Organizing a ride like that is a massive undertaking, and I’ve been as interested in seeing what the plans are as in training for the ride itself.
Transportation: First of all, since it’s a one-way ride, we Austin-based riders have to get to Houston somehow. My wife suggested we drive over there, then she would drive our car back on Saturday, the first day of the ride. But she might not be able to get off from work on Friday. The ride organizers have a better solution. Buses will leave Austin every half hour most of the day Friday, and take riders and their bikes to Houston. The riders will be dropped at the Omni Hotel along the Katy Freeway (I-10), which is the ride headquarters. The bikes will go to Tully Stadium, just south of I-10 a few blocks from the hotel, where the ride will start. The bikes will be secured overnight at the stadium. At the Omni, riders can go to a bike expo, and gorge on a pre-ride pasta meal.
Accomodation: Unfortunately for me, the Omni was booked when I tried to make room reservations. I was surprised to find that rooms at other area hotels were still available, and got one at the Hilton Garden Inn, also within easy walking distance of Tully Stadium. It looks like one of my biking buddies will be able to share the room costs.
Packet pickup: Most organized rides have a packet pickup the week of the ride. The MS 150 has about a dozen of them, starting almost a month before the ride. You must pick up a packet, because it has the waiver form and the bike numbers — numbers for the handlebars, the bike frame, the front of your helmet, and your jersey. There’s also a wrist bracelet that gets you into meals on Saturday and Sunday.
Bike inspections: On a ride with such a large field, over such a long distance, breakdowns are bound to occur. They want to keep them to a minimum, so all riders must get their bikes inspected before the ride. Ride-approved bike shops will do it for free up until a week before the ride. Good timing — my bike needs some minor adjustments.
Luggage: Riders can also download packing lists for the weekend, one for what you bring on the bike, one for your luggage. Each rider is allowed two pieces of luggage, no more than 25 pounds each. Trucks will transport the luggage from Houston to the halfway stop in LaGrange, then on to Austin on Sunday.
The overnight: Teams can do a group camp thing in LaGrange. Showers are available, and ride veterans tell me many riders wash their team jersey in the shower along with themselves, so they can wear it again the next day. My team is making cots available to team members to use in the team tent. They’ve also got massage therapists, beer, changing areas, and overnight bike storage.
On Sunday, riders can choose from two routes to the lunch stop in Bastrop. One route tackles hills. The other is relatively easy. The challenge will be for 13,000 riders to all start from the same place. I’m told many riders get up at 4 a.m. just to get a place near the front!
By the time the ride gets to Austin, the cyclists will be done in. Shower trucks will line the streets near the State Capitol so folks can clean up.
The thought of such a massive ride fills me with anticipation and excitement. They’ve been doing it for a long time — this the 25th anniversary year — so I expect it will all be rather smooth. I’m looking forward to it.
By the way, I’m still soliciting donations to support my ride. You can follow this link to my personal MS 150 page. Click the “Donate to Ray!” link and follow the instructions. It’s easy to do, and I will be most appreciative.