We signed up as a team of 3 in the Open category). A little over a week out Olivia wanted to join, and the race officials added her. So then we were a team of 4, in the open category.

Preparations were stressful! We needed a secure way to transport 3-4 bikes. Maria’s awesome husband built a wooden stand custom to the back of his truck we would all be trading off driving. This stand turned out to work quite well! Way easier (and cooler looking) than a store bought bike rack. We all agreed on riding short 3-7 mile distances, and ‘sprint’ our legs to be fast. Maria had a spreadsheet she used to assign relay legs and determine pullouts we could use. This spreadsheet was really helpful during the race! (Although I kept reminding everyone to plan to ride an extra 2-3 mile in case the planned pullout was full or did not exist).

Race day approaches and the forecast is for rain and wind, fun! Race morning everyone camped at Sheep Mountain Lodge woke to overcast skies and dry roads. Which was a surprise! The dry roads lasted until just after 8 am when Mallory tagged off to me 5.5 miles in (first exchange) and it started raining. We rode hard each leg and tried to master our relay exchanges but at first we were too fast cycling our legs! It was a struggle to be ready to go in time! A few exchanges later and we had a nice system down. Of course right after Glennallen and the Copper Center construction, I noticed my front tire very flat (a slight mess up of our system). The tire had to be changed in the most mosquito crazy pullout (there were so many bugs). With a big helping hand from Maria, we were able to get it fixed. I may have eaten some mosquitos in the process. Olivia had to ride my planned segment but that was fine, at least one of us was out pedaling the team closer to Valdez!

The rain paused for a bit which was nice. As we approached the top of Thompson Pass, rain picked up and it was quite wet. Olivia rode up the north side of Thompson Pass. There was very thick fog, low visibility and there may have been sleet and wind (Olivia and Mallory get bonus points for riding in that). We gave descending the pass to Mallory, as she is a fearless downhill rider, and she did not disappoint! She passed off to me for my final segment through Keystone Canyon which was wet but I pushed hard anyway. I tagged off to Olivia. We thought after Olivia tagged off to Maria it would be 8 miles to the finish, but nope, 16 more to go! Oops, a miscalculation on remaining miles. We forgot about the out and back! Maria rode 10 miles and tagged off to Mallory and Olivia for the final push to the finish! It was a wet finish but we completed it in under 12 hrs! Go team!

Approximate total miles: Mallory: -56, Olivia: -50 something, Maria: -49, Erica: -42. Average speed ranged from 17 to 20 mph. Short legs were the way to go!

Total time: 11 hrs 21 minutes. 11th overall and 2nd in Open category. Had we been able to ride as a 4-person women’s team, we would have won for the women’s 4-person relay category! Oh well, we all had a great time. Despite the crummy weather, we still smiled and found ways to mostly stay dry. No matter how much rain was falling, how windy it got or how many mosquitoes buzzed around our heads at the pullouts, we had a great time! Only one flat. Was a really fun experience! It was great to see so many other Fairbanks cyclists riding in this race. What a fun time!

07-17-2024: WOW ride #14

It was perfect weather for our WOW ride tonight. Since they are still doing construction on the Old Steese out in Fox (our scheduled ride) we decided to do the July 3rd ride which got cancelled due to high winds. Only three showed up to ride tonight.

But before I talk about our ride, I need to give a shout out to WOW riders Erica, Mallory, Olivia and Maria who rocked the Fireweed 200 race last Saturday. They finished second in the 4-person open division and were only a few minutes behind the first-place team. Conditions were challenging with cold, wind, rain and fog but they rose to the challenge and kicked butt! Go WOW!!

Back to our ride. Kim couldn’t find her biking shoes so brought her gravel bike with fatter knobbier tires and flat pedals. She knew she wouldn’t be able to keep up with us. The ride started with a loop around Yankovich and Miller Hill before heading out Gold Hill to Parks Highway to Cripple Creek, then Potter then down Rosie Creek before heading back on Chena Pump. So we told her to skip the first loop and just head out Gold Hill and we would see how long it took for us to catch her.

