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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 04-14-14, 12:49 PM   #1
dstrong 
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Ride Report: BP MS150 Houston to Austin

Does anyone even do ride reports anymore??? Well, here's one.

This ride has been on my "cycling bucket list" since I started road biking almost 8 years ago. This year I finally committed to doing it and had a friend of mine hook me up with a solid team out of Houston, Team Fugro (an energy industry company...I still don't know what they do).

What a nice way to spend a weekend! The support staff for the team was fantastic and eliminated all the concerns I had from a logistics standpoint.

I began packing Thursday afternoon after working out a packing list over the last month. There were a few last minute changes due to the weather forecast (all “cold weather gear” was eliminated, as was the rain jacket) but the list performed well. This is what I ended up with:


The big purple bag was my “Overnight in La Grange bag” and went straight on to the team truck when I arrived in Houston. The other two bags went with me to my hotel, about 1/2 mile from the Omni (main event hotel).

My daughter took me to downtown Austin Friday morning around 11:30 to catch an MS150 bus to the Omni. My bike was put on a separate truck and taken directly to Tull Stadium where one of the official starts takes place.

After arriving at the Omni, I ran into Mark, the guy that got me on Team Fugro. He was there with his wife (who drove him to Houston) and we had lunch and then I walked over to my hotel with my bags. I unpacked, watched a little TV, then walked (1/4 mile) to the stadium to see if my bike had arrived yet...which it had not. So I walked back to my hotel, changed shirts, then walked over to the Omni for the team dinner, where I picked up my jersey. What's interesting (maybe just to me), is that my last name is Strong. There's a Strong Family Association and the phrase "Together we are Strong" has been used as a motto for the association over the years.



There were about 85 riders on Team Fugro and they sponsored a pasta buffet in a private area. The team captain said a few words but it was mostly a time to meet and greet other team members.

After dinner, another Austin rider and I walked down to the stadium again and retrieved our bikes. I headed back to my hotel, made one more check of the gear I had layed out, set the alarm for 0430 and went to bed about 9:00p.

I slept well until about 0300 and then off and on until my alarm went off. I got up, walked to the lobby for a coffee and a muffin, then went back to the room, got on my kit and packed everything I didn’t need into my bags. I left the room about 0515 with my backpack and duffle over my shoulders and rode my bike in the dark (I had a light) over to the Omni, where I put my bags on the team truck and then went into the lobby with my bike to find other team members. As you can imagine, the hotel was jammed with riders, bikes and bags...a great atmosphere. We hung out for the next hour, waiting for the first light of day then went out and started pedaling about 0645.

Because there are three different start locations, crowds weren’t really a problem on the road. Slower riders stayed right (for the most part) and faster riders would pass on the left. Most people would call “on your left” or just “left” when passing. There were the occasional fast pace lines that would fly by screaming “ON YOUR LEFT” the whole time and mostly just stay on the left most portion of the course.

My plan had been to stop at every other rest stop on the route. With the flat route and a tailwind however, I made great time and bypassed the first two stops and stopped at Stop #3 at about mile 41. Every rest stop appeared crowded but there never seemed to be any lines for water/snacks/bathrooms...I guess they have everything figured out after 30 years!



Immediately after this stop the terrain became more rolling. I’d been told that once the terrain started rolling you could tell the Houston-based riders from the Austin-based riders. Because Houston is flat as a pancake, the Houston riders were often huffing and puffing up even the most gentle hills, grinding out a slow cadence using too high of a gear. The Austin riders would merrily spin up the incline with the greatest of ease (or so it seemed). At a few points I wondered “how can they ride so slowly without just tipping over?”

I stopped again at the mid-point, which was supposed to be the lunch stop. It was so crowded that after a few minutes I decided to press on, stopping again at Mile 60 to refill my bottles. The route turned to the south a bit and what had been a cross tailwind became a cross headwind. It was a little tougher going, with a steady wind of about 15 mph. Thankfully it wasn’t too gusty.

