Monday, January 12, 2004


(October 2, 2004) The Grizzly (North Fork, Ca.) , 100 miles, 10,000' climbing. w/ Big Mike

Doing this one this year in lieu of Lakeport, which has bittersweet memories from last year—last century done with Joann, last time Bert alive and healthy. On Santa Rosa Century saw rider with cool Grizzly jersey and then Big Mike tipped me off that he was thinking about this one. So no Lakeport this year—maybe the Giants wouldn’t have their season end on the same day.

With jet lag now have a bad headcold and have been tired all week. Original plan was to work half day then drive to Oakhurst but can barely keep eyes open on days preceding this weekend, so I take a sick day and whenever I wake up I wake up. Kind of like my training this week—piss poor—just have enough energy to feebly turn cranks. Between cold and jet lag and 10000 and 1 things to do upon returning from Italy I wish this century was next weekend. But it is not, and the 10,000 of climbing I ain’t ready for.

Zonked in bed late on Friday and go to Brentwood at noon to fill up the feedbag and get tons o cough drops. I am definitely not prepared for this. Long long long drive down to Oakhurst.—bad traffic on Highway 99. I thought drive would take just a couple of hours but making a huge loop. Real real real strange driving around and seeing squat “Loves Truck Stop” and other neon strip malls, after seeing quaint ancient Italian villages.

Mariposa has the first thing of interest, I do a quick U turn on roadway to get to Mariposa Roast Coffee Company. Guy just brewed fresh decaf but has none to taste as “no one in mountains drinks decaf.” I buy ½ a pound. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any of the cool plastic logo traveling mugs Donna loves when I buy, but he has a TRAVELING ESPRESSO MUG for $2.50—just what we were looking for in Italy.

I get to motel at 5:15—last minute arrangements were to meet Big Mike at some other motel. I can’t believe I first arrived in town this late-I look off balcony and Big Mike is at my motels parking lot, as he looked for me and asked for directions to his motel across town. If we had planned better we would have driven down together-as it turns out Mike has a good idea to stay over and bike in Yosemite the next day. I’ll probably be collapsed the next day—but Donna also thinks it is a good idea to stay over in my condition, and seeing Yosemite appeals to me, so after the ride I’ll move my stuff crosstown.

Mike and I discuss jersey attire—it was cool that we both wore the same jersey (Sierra 04’) on the Napa ride—and he is going to wear the Big Gritz Grizzly jersey. I have one to, but don’t really like it (the Speed Gritz much nicer in person than it was on line-should have gotten that), plus my theory is that everyone and their mother wears the ride jersey on the specific ride—we have to wear em’ on another Century. In any event I have Mr. Rossi of Siena’s jersey which I like more and more.

We drive down to North Fork—directions form lady at motel who wants to keep me off of curvy roads (she never saw Italy) has me doing a huge “J” and 30 miles later-right at dusk, we get to registration. We missed preregistration by about a half hour but a worker comes out to talk to us, gives us a much more direct route from Oakhurst to North Fork, and gives us a dinner recommendation. Dinner with Mike at Mountain House which I didn’t have great expectations of—they had a lot of pasta dishes, I was ready to rake them over the coals after Italy, but the ravioli was quite good. We plan to meet circa 6:30 at North Fork the next morning and start ride about 7:00.

Supposedly quite cold overnite in the area, and worker told us that though the temperature is a little unseasonably high that it will be real cold at 7500’ at Cold Spring Summit. The elevation map is getting me sicker than I already am—basically we start at 2500’ feet and do a series of 4 serious climbs, each one a little harder. At miles 75 we reach the highest peak—Cold Springs—and then it is straight straight down. So basically, after mile 75 I wouldn’t see Mike.

Take my hourly aspirin, vitamin c, and bottle of water, and then go out and get a large coffee (lady at AM-PM mini mart was nice enough to make me a fresh pot.)

I pull in at 6:30 and parking lot is packed. I park almost blocking entrance—hope no one rear ends me—and luckily a big truck pulls in behind me. It is Mike, and he gets the last spot in the lot.

I had eaten my usual bagel and banana in the motel room, here they had a huge breakfest spread featuring egg/ sausage casserole. But I wasn’t hungry before a climbing ride, where I’m sick, and they have jesus proverbs all around. I start making fun of them and Mike tells me I better stop or something bad will happen. Don’t worry, I tell him, I have the medallion (OK I gave that to Coker, I have a key chain) from the patron saint of cycling, Madonna del Ghisallo. But I still think Mike doesn’t want me to tempt fate. See Jack at the breakfast—would see about a half dozen (Tom and Doug, Tom and Doug, remember their names) Diablo Cyclists, besides Big Mike-O Delta Pedalers.