Well, it took us much longer than I expected. We didn’t catch Kim until almost at the bottom of Rosie Creek Road! I thought she would ride more leisurely by herself, but she took this as a challenge and pushed herself the whole way. In fact, on Gold Hill she heard something hit the ground so turned around and saw her rear light had fallen off. She thought a moment, but it was a little way back and she knew we were coming for her. So she said forget it and got back on her bike and kept riding. She kept looking over her shoulder for us and when she didn’t see us would keep pushing ahead. That’s the WOW spirit!

When we were starting the climb up Potter, we thought we saw her at the top and yelled. She heard something and thought it might be us so instead of taking a break or waiting, she started bombing downhill!

As we passed her she stuck to our wheel and managed to stay in our paceline for several miles, even taking a pull at the front and not decreasing the pace at all. I don’t know how she did that on those fatter knobby tires with a smaller front chain ring. She is a strong rider for sure. After her pull at the front we did drop her but she finished only a couple of minutes behind us.

We had a good laugh when she told us about not stopping to get her taillight. That’s dedication! She did drive back afterwards and found it and it was still working so all was well. It was such a fun night for a ride!

Stats:
Distance: 25.5 miles
Avg Speed: 17.2 mph

07-10-2024: WOW Ride #13 – Out and back from Chatanika Lodge

Report by Erica

The weather was perfect for a ride tonight! Only four of us, Mallory, Maria, Kenzie and I. We started out at a brisk pace and rode out 15 miles. A bit windy but since every ride is windy I am getting used to it.

I got dropped on those hills 12-13 miles out (oh well). We regrouped at about 15 miles out and all rode back together. I didn’t let myself get dropped on those hills going back! We had some spots of tailwind which really helped. Rode faster on the way back and finished strong at the Chatanika Lodge! Nice evening, minimal traffic and excellent company. It’s been way too long since I have done that ride.

All four of us will be in the Fireweed this Saturday. Kenzie is riding the 200 solo, and Mallory, Maria and I are on a relay team. It felt great to get in a good speed workout with these ladies! Looking forward to the race this weekend. WOW Represent!

Distance: -30 miles
Average Speed: -20 mph
(Only one pic, rode too fast to take more).

06-26-2024: WOW Ride #11 – Farmers Loop-Old Steese-McGrath aka The Rerouted Ride to Cleaner Air

Report by Erica

All day the question was “What level will the smoke be by 6 pm?” It was moderate, so riding was a go! However where the schedule had us planned to go, was unhealthy for sensitive groups with the highest AQI than the east side of town. So, we rode east and away from the apocalyptic looking smoke clouds.

Temps were 86 at the start (sooo hot)! Four of us rode (Heidi, Maria, Kenzie and I). We set out at a brisk pace, Heidi leading the charge. We rode out Farmers Loop from UAF, up Old Steese, down McGrath then back on Farmers Loop. The whole ride out was tailwinds, which got us worried the smoke cloud would blow back while we were out. We turned up Old Steese and it was super hot and humid and the air thick to breathe. Not smokey though. Before McGrath Kenzie and Maria switched bikes for the McGrath descent (they switch back on Farmers Loop). We all zoomed down McGrath.

Riding back we had constant headwinds but still no smoke. Phew! Heidi and Maria kicked in the high gear and pushed a fast pace from Ballaine to UAF. We all had fun and it was great to see Heidi and Maria back with the group! Great evening to be out enjoying the less smokey air. Even if it was extremely hot.

Distance: -23.7
Average Speed: 17.9-18 mph (definitely not an easy paced ride)

06-19-2024: WOW Ride #10 – Another warm and windy but no rain ride

Report by Corrine

It was quite the small group tonight, just 3 WOW showed up at Musher’s Hall to ride. For a while, I thought I might be the only one. The fastest WOW riders were all missing in action tonight, so I led the charge up the hills. Kind of reminded me of about 10 years ago when I did that regularly! The weather was nearly perfect except for those pesky headwinds that seemed to be there no matter what direction we were biking!