My last stop was at mile 79.



The route turned a bit north again, the tailwind was back and the terrain flattened out for a bit. My legs were feeling great so I grabbed the wheel of a pace line going by and we had a great 5 mile run at a good clip. It fell apart when the terrain got hilly again but it was a nice segment. The final 5 miles turned a bit south again so the headwind became a nuisance once more.

The main center of activity for the MS150 in La Grange is the County Fairgrounds. After crossing the finish just after 1:00 with my odometer showing 99 miles, there were members of the Team Fugro support staff waiting to greet team riders with an icy cold towel and a bottle of water. They then escorted each rider to the tent, where upon arrival, they’d yell “RIDER!” and everyone would clap and cheer! A nice touch.



I immediately grabbed my bags from the truck, gathered my things and headed for the showers. The line was very short and I was able to get showered and dressed, returning to the tent in time for a beer and a 30-minute massage! There was food available and some buckets with which to rinse out and hang your jersey for the next day.

I spent some time wandering around the grounds later that afternoon and took this picture of the United Airline’s team “PlaneGrill”. Dang...that’s a big grill!



After dinner, tables and chairs were folded up and cots were brought in. We all set up our sleep stations and most people immediately started getting ready for bed. I was in bed by about 8:30 and fell asleep before they turned off the lights. Despite what it looks like in the picture, the tent was NOT made of plywood...there was a small room that had been assembled in the back corner where massages were given...so I chose to set my bed up against that wall. I decided to not bring a sleeping bag and just brought a sheet and a thin pad to go on the cot. It worked out well as it remained warm in the tent all night.



I awoke about 0300 for a trip to the bathroom then dozed until 0430 when the tent once again came to life. There was food and coffee available but the bags had to be on the truck by 0530, so quickly ate, put on my kit and delivered my bags to the truck.

About 6:15, several of us headed for the staging area and got in line for the start.



We didn’t start moving towards the start until about 0730 and I didn’t mount my bike and start riding until 0745.

There were two routes riders could choose heading to Austin: The hillier “Bechtel Challenge” or the less hilly and slight shorter “Express Route”. I, of course, chose the Bechtel Challenge.

I rode to the second rest stop at about mile 26 and refilled my bottles for the hilliest part of the course through Bastrop State Park. Unfortunately, a cyclist had crashed in the park before we got there and since the roads are fairly narrow, they had to divert the riders out to the Express Route so that the EMS vehicles could attend to the rider.

I continued on to Bastrop, where lunch was available. This was my longest stop during the weekend...about 30 minutes. I ate a sandwich and chatted with some fellow cyclists.



After this stop, I made one more quick stop and then rode the final leg into Austin, arriving at the finish at about 12:30, with 70 miles showing on the odometer.



The crowds were enormous and it was really nice to have everyone cheering and shouting as the riders rode by. I found our tent and once again, there was a cold towel waiting and all the water/beer/food I could want.

I hung out with some of team near the finish and cheered other riders as they finished their day. Finally, I called my wife, arranged a meeting point and she battled the traffic downtown to collect me, my bike and my bags.

Watching other cyclists, I was amazed at the variety of shapes, sizes and equipment. I passed one guy wearing a half-boot on his left leg, like he had broken his leg. It appeared he actually had a cleat installed into the bottom of the boot so he could clip in. Wow.

I saw one guy on an old, rusty 3-speed bike, circa early 1960’s. I saw another guy finish with a busted derailleur, with his chain hanging down, obviously with just one gear available.

There were some very fit people and some very un-fit people...but they were getting more fit with every pedal stroke.

The energy industry was well represented in this event...it seemed like most teams were sponsored by companies in the industry. I saw one jersey that said “<company name> loves frakking”.

Finally, it was fun to see people who live along the route come out, put out a blanket and chairs, just to watch all the riders go by. A few of the small towns really turned out and greeted the riders with gusto.