Ready to leave at 7:00—exactly, I’m ready to leave. Mike is doing whatever he is doing but not getting ready. He is finally set at 7:15 and we start out on an immediate downhill, and he sees that he put on wheel backwards, so his first ½ mile didn’t register.

We are finally rolling and it is a sunny uphill, 20 miles that go from 2600’ to 4500'. I'm dehydrated and drinking like crazy but maintaining a nice pace uphill. At one point some people pass so I kick it up a notch, and repass them. Big Mike flying by everyone also. At one point I crank it up again, and pull into the first rest stop at mile 13 just to refill my water bottles—Big Mike pulls in and he's surprised I had stopped at the first rest stop. “Just refilling bottles” I shout out and off we go continue the climb—I must have a fever—no need to pee, just drink, drink, drink, and finishing for the dozen assorted cough drops I threw in my back pocket.

Short 3 mile downhill that Mike bombs down—at one point he waits for me as Photocrzy guy is hidden behind a turn, just when I halfassed pulled on my arm warmers. Then the second climb from mile 23 to 28, from 4500’ to 5250', much easier than the first. On this stretch I’m cranking like crazy, only passed by two guys in racing club jersey, and before I know it I see sign for rest stop ahead. Right behind sign is a clearing and an UNBELIEVABLE lookout to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This may be best dramatic scenery on ride—or at least tied for seeing ocean stretch on Tour of the Unknown Coast. I double back and wait for Mike as he brought along an Instamatic camera. We get off the bike and take a few photos—the rest stop is only ½ mile down the road, also on the overlook side, and same great view.
Big Mike and me by the scenic overlook near the 2nd rest stop--great view in the background.

The 27 mile vista rest stop is also the lunch stop for people doing the 100k route (out and back) so they have sushi (a first) and make your own turkey or ham sandwiches (good deli.) Also unique is that they only have water in the jugs, but 3 different types of sports powder where you mix your own. A real good idea.

Next segment is a long downhill, punctuated by a tiny climb (thank god) before the 40 mile rest stop. Mike cranks it into high gear, he is chased by a guy in a swiss jersey, and I just manage to ride 100 feet in the back watching the swiss guy chase Mike. At one point it looked like it was getting close, but then Mike took off. I didn’t feel that comfortable even on the flat twisty parts—either wasn’t used to my bike after riding Coppi in Italy, or clogged ear was throwing off my equilibrium. On rolling uphill I stand and crank past Magus Backstrum, get to rest stop close behind Mike.

To get us to 100 miles there is an uphill out and back-7 miles up and then 7 miles down. At rest stop, which we’ll see again at mile 55, young girls joking they wish they had music—older workers glad there isn’t any. This rest stop is situated between the trees in the forest—pretty cool. Weather holding up-sun is out but very comfortable.

I take off one jersey, roll up my knicker legs, and start the climb from 4400’ to 6500’. It isn’t hard-don’t remember any steep grades, and Mike and I riding together. No one passing, we passed lots of cyclists (girl on Lightspeed—I suddenly remembered that the bike I am interested in is called “the Siena”) but a few people already coming downhill (we did see some people start when we pulled in at 6:30.) Granite tailings on the road—wonderful—will even get me to go down slower. When we reach the 7 mile turnaround Mike wants to keep going to get back the ½ mile I have on him, and to see where the top is—we ride another mile or so past the turnaround until the road goes down, but no real great view.

Going down is a straight shot, Mike is long gone. One guy flew by me near the end of the downhill section, so on the flat part I cranked past him.

Rest stop was unbelievable, sat in a chair behind the food table and could have gone right to sleep and been happy. Under a stand of trees, well off the road. More sushi (I finally had a piece,) and some little mini-pastries, the size of a quarter and real sweet; plus the make your own sandwiches, sports drinks etc. No porta-potties on this ride—we had to ride in and use camping toilets 1/8 mile inland. Jack pulled in, and later Doug who talked about this ride alot also pulled in. While I could have sat in the clearing all day, I was ready to ride, Mike really wanted to sit in the clearing all day. We probably spent over 30 minutes here, and everything tightened up. Also felt like I was losing my voice. Best rest stop on any ride is on THE GRIZZLY.

The rest stop before THE GRIZZLY CLIMB was supposed to be at mile 62, but we hit it just around the bend at mile 60. The Grizzly Climb is 14 miles, 4400’ to 7400’—kinda like Mt Diablo. Most of the ride along a narrow country road with no cars on it (looked a little like Ebbetts)—in fact we may have seen a dozen cars all day, with half being sag cars or sag motorcycles.

Sun was out but not that warm when we started, and Mike said that he hoped it rained a little. Huh. After my blasphemy at breakfast the god of weather was bound to listen to Mike over me. But it was nice and sunny.