We headed out Farmer’s Loop and then up Skyline. That hill never gets easier. It gets steeper and steeper the further up it you go. At the top it ranges between 14 and 16% grades. Ufda! My legs were tired. But then we got to bomb down Skyridge. The ride was supposed to head north out the Old Steese, but construction started on that section. We decided to check it out anyway, and I’m glad we did because only the shoulder was torn up and no construction crews were working. We made it through with no problems.

Looking at the approaching clouds from the north, we decided to not go out to the Pedro Monument as planned but turned around and headed back on the Steese. Good thing we did as by the time we got to Hagelbarger we got hit with a few raindrops. We managed to outride them as we bombed back down the Old Steese and made it back to our cars just as the thunder was booming. Perfect timing.

Stats:
Distance: 20.25 miles
Avg speed: 16.1 mph
Elevation gain: 1424 feet

06-12-2024: WOW Ride #9 Windy, Warm and no Rain

Report by Corrine

Tonight’s ride was out the Parks to the Monument then down to Cripple Creek and up Isberg and down Chena Ridge. We got lucky with the weather. It was smoky and rainy this morning, but conditions improved as the day progressed. By the time our ride started there were patches of sunny sky all around us. And even though it was quite windy with headwinds the first half, we never got rained on. We had 5 WOW riders tonight, one was new and one was returning after a 5-year hiatus in which she had 2 kids and built a house! Welcome back, Carolyn!

The 2 newbies realized quickly that they wouldn’t be able to keep up, so they did a shorter ride and had a lot of fun. They called themselves the JV WOW, but I think we can come up with a better name! In fact, there are several women that are slightly slower than the fast-paced WOW riders. If you are interested in having a second WOW group going out at the same time but doing a slightly shorter and less intense ride, let Erica or me know. We would need 4-6 women to commit to coming fairly frequently so there would always be at least 2 to ride together. It would be great to have a slightly slower group of women that starts with us.

But back to the ride. As we started up the long climb to the Parks Monument, I waved Erica and Kenzie to go past me. Erica said, “No thanks, I’m going to ride chill for a little while longer before going harder.” What? My go-as-hard-as -I-possibly-can-up-this-hill pace was chill for her?! Oh well, a few moments later, she turned on the gas and she and Kenzie outpaced me up the hill although not by as much as I expected.

After taking a photo at the monument, we bombed back down the Parks. It was a little scary as there were some patches of gravel on the shoulder that I took at a pretty fast speed. I did redeem myself by getting down the hill faster than the other two at least.

After summitting Isberg, with me once again lagging behind, we headed down Chena Ridge. I had checked this morning on the way in to work, and the paving was finished – although the lines hadn’t been painted on yet. It sure was fun to bomb down on new, smooth pavement. Woohoo!

Just as we crossed Geist to finish our ride through the subdivision and back to UAF, I got a text from the other two. They had finished their ride. They ended up turning onto Cripple Creek, instead of going to the monument, for a total of 19 miles and had a great time together. And decided they would come back to ride together when they were in town. So if there are other slightly less fast JV WOW’s out there, let me know. And let’s come up with a better name for you guys, too!

Stats:
Distance: 27.5 miles
Avg speed: 16.2 mph
Elevation Gain: 1978 feet – a pretty climby ride
Maximum speed: 42.5 mph on that sweet new pavement

06-05-2024: WOW Ride #8 – Riders of the Storm

Report by Erica

Only three of us (Corrine, Mallory and I) showed up. There were storm clouds about and threats of rain and potential hail. Looking towards Farmers Loop it looked fine. We set out for the planned ride (Farmers Lp, McGrath, Old Steese, Goldstream and back by Sheep Crk).

We rode a nice temp pace in dry weather until the fire station in Goldstream. There it started raining, hailing and raining more. The wind which had been strong the whole ride, was stronger. Mallory and I saw lightning flashes out towards Murphy Dome and Ester. By the time we got to Ballaine we opted to take it, as the storm was right over where we were planning to ride. By this point we had put rain jackets on but were soaked anyways. Ballaine had experienced some very heavy rains.

