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Lyle Pearson 200

Ruling the road with the girls

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Six months ago, in the middle of watching Stanford clinch a Rose Bowl victory against Wisconsin, my iPhone jolted me out of buzzing fandom and into cold sobriety. A text message probed, "LP 200: are you in???"

Committing to a June event on Jan. 1 feels risky and presumptuous, but I didn't hesitate. Registration for the Lyle Pearson 200--a relay-style bicycle race from Boise to Ketchum via Stanley and hosted by George's Cycles--fills so quickly that deferring a decision means missing out on the state's most epic day of pedaling. My three teammates from the previous year eagerly rallied, confident that we could shave minutes off our cumulative rookie time, maybe enough to roll across the finish line in less than nine hours.

LP 200 is unique among competitive cycling events in countless ways. Times are adjusted to account for variables such as gender, racing experience and collective body weight of the team. A published list of time bonuses and penalties for each team has ensured that the once-mysterious handicapping system is more transparent; the identities of the team members, however, are not.

With team names like Rule Five and Sore Taints, no one knows if See Food Diet is ahead of George's Nordies--everyone is just out there pedaling up Highway 21 as hard as possible. And that's another special thing: The opportunity to ride, fully supported, along some of Idaho's most spectacular mountain highways doesn't come along every day.

Finally, a cadre of four alpha females, each of whom represents a different set of sponsors and races against one another on the other 364 days of the year, doesn't often unify to accomplish a common objective.

But that's exactly what happened a few weeks ago. My team consists of one athlete from Utah, another hailing from Seattle and two of us Boiseans. We all compete in different jerseys, but for LP 200, we create arguably the strongest all-women cycling team on the planet. Well, we think so anyway.

In the end, we blamed a relentless headwind for our failure to meet the elusive nine-hour goal after nearly 200 miles of pedaling and more than 10,000 feet of climbing. Somehow it didn't matter--we were thrilled to have made it to the finish line party, which included kegs, a parking lot barbecue and a surprise public marriage proposal. We haven't a clue whom we beat or who beat us, but watching a teammate score some new hardware on her left ring finger was victory enough to turn our wooden stumps back into legs for a night of celebratory frolicking at Whiskey Jacques.

When I receive the texted inquiry next year on New Year's Day, I already know what my reply will be: "Of course!"

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