My legs were definitely getting tight—I couldn’t stand as much as I wanted to as I was out of breath too quickly. Also, stupidly my snot rag was buried beneath all the clothes that I had stuffed in my jersey pockets. Three young guys came along and were flying—usually I’d try to grab their wheel for awhile but wasn’t even tempted to try now.

Unlike the earlier climbs this one had a few steep sections. Over one hairpin I stood and powered over it, but a steep section began right away. Oh fuck, after not going into the x32 for any ride since Slug Gulch/ Sierra I went into it. Never at risk of burning out like on Slug Gulch after dad died, but the x32 was welcome—though I wouldn’t have it much longer. No more calling out “hi” (I had answered one "hi" with a "bungerouno" earlier in the day) as I now passed quietly.

I figure we were climbing northwest, Yosemite and the mountains were to the northeast, and suddenly the sky got darker, thunder was heard off to the right, and it started sprinkling. Warm enough where I wasn’t going to stop to put on my vest, and never heavy enough where glasses got wet, but Mike got his wish—it was drizzling. Rolled knicker legs down, steep sections punctuated by short—very short-straightaways where I’d yell at Mike for giving us rain. Not to many cyclists on the road, we were ahead of most people, and when the steepness of the climb picked up, my legs were again burning, I put my head down, got into the zone, and pedaled to the theme music from the “Tour de Flanders DVD playing in my head.” At one point left the back road we were on and the end of the climb was on a main road.

Around a turn, under darkened skys and with a chill in the air, got to mile 74 rest stop at the highest point of the ride. If one at mile 27 was unexpectedly good, this one was disappointing—I had thought that there would be a great panoramic view from 7400’ feet, while all we could see were the circle of trees around us and the road.

Only one regular bathroom so small line—old lady from Berkley Bicycle Club who rode a tandem with “a young guy” in front of me. Mike pulled in and we did the same thing, put on all the clothes we had. Grabbed some bananas and bread, and set out for 25 mile downhill from 7400’ to 2600’—expecting to freeze.

Actually started with an uphill roller so I powered over this and tried to start out fast---knowing that Mike would eventually zoom past me but would rather him do it at mile 90 than 80. Was freezing at the beginning, but within 5 km the sun was out and it was getting warm. Mike and a dozen other riders zoomed past me on the downhill, and I didn’t expect to see Mike again.

Actually I misread map—steep downhill ended at mile 84 and ride levels out along Bass Lake. Any chance of me regrouping with Mike ended when I stopped and pulled off my vest and arm warmers—I’d stop again and pull of 2nd jersey as it was again over 80 degrees. The road was real rough—reminded me if the road around Lakeport. Guy from Fresno Bike club waited for me the 2nd time I stopped, I had been pulling him since the terrain became flat. They use this area for a training ride and he’d tell me what was coming up. At mile 90 switched with him, and I was more tired than usual on a century and barely hanging on when he pulled.

Then it happened—at mile 95 there was a girl up the road and a medium sized dog running after her and barking. Dog kept up with her nicely and she was going at a pretty good clip. I put on my brakes and slowed down—trying to figure out how to pass the dog, and girl, and not have dog that I'm deathly afraid of take an interest in me. Dog looked like he was ready to cut her wheel or nip at her legs.

All of a sudden there was an uphill roller, and dog was still chasing the girl. I slammed into high gear, blew past girl, and quickly dropped Fresno Bike guy. Adrenaline rush.
Downhill then final climb uphill to parking lot—about 2 minutes before Fresno guy. Mike already changing

Felt better-downhill walk to area w/ BBQ meal inside. Saw Jack and Steve and other Diablo Cyclists. Food was good. Luckily stayed over to see Yosemite the next day—then long long long drive home.

Below-some photos of Yosemite including nice one Big Mike took through the wheel of the bike--he was always going for the artsy effect while riding. After touring Yosemite we took a bike ride through the Yosemite Valley.

Favorite Rides of the Year

7-MONTEPULCIANO (best destination but a relatively short bike ride)
9-SANTA ROSA (Wine Country)

Best view is sudden view of the Ocean on THE TOUR OF THE UNKNOWN COAST. Best view at rest stop and best rest stop on THE GRIZZLY. Most interesting place to get off the bike MONTEPULCIANO.

2004-7326 miles, 3460 trainer minutes

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Cycling In Italy-2004-Part C

Italy-The Garden Spot of Cycling-Part C
**NON-Cycling Tips From Car Pool Buddy Melissa re Traveling In Italy** (all turned out to be very very true)

1) Don't wear sneakers--only tourist wear sneakers.
2) At dinner the table is YOURS--you'll be sitting there for a long time and no one cares.
3) Don't handle the fruit at the fruitstand, the storekeepers don't like it.