Made it back to UAF as the last of the storm passed. We were three dirty storm riders. We still enjoyed the ride! Despite getting soaked and dirty.

Average speed: 17.5 mph
Distance: -27 miles
Max speed: 50.3 mph (Mallory)

05-29-2024: WOW ride # 7

Report by Corrine

WOW Wait for No One!

We had to change our route due to the repaving of Chena Ridge. We did not want to ride uphill with a pilot car and traffic and 2 miles of gravel. Instead, we decided to do the flat, but fun ride around the airport. We went rogue last year on one ride and did it. It ended up being a super fun, fast ride. So, we decided to do it again tonight.

7 WOW showed up to ride in spite of the ominous dark clouds and gusty winds that were getting closer. I had a weather alert for strong thunderstorms from 5-8 PM. Oh, oh! Maria checked her weather app and it looked like the worst of the thunderstorms would be passing south of us. We decided to go for it, we could always turn around if the weather got bad.

Spoiler alert, although we had wicked winds with strong gusts, we never got rained on. Even the women who biked from home made it back home before the rain hit. The weather gods were definitely smiling down on us tonight!

We started out with a nice paceline with everybody taking short pulls due to the strong headwinds. Just after I got to the back of the line I heard pssst from my tire. Oh, no! I must have hit something and have a flat. I yelled at Erica who was in front of me, and I think she yelled to others, but they all kept going. I guess WOW wait for no one, not even their leader with a mechanical. I stopped but my tire was fully inflated. I started riding again and heard the pssst again. I stopped again and realized my brake was rubbing. I quickly adjusted it but by then the group was long gone.

Nothing to do but get aero, put my head down and ride as hard as I could to catch them. Unfortunately, I rode so hard that I missed the turn to Van Horn and didn’t realize it until I was almost at Fred Meyer by Airport Way. Dang! I turned around, texted Erica, “Where are you?” and started back again. As I got to Van Horn, I wondered where they were. Looking ahead I could barely see a rider in the distance and a bright orange shirt past her. That must be them. I put my head down and kept riding as hard as I could.

I finally caught Erica who had gotten dropped and I pulled her along until we got over the bridge. We didn’t know which way the group had gone back, but Erica and I decided to ride the broken-up bike path back to the Geist/Parks Hwy intersection. We were able to make the light there without stopping and as we did, I could see the others ahead on the bike path. I turned back on the speed, dropping Erica (sorry Erica!) and tried to catch them. I caught them just as we were about back at the parking lot (mainly because they slowed down a little)! I basically time trialed over two-thirds of the ride.

Everybody was back except Jordan. I hadn’t seen her at all. We got a little worried so split up and rode back to find her. The other group found her on Loftus. She didn’t even slow down as she was noticing the dark clouds and wanted to get home before the storm let loose. I texted with her later and she had a nice, mostly solo ride tonight and made it home dry.

I promise, next time I’ll make sure the fast ones wait up occasionally to pick up the stragglers. They did tell me they wondered where I was but then decided that I would be okay regardless, as I was the leader. Thanks for the vote of confidence! You did force me to go really hard with no breaks tonight! And glad my mechanical was a non-issue.

Distance: 22 miles
Avg speed: 18.7 mph – would have been faster if the winds weren’t so crazy!
Elevation gain: 230 feet!

05-22-2024: WOW Ride #6 – Old Nenana Ride

Report by Maria

It was a small group for this evening’s ride up the Old Nenana Highway. The group consisted of our fearless leader Erica, Hannah, Mallory and myself. We all met at the Ester community park with Mallory. She arrived right at 6 after battling a headwind all the way from Goldstream Sports.

We joked about doing an easy ride, but who are we kidding? This is WOW. We don’t do easy.
A grueling pace was set right out of the gate. When our fearless leader, Erica, got in the front she took the pace up a few notches! The four of us stayed in a tight group for the long uphill that marks the first 3.8 miles of Old Nenana. Thank goodness Hannah pulled me along near the end, otherwise I would have been dropped!

