Life is all about taking risks. Sometimes you have to gamble. Place a bet. Roll the dice and see what comes up. I had one of those days at the Mesquite Madness ride in Nevada hosted by the great folks at Red Rock Bicycle Company in St. George, Utah.

Mesquite Madness is the season opener for southern Utah road riders. It’s the only event west of the Mississippi that lets you enjoy a nice, warm, early spring ride in three states, Utah, Nevada and Arizona, while the rest of the country digs out after a long cold winter. Sounds perfect to me.

Ride:Mesquite Madness
Location:Mesquite, Nevada
Next event:March 17, 2018
Distance:35, 65, or 90 miles
Start:Mesquite Community Center
Hosts:Red Rock Bicycle

The day of the ride on the other hand, was not a nice warm spring day. It felt like a Nevada summer. It was already 65 degrees when 400 riders prepared to tackle 35, 65 and 90 mile routes. It was a carnival-like atmosphere with the buzzing of drones flying overhead and an assortment of riders that included hammerheads, tri-geeks, racers and recreational enthusiasts of all ages. With not a cloud in the sky nor any shade in sight riders slather on sunscreen and colorful Zinca Nosecoat. Especially me, since my lily-white skin has not seen the sun in months.

After a wonderful live performance of the national anthem, we rolled out under a giant start/finish banner.  At the front the pace was easy as we rode around town and through euro-style roundabouts. After pushing the pace through some hills, I attached myself to a small group up the road. Moving at a brisk pace, we hit the first rest stop about an hour into the event.  The group stops, deciding to refuel and wait for several larger groups behind. I hesitate – should I stay or should I go now?

With 70 miles remaining, including 15 miles of climbing, it’s a solo gamble – plus, the temperature is already 75 degrees. I ride on. Rolling the dice, I keep going.

Luckily, two riders quickly follow my lead and join. Our gamble seems reasonable so we put some effort into powering the break. The good news is that I’m not riding solo. The bad news is the temperature keeps rising.

After pedaling into a stiff headwind at 30 miles with the hot sun beating down on us we catch a glimpse of a chase group rolling up behind. Their timing is perfect to catch us at the foot of the penultimate climb, Utah Hill, just like in a Grand Tour. The climb to the top is 15 miles long and rises 3000 feet into the Beaver Dam Mountains. It’s so challenging that it’s rated a Cat 1 climb – most definitely not a “hill.”

Soon the chasing field absorbs our little breakaway. Riders now attack as the road pitches up. The tree-less Beaver Dam Mountains stare down at me, daring me to place another bet, to double down. Like a fool, I do.

The desert roads of Utah, Nevada and Arizona all provide the backdrop for Mesquite Madness, a 30, 65 or 90 mile road set for March.

Soon the chasing field absorbs our little breakaway. Riders now attack as the road pitches up. The tree-less Beaver Dam Mountains stare down at me, daring me to place another bet, to double down. Like a fool, I do.

Rather than enjoying a leisurely ride to the top, I latch on to the back of the lead pack, grit my teeth and hang on as sweat stings my eyes. 11 miles later my legs crap out. They’re done. My bet, my roll of the dice, came up snake eyes. My muscles twitch as though cramping is eminent, even though I’ve consumed three bottles. Riding in temperatures 30 degrees above my winter norm has cooked me. I ease up, riding at my own pace to the top as the temperature display on my computer hits 96 degrees.

At the top riders are filling bottles, getting a quick bite to eat and playing fun gambling games for cool cycling prizes. I fill my bottles with Hammer HEED and start back down the hill with the lead group. It’s a 40mph rocket ride down the mountain with me playing tail gunner at the back.

Eventually the downhill runs out and I must pedal. Unfortunately, my legs protest as the group pushes hard to the finish. Threatening to cramp once again, I ease up and watch my free ride roll away.

With 15 miles left to go, it’s time to just ride steady. The 65-mile riders are trying to finish too. They’ve been out in the sun and heat just as long, and are just as cooked. I chat and visit with them, trying to take our minds off Mesquite’s final miles of Madness.

Soon we’re back in town and rolling under the finish banner with cheers, ringing cowbells, cold drinks and delicious street tacos from El Coyote Charro greeting us, well earned by every rider today.

The Red Rock Bicycle Company and put on the superb event. These folks bring cycling and the wonderful beautiful world of southern Utah together for any cyclist to enjoy, no matter skill or ability. They define the southern Utah cycling scene, both on and off road. Check them out and be sure to add their March events to your bucket list. It’s a surefire bet you’ll come out a winner.

Cheers and most of all take time to enjoy the ride.