Photos from around the Church of the Madonna del Ghisallo (Patrona dei ciclisti) and Lake Como in North Italy. The Church was closed, back in town a few miles away a bartender called Mario the caretaker who opened up the Church and gave us a tour in Italian (including a photo of him as a kid with Coppi riding by.)

Rides (turn around spot in bold)

Day 1-Poreno-Castel Rubello-Bagnoregio-Bolsena- Rd 71-Orvieto (old town)-Orvieto Scala-Poreno-75 km Luckily we had stayed in a small hotel in town the first day--next day we moved to crappy gourmet farm where shower in the middle of the bathroom, mattress sank to floor, menu was fixed so you better like what they serve. Take long gravel road out to paved road with Donna and her friends--they turn left--I shoot off right and I bet Donna never thought she'd see me again. I pull over, adjust nice Coppi bike, and take off enjoying roller after roller though frequently misshifting Campy Triple. I ride down toward Lago di Bolsena, along the way a car stops me with American tourists asking me for directions in halted Italian. Coming back I see Orvieto but farm is on the outskirts and I don't remember how to get back to it unless I detour to Orvieto Scala and try to remember which way we drove (the long way) that morning.

Day 2-Porano-Orvieto Scala-Rte 448 via Lago Di Corbara-Pontecuti-Todi-Back 79B-Quadro-Prodo-Orvieto Scala-out Rte 448-Bashi-Poreno- 121 km As yesterday I went Southeast, today I went West. First for breakfast in town where waitress amused that I asked for THREE mini decaf expressos (all coffee cups in Italy mini.) Then took a road south of a lake--its a Sunday and road has many cyclists, many wearing colorful kits and no helmets. A little headwind all the way out. When I got close to Todi many cars honking behind me--what's up??-turns out they are a miget Fiat club and they just honk their horns when they drive. Walked around Todi for about an hour--ran into an Amerrican Professor who also races bikes and he started to talk to me in Italian--after we talked awhile in English an Italian with a bike showed up and wanted to know if I wanted to ride with him (professor translated.) It had been slow to Todi as a slight headwind coupled with my not knowing where I waqs going, my regret is that I didn't plan better or I would have kept going to Spoleto. Much faster riding back on a road north of the lake where I saw Donna and her friends going out to Todi. Came back early so went back to coffeeshop at Orvieto Scala and circled out Bashi.

Day 3-Poreno-Rte 71-Baugi-Ficulle-Parrano-Faiolo-Montegabbione-Monteleone-Hwy 71-Citta Della Pieve-Fabro-Fabro Scala-Ficulla-Orvieto Scala-Poreno-130 km After breakfast at coffeeshop (sweet roll and THREE decaf expressos) a gradual uphill trhough some interesting towns that I'd breifly stop at, get a banana, take photos, and have old Italian people come up and speak to me even when it was clear I had no idea what they were saying. All towns had municipal water pumps--which I gingerly opened not to splash water. One seniorcame up, took my bottle, and opened it up like kids do a hydrant in New York to show me how to get the water cold. Fast back as mostly downhill.

Day 4-Zi Martino outside bott0om of hill near Castagneto Carducci-Bibona-La California-Via Aurelita-Castagneto Carducci-LOST ZI MARTINO-Donoratico-Zi Martio-49 km Hardest day was when we went to a new venue and I took a late PM ride--not sure where the hotel, motel, farm was. Zi Martino a "luxery" cycling motel--eg. balcony with clothes dryer, gorumet resturants, but it is still Italy so the rooms has (2) 15 watt bulbs at best. Took a climb up to Castagneto Carducci then a quick spin around this mostly flat area where I saw a dad motorpacing his kid. Then time to get back--hmmm, not sure of the way, I'll ask those guys gathered outside a gas station. BUT NO ONE SPOKE ENGLISH. After a little pointing when they recognized the Zi Martino name I finally made it back after taking alot of "wrong" streets.

Day 5-Zi Martino-Castagneto Carducci-Sasseta-Suveroto-Monterotro Martino-Castel Nuevo-Larderllo-Pomarance-Sanine di Voltemra-Voltera-Rte 68-Rte 145-Cecna-La California0Bibbona-Bolgheri-Castaneto Carducci-Zi Martino-171 km Great continental breakfasts at Zi Martino, NO not the bagged danish and coffee you get at a US Motel--fresh granola, yogert, cheese, prusciutto, breads. With a pound of prusciutto in my stomach of course a young Italian came along on a bike and we had to race up to Castagento Carducci. I tasted that prusciutto for the next 30 km. Route was typically slow, long roller after long roller. Passed a few farmers market--perfect for bananas. Loads of what looked like nuclear cooling towers in the valley, spooky; later someone explained it was geothermal plants. Think this is the ride where I first saw a large group of cyclists just casually pissing by the edge of the road--not deep in the bushes like in the United States. Discovering that almost all towns had a WW I monument. Big climb up to Voltera with many touring cyclists w/ panniers and wearing floppy hats on the road. When I got to small city of Voltera I took off my cleats and walked around barefoot for an hour(city was that clean), got my daily Gelato (for when I cycled 60+ km.) Big find back downhill, a fresh bread bakery and playing Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" which I started dancing to (Music in Italy was "not the best"--this was only 1 of 2 songs I ever heard.) I had circled to Voltera counter clockwise, now was going to go back clockwise which meant hitting the Coast where the riding flattens out. Again fast back, again come in 30-45 minutes before sunset--I think Donna always amazed when I found my way back.