When we were nearing the top of the first section of the hill – Erica’s front tire bumped into Mallory’s rear tire, and BAM! Down Erica went! Hannah narrowly missed running over Erica and partially fell herself. I narrowly missed the pile up by a few inches! Erica did get some road rash, but was otherwise okay. After we made sure Erica was okay and her bike was operational, she decided to finish the remaining section of the hill before returning to her car early. This is why Erica is our fearless leader!

Hannah, Mallory and I pounded out the remainder of the Old Nenana ride; averaging 13 mph for the whole climb. Once we got to the intersection of Old Nenana and the Parks we decided to turn around early since we didn’t have our fearless leader to lead us! On the way back, the battery for Mallory’s wireless shifters started to die and she was stuck in her lowest gear! Hard to keep up with WOW if you can’t shift! Luckily her shifters came back to life and she was able to shift up for the downhill. Mallory then proceeded to smoke Hannah and me, clocking the max speed for the ride at 40 mph.

Average Speed: 16 mph
Total Distance 18.9 miles

05/15/2024: WOW Ride #5 War of Murphy Dome Road

Report by Jordan

WOW vs potholes and headwinds both ways.

Six of us started from UAF. We pulled away in a quick pace line and stayed together until the turn to Murphy Dome Road. On the first few hills, Kenzie took the line at a “don’t get dropped” pace and unfortunately Alex had to fend for herself with the brutal head wind. The rest of us managed to stay together and mostly avoided the potholes.

We regrouped at the top of Murphy dome and looked forward to a tailwind, which never came. We all stayed together on the way back!

Stats:
Average speed: 19.9
Top speed: 40mph!
30 miles!

05/08/2024: WOW Ride #4 Parks/Isberg/Chena Ridge

We had some sprinkles and some wind and some sun and some clouds but overall, it was a nice night for our WOW ride. And warm enough for shorts, too. 8 WOW showed up but only 6 of us rode together. Kim was back again but decided she wasn’t quite in biking shape so rode the loop by herself. A new WOW, Abby, showed up but also decided not to ride with us. She has a new TT bike and hadn’t ridden it outside yet so was nervous about riding in a group. Hopefully she gets it figured out and comes back.

Hannah definitely was feeling spunky tonight. She led us out around the roundabout and then immediately laid down the hammer and picked up the pace to about 25 mph. I could barely hold on. She must have had some nervous energy tonight, maybe due to her upcoming job interview! After we turned onto Gold Hill Road, Mallory took the lead and slowed down the pace enough that I was able to hang on up the first slight uphill. I did get dropped on the second hill but not by too much and we all continued up the Parks Highway together.

I was a little behind on the uphill again, but everybody waited for me on Cripple Creek. I decided to just keep going and didn’t stop as I knew they would all catch me going up Isberg. Just as I whizzed by, I noticed that Jordan was taking off her jacket. Oh, oh, that would take a bit more time to pack it away. I should have stopped but by then it was too late. Hannah waited for Jordan, but everybody else took off in a sprint after me and they all caught me before we turned up Isberg.

I kept expecting Hannah and Jordan to pass me, too, but they never did. In fact, after we summited Isberg, we still had to wait a couple of more minutes and were just starting to get worried when they showed up. It ended up that Hannah was going so fast, she missed the turn onto Isberg and Jordan followed her so they got some bonus mileage! And then later, while leading the charge through the subdivision across Chena Pump, she missed the turn onto Steelhead to get on the bike path back to UAF. Her mind must have been elsewhere tonight as I don’t think she is directionally challenged!

All in all, it was another fast and fun WOW ride.
Stats:
Distance: 20 miles
Avg speed: 17.4 mph (And I was the slowest rider! The others were a little faster)
Elevation gain: 1280 feet
Fastest speed: 43.3 mph by Mallory going down Chena Ridge

05/01/2024: WOW Ride #3 – The Super Windy Ride

Sunny, temps started out in the 40’s but dropped to the 30’s by the end. Had every kind of wind, head wind, tail wind, and cross wind. But we are WOW so we weren’t about to let some wind ruin our speed!

