The Goatneck is my favorite bike tour of the year. It is in Cleburne, Texas about 40 minutes from beautiful Dalworthington Gardens. The ride is quite hilly, because you climb away from the Brazos River twice and climb all the way back to Cleburne.
The Goatneck has been recognized by Bicycling Magazine as one of the top 100 rides in the country. It is phenomenally supported by the community and every turn is marshaled by a volunteer. The major intersections are even controlled by police officers. If you are lucky to stay in the lead group, you get escorted the whole way. I have never been so lucky.
The ride brings out all the top guns from the DFW area to do the ride in addition to bringing quite a few yahoos. This past Saturday was no exception.
My buddy Big Dave and I arrived in time to register, get a little warm up end and make it to the starting line. I had resigned on the way down that I had not been riding well, that I was not going to chase the lead group and was hoping to average 18mph for the 69 mile route. Big Dave noted I was just laying the foundation of excuses.
The start line of the tour was amazing. It had the stark contrast of a bunch of super fit shaved bike racers to a bunch of Cleburne High School kids on their junior high school bikes. I had much fear of the high schoolers, because they were wooping it up and it was clear they never had ridden in a group ride. After being blessed by a Priest, (the closest I have been to mass this year) and the singing of the national anthem, we were off. Leading the charge was a cycling buddy and his girlfriend on a tandem bike. Either one of them could drop me individually, but together they are an amazing machine.
The only complaint I have about the Goatneck is the first turn. It arrives way to early, maybe a quarter of a mile from the start line. There is a mass of humanity moving in excess of 25 miles an hour about make a crit right hand turn. I had already decided to stay to outside, because the high schoolers were blitzing on the inside line about to have to make a 90 degree turn. I was expecting a massive pile up, but by the grace of God, the shaved legged racers gave the kids the room. That was the last time I saw the high schoolers.
As I watched the tandem from hell lead the ride out of town, with Big Dave not given up the chase. I settled down in a nice group that let them go. One of the neat things of riding as long as I have, I can always find a cycling buddy in the group I’m in. One of the disadvantages of riding as long as I have, is that someone you know is always blowing past you waving. What is confusing about these rides is you end up paying $30 to ride with the people you ride with all the time from bike shop for free, but at least the roads are different.
My group was averaging over 20mph by the time we crossed the Brazos for the second time. I had done a very diligent job of never being in the front and felt much better than expected. However, once you cross this bridge, you are climbing all the way back to Cleburne. The rollers and the climbs shred my group. I will say I was not doing the shredding, but just hanging on for dear life. When it was all said and done, it was just my cycling buddies Justin, Jack and I. They are much skinnier and fitter than I am, so I just stayed on their wheels for the climbs. No, I just stayed on their wheels.
Goatneck Hill is the last long climb of the day. The Hill arrives at about mile 48 and ends at about mile 55. It came at about 10am for us and 104 degrees of heat off the road. I cursed a cycling buddy who could not do the Goatneck because of a 10am massage appointment. They were in a much better place.
The three of us survived the climb and picked up the pace towards Cleburne. At about 10 miles out, I went to the front and towed my two buddies in to the finish. After sitting in all day, I had the freshest legs for the final push.
We ended up averaging 19.3 mph for the ride finishing fifteen minutes behind Big Dave. All in all a good ride.