Day 6-(walking Pisa) Zi Martino-Bolgheri-Coast-Marina di Castagneto Carducci-Zi Martino-33 km w/ Donna After taking the train and touring Pisa with Donna, we took a short fast ride down the Coast.

Day 7-Trequanda-Pienza-Montepulciano-Montefolonico-Trequanda-48 km Change of base day--but before taking PM ride I made sure I knew where the farm we were staying at was. This gourmet farm better than the previous one--the limited food option was still cruddy but condo with kitchen was nice. Off gravel farm road main road full of 10-15% sections. Just cruised past a few towns I'd visit the next day.

Day 8-Trequanda-Pienza-Montepulciano-Chiauciano Terme via Strada Si Pedlo Farm Road-Rte 30-NE Montallese-Chausi-Acquaviva-Montepulciano-Trequanda-120 km The find of the trip--MONTEPULCIANO--three tiered town of handmade crafts. I walked around for an hour, buying a small copper frying pan I then had to ride around with. While walking around two cleat screws came loose and were lost-damn--I didn't bring any others. Left Montepulciano seeing lots of other stuff to buy and places to eat dinner at instead of at the farm. Later discovered that not all roads on the Italian road map meant paved when I wound up doing 5km on hard packed gravel. THE MIRACLE OF MONTEPULCIANO--Drove back with Donna and her friends for dinner and Jo-Jo wanted to see when I had seen something so I started walking with her across town on the cobblestones. I spot something shiny in a crack on the street-I go check it out--its one of the screws I lost that morning.

Day 9-Trequanda-Montepulciano-Torrita de Siena-Sinafunga-Trequanda-70 km-partially w/ Donna Ride back to Montepulciano with Donna and we walk around for a couple of hours. I did some bonus miles when we passed the farm road.

Day 10-Trequanda-Sinafunga-Luciananco?-Monte San Saviano-Arezzo-Monte San Savino-Gargonza-Calcione-Lucigmano-Scrifiano-Trequanda-Ascianto-Trequanda-146km Ride from hell, started off nicly through nondescript farms towns--some on hills (the ones that begin with Monte...) Get to Arezzo which is crowded and has lots of car traffic, which had been rare. Planning to explore town by bike, the find a place to lock it up and walk around. Going down a cobbled street and there is a large water line running down it--I have to go to the other side of it and traffic is coming. I should have circled wide to cross it at a 90 degree angle, but I try to sharply cut it and I go flying off the bike--GOOD knee hitting cobblestones square on. Knee bleeding--"luckily" I have ace wrap on my bad knee which now goes on my other knee. Pedaling is hard going back as knee tightens, and many flat sections I just pedal one legged. Of course when an Italian come by I get on his wheel and have to put a strong effort to stay with him. Pass farm and it is still early so go down the road to a town I wanted to see. When I pull in Donna at the pool, I yell out "I got good and bad news"--good news is I rode without an Ace wrap on my right knee for first time since 2001." Big smile. "But the bad news is that it is now covering my left knee."

Day 11-Trequanda-Siena-48 km Moving our base so rode over with knee killing me. Donna had been drafted by her friends to drive the van so amazingly I got to Siena before her, she found the hotel as I was standing outside.

Day 12-(walk around Florence) Knee hurt, bus to Firenze w Donna. We must have climbed 1000 stairs in Duomo (largest brick dome ever constructed)-Giotto's Tower-and tiered Boboli Gardens.

Day 13-(walk around Siena) Only day it rained-stumbled into Rossi Bike shop where Mr. Rossi gave us a tour of the catacombs with historic bikes he built and raced on long ago. We drove to San Gimignano which is billed as another crafts type town but not close to Montepulciano.

Day 14-(walk around Florence) Back to Firenze, never saw a bike shop (later found out it is near the train depot--we kept taking the bus.) Walk around neighborhoods looking for Patti Smith's last concert venue before she retired the first time.