There were 7 of us who started the ride: Corrine, Erica, Maria, Jordan, Hannah, Mallory and Hazel. (This was Hazel’s first WOW ride. She had all the power to keep up, but her bike chain kept coming off! We had to leave her behind to finish the ride solo. Hopefully she fixes the issue and comes back!)

We set out towards Miller Hill with a brisk pace. I got dropped on route to Miller Hill (silly wind) but managed to catch Corrine on the climb. We regrouped before going down Yankovich and up Ballaine. Going down Ballaine towards Goldstream I got dropped and with the wind, was fighting hard to catch up. Luckily we regrouped on Goldstream but as we all took off, we dropped Corrine.

We pedaled fast to Old Steese where we paused to make sure Hazel was ok. By this time her chain had fallen off a few times. We blasted up Old Steese, then down McGrath. We paused briefly to regroup and rode a nice paceline back to UAF. Hannah peeled off to go home, but she rode to UAF for a warm up.

Really fun but tough ride! Hopefully more ladies will come out next week. Meet location will be 6 pm at UAF.

Stats:
Distance: ~30 miles
Average speed: 16.7 mph
Fastest speed: 41.2 mph (goes to Mallory). Jordan was second fastest at 37 mph.

04/24/2024: WOW ride #2 – Farmer’s Loop/McGrath/Old Steese

It was a warm and beautiful April evening for our 2nd WOW ride. Several new women came out to join us and we started with nine riders total – one of our biggest rides – including three Manley sisters.

I was totally overdressed for the over 60F temperatures, I should have brought shorts instead of thermal tights, but I had to pack clothes before work and it was cool this morning. Oh well, maybe that’s my excuse for not keeping up. We started out at a brisk pace through campus and then out Farmer’s Loop Road with a nice pace line. As I dropped back after my pull up front, Kenzie pulled ahead and really notched up the pace. We had been going around 21 mph, but she took it up to 23 mph. I could not hang on at the back. A few others got dropped but were able to surge to catch back on the train but not me. I knew I would get dropped up McGrath hill but didn’t expect it on mostly flat terrain. Oh well, nothing to do but keep pedaling as hard as I could.

The group waited at the bottom of McGrath, but I whizzed by them, knowing they would pass me again soon. And they did. The main pack stayed together until the climbing got a little steeper. Then we all got a little spread out but regrouped at the top.

We then bombed down the Old Steese staying in a pace line. There was one car behind us who did not pass us for a couple of miles. Nikki shared a Facebook post with me later from the driver showing a photo of us and her saying it wasn’t safe to pass us on a double yellow line. We had tried to wave her past as we could see it was clear ahead, but she didn’t pass until there was a dotted line. It kind of weirded us out that somebody was just following behind us for so long. Most drivers just buzz by giving us a little room. I wasn’t sure if somebody was going to harass us or what the story was. I guess I’m glad she thought about safety. There have been too many times when drivers have been very rude and making dangerous moves when passing us.

Back on Farmer’s Loop, we got back in our pace line and made quick time on our way back. I knew I would get dropped on the slight rise, and I did along with Alex. I tried to catch back on and finally Alex got in her aero bars and put down the power and pulled us back up. Unfortunately, she burned a lot of matches and dropped off again, but Mallory was nice enough to pull her back up to the group again. I love WOW women! We ride fast but we do help each other, too.

I can NOT believe how fast this group is becoming. Most of the group averaged 18.8 mph. I was surprised that even with getting dropped for half the time and not having a pace line, I was able to average 18.1 mph, the same speed as 2 years ago when we last did this ride and I didn’t get dropped.

Distance: 25.75 miles
Fastest avg speed – Olivia at 19.1 mph
Fastest speed: 44.6 mph by Mallory
Elevation gain: 1300 feet