by Missy Ruthven
Ultra Provocatorio has a very unique race format in that teams of five compete together in somewhat of a time trial for roughly 100 miles…and the race route is not revealed until 45 minutes before the start. This is the second year for this event put on by our friends of Team Wooly Mammoth.
I was the only one on my team to have participated last year so the duties of team captain went to me. Ideally we would have our five ladies of Team Snapple ATC all together, but that was not to be this year; so we added two guys (Mike Minardi, Andy Maag) to our team of three ladies (Missy, Marla, Leah).
Last year I believe this race was advertised as a five person team time trial (but not allowed to use TT bikes, helmets, etc.)…this year it was advertised more as a team “fondo," which translates to “team fun event." Since none of us had ridden 100 miles in recent memory (and one of us had never ridden 100) we went in with the “let’s make this a good training day" approach. Thankfully the weather was on our side as it was a beautiful sunny day with cool temperatures and not much wind.
Team captains got the cue sheets (race route, it was only 94 miles!) 30 minutes before the start with race officials making sure to point out important items on the cue sheet…such as the three sections of “off-road” which they termed “pave” on the cue sheet.
Our team went over the cue sheets/race route and the first thing Andy says is “how do we get across the water? Swim or boat?”. The cue sheet took us over Lake Austin…and not on a bridge…and we were to complete the last 20 miles on some serious hills (like last year). Race officials didn’t say anything about the water crossing; they just insisted that we make it to the checkpoint at 74 miles. This was going to be an adventure!!
We taped the cue sheets to the top tubes of our bikes and started the event… Teams left every 2 minutes, 24 teams total. We had to be conservative in the beginning as there were a lot of turns and we had to consult the cue sheets quite a bit so we didn’t get off course. Then we had the three sections of off road…mostly packed dirt with small rocks…8 miles. We made it through this pretty well as we weren’t the fastest, but we also had zero flat tires (many people had flats in these areas!!!). We were like the tortoise in "the tortoise and the hare” story. Miles 30-75 we got in a good rhythm. Mike led mostly, Andy took the back mostly, the three ladies all stayed in the middle and shouted out directions - me with page 1, Marla with page 2, Leah with the most accurate odometer.
We had gone south towards Lockhart, crossed I-35 in Buda and wound our way through Old San Antonio Rd to southwest Austin (Escarpment, Southwest Pkwy, Barton Creek Blvd). At mile 75 (after climbing Barton Creek Blvd!) we stopped at the rest stop and were informed that there was a course change and that we would not be crossing the water in a boat as planned. Mixed feelings. Though I like the idea of a boat being part of the event…I didn’t know if my legs would like sitting for a bit and then climbing big hills for the last 20 miles. So, after refueling we took off for the hills of West Austin for the last 10 miles (Bee Caves, 360, Westlake, Toro Canyon, High Road, some super steep neighborhood streets I had never been on, Stratford, Rollingwood).
We finished at Austin Tri-Cyclist where there was food, beverages, and a lot of discussion about the day. We had a great time!! We all rode solid!! I would do this again!! From the talk I was hearing at the after party it seems everyone felt the same.