Day 15-Siena-Monte Riggioni-Castellina in Chianti-Radda in Chianti-Gaiole n Chianti-Back on 222-Siena-104 km Tourist region with $$$ tourist prices--should have gone further north to Greve in Chianti but mistakenly took hotel visitors map that cut off this area. In the morning I could ride through Siena-coming back I had to walk the bike as streets jammed with pedestrians.

Day 16-Driving day back to Orvieto as next day returning bikes.

Day 16-Porano--Bagnoregio-Viterbo-Montefiascone-via Fastello-Bagnoregio-Poreno-Orvieto Scala-Orvieto-123 km, 103 w Donna. We went south through a light industry nondescript area and as this was going to be Donna's longest ride I felt bad it wasn't more picturesque. But Viterbo was a nice find, an old small working class city surround by a wall. Bought some bolts at the hardware store for cleats (no English spoken), when looking for the Duomo a policeman stopped us--are we in trouble--finally found a translator that told us that policeman thought we looked lost and wanted to help. After returning to the farm I still had @2 hours before the bikes were going to be picked up, so I went to coffeeshop in Orvieto Scala where waitress loudly shouted out greeting and wanted to know where I had traveled for last three weeks. Then climb up to Orvieto for the last time before returning to the run down farm.

Day 17-18-19 Travel up to Lake Como-Visit Ghisallo, kick around touristy Como (finally English spoken), try to walk to Switzerland.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Cycling in Italy-2004-Part B

Italy-The Garden Spot of Cycling-Part B

While Italian drivers drive aggressively in their clown cars (one book said “they are not trying to cut you off—they just see a space in front of you and need to fill it”) they like cyclists and almost always gave me a wide berth when passing at high speeds on the narrow roads with no shoulder. The only thing I had to watch out for were cars coming in the opposite direction--as no one slows down for turns they take the turns wide and frequently swing into oncoming traffic lanes. Violating effective cycling principles I just knew to get to hug the right side of the road on every curve.

Around Siena-- typical small cars

In the hilly inland areas around Orvieto and Siena I would occasionally would see a bicycle tour group go by—or locals on racing bikes (typically Italians don’t wear helmets and their shorts match their jersey.) Also some bikes loaded with panniers, mostly Germans (helmets) and Australians (floppy hats), who would suffer on the climbs. The coast area, which is flat, was full of road cyclists including lots of older seniors. The older Italian cyclists (no helmet) would be friendly and wave, the younger ones were all too serious.

(Below)(1) I'm in the plaza in Siena with great gothic municipal tower (2) Early morning Balloons over Siena--later will be jammed with people (3) Tour of Mr. Rossi's bike shop--in Italian

We took “mass transit” to Pisa and Florence, and though possible I’m glad I didn’t bike into these cities, as heavy traffic—motor scooters coming in from the right flank, tons of traffic circles, and evidence of the need for higher bike security would have dampened these trips. (Early one morning I did ride from one end of Siena to the other on the cobbled streets that would be jammed with people a few hours later.) In these cities there were scores of cyclists riding fendered cruisers--from businessmen to very old seniors to young women in heels.

We finished up the trip driving to northern Italy/ Lake Como where the Church of the Madonna del Ghisallo, the Patron Saint of Cycling is located—it is stuffed full of a strange combination of religious artifacts and cycling memorabilia. True to our whole Italian experience, the gift counter was closed, so we went to town to see if anyone in the other church knew when it would be open. The caretaker of the other church had us follow him to a bar, where the bar owner made a call to “Mario.” Mario drove down, spoke no English, took us back to the Church of the Madonna del Ghisallo, and gave us a tour—complete with showing us the picture of him with Fausto Coppi when he was 12. Unfortunately, we had returned the rental bikes by the time we got to Lake Como as this areas was full of cyclists making the long climb to the church.

We stayed 3-4 days at a location and then loaded up the bikes in a van and drove to another region. That gave me 3-4 directions to explore. First base (1) was Orvieto, which we returned to before heading to Lake Como (not shown-North of Milian on the Swiss border). Loads of rolling rural cycling. Then (2) Castagneto Carducci, with the flattest riding and the best accomodations--Andy Hampsted's group rides out of here with Pisa a train ride away. Then to (3) Trequanda, another farm in the middle of nowhere but near the greatest find on the trip, artsy Montepulciano. Then (4) the great college town of Siena where I finally got off the bike, and was a bus ride to Firenze (aka Florence), and cycling access to the touristy Chianti region. Then back to Orvieto before driving to Lake Como, where the serious climbs (damn, no bikes) and the Madonna del Ghisallo Church of Cycling was.