I can cross this off my cycling bucket list. Now I have to figure out whether I’m going to do it again next year!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Packed and ready to go.jpg (65.9 KB, 50 views)
File Type: jpg Jersey.jpg (80.8 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg D1 - Rest stop 3.jpg (83.5 KB, 45 views)
File Type: jpg Day 1 - Rest stop 3.jpg (98.1 KB, 37 views)
File Type: jpg La Grange Finish.jpg (82.1 KB, 30 views)
File Type: jpg PlaneGrill.jpg (46.6 KB, 41 views)
File Type: jpg Bed.jpg (64.7 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg Sunday morning start.jpg (78.5 KB, 45 views)
File Type: jpg Lunch in Bastrop.jpg (74.9 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg The finish.jpg (62.5 KB, 30 views)
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Old 04-14-14, 01:08 PM   #2
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Thanks for the report. Its nice to see threads that are about riding and not gear or bad drivers.
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Old 04-14-14, 02:18 PM   #3
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It's been many years since I rode the MS150 (1987 & 1988) and the number of riders way less (about 2200). I enjoyed the ride and it sounds like you did too. Your report brought back memories. Thanks for the report. The hardest part of the ride for me was getting the donors to give me their money.

PS: You can visit Texbiker.net to pick the next ride for your bucket list.
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Old 04-14-14, 02:31 PM   #4
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Great ride report. I participated in MS150 Citrus Tour this past weekend, and it was equally well run and supported. Doing it again next year for sure.
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Old 04-14-14, 02:41 PM   #5
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Thanks for the great report.
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Old 04-14-14, 03:31 PM   #6
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Great report and thanks for sharing.
I was supposed to ride then had family emegency on friday till sunday. Anyway i'm looking forward to next year.
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Old 04-14-14, 03:31 PM   #7
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I've only done Houston to Austin once, but I'll never forget it. Day one was a ball buster for me. I rode with an energy team, too, and the team support and perks helped make the experience survivable.

Great report. Your planning and preparation seemed to make things run very smoothly. Imagine showing up with only a vague idea of how the event was going to work, as I imagine some did.
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Old 04-14-14, 05:23 PM   #8
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Sounds like you had a great ride, thanks for the review.
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Old 04-15-14, 07:59 AM   #9
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Great report. My ride was very similar, except I was on the Saint Arnold brewery team, so we had a whole lot of beer.

I was amazed at how well organized the ride is.

I started riding about 15 months ago. I remember seeing pictures from last year's MS 150 and starting to think that I might be capable of doing that.

I saw a rider at one of the break points with prosthetics below both knees. No more *****ing about my sore hips.

I got some ibuprofen from one of the medic tents at a break point. The woman asked my name, number, and then wanted to know what I needed the ibuprofen for. I told her it was because I was old. She laughed and wrote that in the blank on her form.
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Old 04-15-14, 08:50 AM   #10
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Great ride report! I like the MS150 ride. I've done the City (Philadelphia) to Shore (Ocean City, NJ) MS ride for the past two years, and will do it again this year.
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Old 04-15-14, 09:02 AM   #11
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Great report! I am looking forward to participating in my first MS150 next year.
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Old 04-15-14, 01:28 PM   #12
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Great report. I lived in Texas for 38 years and wasn't a cyclist during that time and always admired those who rode the Houston to Austin MS150. I volunteered one year with the La Grange Rotary and cooked hamburgers at the fairgrounds for the cyclists. Your ride report makes me want to add this ride to my bucket list also. Maybe 2015.
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Old 04-15-14, 03:19 PM   #13
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Good to hear that other riders had a good time at this years MS 150. The weather was better than my last MS 150 ride in 2012 ( year of the big wind). I have always ridden on a Corporate team of some sort, so I am used to the nice tent and food. This year my boss decided to sponser a MS 150 team - Team BEMA. Since I have ridden it three times, I was made captain. There is a lot of planning that goes on behind thre scenes, so thank you captain(s) if it all goes smooth.