As I indicated Italy is surprisingly hilly except along the coast. But I thought the towns inland much more interesting, with much less traffic. Flat is to the West of a straight line from CASTAGENTO CARDUCCI to PISA—and the architecture style seems straight out of South Florida. But IMMEDIATELY to the East are rolling hills. My big ride was a clockwise loop from CASTAGNETO CARDUCCI to VOLTERRA featuring roller after roller, and then a big 10km climb to VOLTERA. Going back west I had the wind and the road was nearly flat so I flew back to CECINA and down the coast. (Wind was always coming in from the northeast.)

Favorite place was ORVIETO. Seemed like you could go 5-10 km on rollers, then look up, and up (about ½ as high as the ranger station) would be an ancient cobbled town to explore. One of my favorite rides was uphill into headwind to CITTA DELLA PIEVE—no special towns along the way, just a half dozen good ones.

Knowing what I know now, would definitely stay in SIENA for a few days, as great walking town, bus to FLORENCE (FIERENZE) 1 ½ hours to the north, and CHIANTI region similar to the Napa valley also to the north. I’d also stay in the TREQUANDA area (map #74) but not necessarily in TREQUANDA—look for a place near one of my favorite places—MONTEPULCIANO, the Woodstock of Italy. And would have to stay in ORVIETO (not on some rancid farm nearby), and woulda/ shoulda taken the train to ROME, 1 ½ hours south.

(below)(1) In Fierenze loads of buff naked male statues (eg. David, Neptune)--but this was my favorite (2) Bridge in Fierenze.

Some practical things to consider. Bike shops have very little accessories; our bike rental company didn’t give us a floor pump or a good frame pump—no problem I thought—as Silica pumps are made in Italy, and I’ll buy a frame pump. Hah!-good luck finding one or anything comparable. One bike shop I went into looked like a Salvation Army store after an earthquake, no components but a half dozen high end Colonago frames were laying among the mess. So take a backup set of cleats and anything else you need.

Accommodations-half the time we stayed on fattorias—gourmet farms. While the price was better than little hotels, and their fixed menu dinner was relatively inexpensive, I’d recommend staying at the little hotels closer to town. We got lucky that it didn’t rain until we were at a hotel—otherwise we’d be stuck at a fattoria, with their long gravel road entryway. As I’m not a big fan of eating the road kill of the day, the fixed dinner usually was not to my liking.

Conversely, the dinners at the restaurants were great. While breakfast is usually a quick 3-4 cups of espresso and a sweet roll, and lunch is a good piece of bread with ONE slice of cheese and ONE slice of meat. Dinner goes on and on and on. It starts after 8pm, is served one item at a time, and you can sit at the table all night. I wasn’t that impressed by the meat dishes, and as usually carbo loading for the next days ride, I’d order two different pasta dishes. Pici, chewy pasta, with an olive oil mushroom or truffle sauce. Unbelievable. As an alternative to long dinners, some nights my wife and I opted just for pizza.

I brought some power bars and hammer gel, which was a good move as sometimes food was hard to come by, and many shops are closed on Monday and every day between 1-3. When I properly planned ahead I’d get some fresh bread in the morning and keep some in my jersey pocket for later. Also glad I brought some sportsdrink mix—bottled Gatorade is available but very expensive (2 ½ euro-$3 for a small bottle.)

Talking about drinks, I’ll never again complain about what I am drinking on a ride. Ice is nonexistent in Italy. So after starting off a ride with lukewarm Cytomax, I’d refill from municipal drinking fountains, bottles of Acqua frizzante (carbonated water—very inexpensive) and an expensive Gatorade—and have a strange mix by the end of the day. Luckily I brought some large insulated bottles.

Finally, to get ready for the trip I’d practice climbing as much as possible. At one point I lamented that there are no “rollers” in Italy to power over, as once a climb begins it is usually good for at least 1 km with a 10-15% thrown in somewhere around a sudden U turn or after an entry gate to the walled town.

Mountain bike race around the castle in Montalcino.

Friday, January 9, 2004

Cycling In Italy-2004-Part A


Note: In October 2009 Yahoo Geocities--their free web page service for dummies, shut down. Luckily I started using (the better) Google Blogger a little over a year ago. I recreated (web pages have been lost) of the writeup about cycling in Italy as, a) it was one of the strangest things I ever, as I went there in the last minute with no preperation, b) after cycling in such a different place (eg. language barrier, no clue where I was going on the daily metric or full century) it really laid the mental groundwork for doing Doubles, and c) a couple of people who have since cycled in Italy have told me the writeup is spot on and helped them prepare.

Italy-The Garden Spot of Cycling (Part A)

Orvieto, on top of the rocky wall was one hill over from the crappy farm we were staying at. I was lucky it was so prominent so I could spot it when I had no idea where I was.

I spent 3 weeks on a mostly cycling vacation around Central Italy. Looking at a map this mostly rural area encompasses approximately 200 km south of Florence to the Mediterranean. Included in this area are the popular the Tuscany and Chianti region, and the less crowded Umbria region which I enjoyed the most.