Saturday we started from Tully. They started us in waves, so my group did not start till 7:30. The ride was very smooth except for those sections of riding into the head wind. There are some Houston riders that can climb, but you can easily tell who can not climb hills with those easy rollers before the lunch stop. Many of those fast Houston riders on the flat, seem to be gonig in reverse up those hills. Several times durning the ride the course was stopped or partial blocked by EMS/Ambulance/Ride Marshalls tending to down rider(s).

La Grange was nice. Team BEMA was a small team at only 15 riders, so we do not our own tent. We had tent space with Team Michelob. They were great hosts and lots of company product.

The Sunday start was bad. They normally alernate between the fair grounds and St. Marks. Normally about 5 or so waves before everyone at St. Marks is out on the road. This year it was only 2 waves, so the riders at the fairgrounds had an extra long wait to start. I got started at 7:30, so I was in catch up mode, trying to meet up with some friends who started from St. Marks. I finally caught up with my friends at RS #2 in the Park. We rode the park, but saw several riders down along the way. This is my first time in since 2010 in park, so I have not seen it since the fire. It was a horrible sight to see the burned trees two years later. I was amazed at the riders in the park with dropped chains and walking their bikes up the hills. I the Whataburger stop for lunch, we later heard that we were the last riders allowed in the park because Life Flight was required to pick a rider that crashed. The ride to the finish was very good. Less of a crowd at the finish than previous years. Maybe rain scared them off.

I can honestly say that this year I saw more crashes, riders down, emergency vehicles gonig past wirh sirens on, and emergency personal working tending to injured riders than my other 3 years combined. With 13K riders, you must ride defensivley as many riders ride like they drive.
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Old 04-15-14, 04:34 PM   #14
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Well truly an inspiring ride report thank you! I've never done a large urban ride but think I need to. I take a weekend and do the nearby MS Tour De Vine. Similar to yours it's an incredibly well run event with amazing volunteers and riders of all types. Local vineyards tend to host the rest stops but I doubt there are more than 400-500 riders. I'm part of a small team of 10 chef and hospitality types but last year we raised over $13,000 and we have a lofty goal of $25k this year. I don't think I'd hAve the courage that you did to sleep in a group tent, I think I've gotten freakishly particular in my recent age and need proper hotels and modicum of privacy .

your report psyched me up for this year's ride in June thanks so much!
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Old 04-16-14, 07:54 PM   #15
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I did it as well. It was our first time, and are already looking forward to next year.
My wife and I rode on a small team with other employees from our company - a smaller company in the O&G industry. We didn't have a giant team tent and cots, but we had a private BBQ company and tent and our volunteers set up all our personal tents before we got there, and staked out a nice place between two other team tents. It was great.

We started from Waller - the shortest distance, since it was our first time. Day 1 was pretty rough in terms of the wind and the hills. Overnight in La Grange was a lot of fun, but next year hopefully we'll start earlier and I'll get there earlier in the day, rest up a little and then enjoy some of the night festivities.
We didn't get out on Day 2 until around 7:45 I bet, and made it into Austin around 4pm. Also next year we'll stick around and check out all the tents and food and festivities there, but this time we just wanted to catch the bike-truck and the bus home. We were pooped, but also excited we crossed the finish line upright!

But I'm proud of myself, I didn't SAG at all through either day. My wife only SAGed the last 20 miles on Day 1 because her knees were shot and no amount of Bio-Freeze was helping anymore.

Can't say much more than what's already been said. Except I was definitely at the back of the pack. LoL.

Here's some pics I took from both days...





Me with Sherman


Saw this guy a number of times. This was just after the last rest stop on Day 1. Guy's got some balls.


coming into Austin


Was bummed this came out blurry, but I guess it's what to expect when trying to take a pic while pedaling across the finish line. Oh well.
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