First day out, had no clue where I was going, and I just took off. On the road I was stopped by Americans in a car speaking broken Italian to ask ME directions (ha!) Soon will be sundown and now on the opposite side of Orvieto from the farm we were staying at, and only way I can get back is to retrace the route from the drive this morning--if I can find the road.

I intended to do long self supported rides, but numerous things were to my disadvantage. I don’t speak any Italian, and despite what anyone tells you the whole world doesn’t speak English, especially in rural Italy. Thinking the trip would fall through I did no trip preparation until 3 weeks to go before the trip started(**1**), and this just entailed looking at a road atlas for viable circular routes that would keep me off the autostrata (superhighway) while hitting as many towns as possible. (My wife and her friend had picked the lodging and arranged the bike rental.) The countryside and road system were totally alien to me, and I have a propensity for taking unintended detours on organized century rides. Italian drivers have a reputation for being maniacs. Armed with just a map and compass this was going to be a challenge.

The cycling came off great. A typical ride was 70-100 km, while going into a half dozen fortress towns or cities.
Another great shot of Orvieto on the hills in the distance. Maybe because this is where the adventure began, but with few people (none who spoke English), and few tourists this was my favorite place.

It wasn’t the physical beauty of the landscape that blew me away, as I’ve seen tons of grapes growing before. It was the unique experience of riding along the base of rural hills (except for the coast, Italy is real hilly, and no suburbs to speak of) and about every 10 km seeing a medieval fortress town up on top. It was like continually riding “the Bears” and then seeing a tower and surrounding ancient wall from ½ up to the top of Tilden Park. Every town I passed I’d have to go up to, and once reaching the walled gateway I knew to throw the bike into a real easy gear as through the arched gate there would inevitably be a 10-15% section of cobbled streets (we’d call them alleys) going to the town center.

The town centers typically had a church, common area filled with older people, a bar/coffee/ gelato cafe, a grocery store, and a spigoted water fountain readily available for bottle refills. If it was a larger town/ small city, and had interesting stores I’d lock up the bike (with a minimum security lock) and walk around. (Mixed blessing--in one crafts town I picked up a hand made copper frying pan, and then had to cycle 70 km with it in my Camelback.)

In every town I hoped that there was a real flush toilet in the cafe in lieu of a popular fixture which is just a hole in the ground with feet placement indicators. I’d then get a cafe decaffinato duppo (double shot decaf) with a sweet roll, ride around the cobbles, take photos, and go back to the road towards the next town.
(1) Water fountain in the center of town with my Coppi rental bike, in a town near Orvieto on my way back from Todi--old guy who didn't speak English grabbed the bottle from me in one town and had me run the water full blast and wait a few minutes so that I'd have cold water. (2) On trip back from Todi I passed Donna and her friends first going out. Roads weren't marked well but loads of signs pointing to the next town--so if you knew where you were supposed to go it was like playing connect the dots.

The other unbelievable thing that took me by surprise are the people—they are incredibly nice and friendly. To anyone walking on the street (there are no sidewalks) you had to exchange a hearty “buongiorno,” which always brought out a smile. Storekeepers would put up with my gesturing and pointing and my attempts at mispronounced Italian, and just smile. People would readily come over and start talking, and it didn’t matter that I don’t speak Italian. In one bike shop the owner-the Siena champion from 1939, grabbed my arm and showed me all of the catacombs of his shop where he had his old press clippings, and a few handmade bikes he had put together. In one hour I had no clue what he had said, but I knew everything he was trying to say.

The road system is not nearly as neatly marked as on the map—though the roads supposedly have numbers, good luck trying to use them as direction guides as we do here. Roads never have shoulders, are narrow, and many times don’t have center striping. Additionally, some roads on the map suddenly go from pavement to gravel. All the "great rides" my wife was supposed to do with her friends fell through--and on the last day in Orvieto (we had started in Orvieto and moved to 3 different locations around the Central part of Italy, now returning to Orvieto to give back the rental bikes.) I guarenteed to get her a metric century. Having not gone South previously we rode to the industrial town of Viterbo, which still had many interesting parts including a large ancient walled in section--and police who couldn't speak English wanting to help us as we looked lost. Lago de Bolsena in the background from an overlook in Bolsena which we climbed up to (Complete circle--my first day trip had me ride to the town down by the lake.)

Despite this, finding the way around was no problem as every intersection and traffic circle is marked with arrows delineating the towns in each direction, and when paved the undulating roads were in better condition than what we see on secondary roads here.

(1) Vacant--unroofed San Galgano cathedral creates a haunted view. (2) The find of the trip, Montepulciano filled with local crafts. Luckily I explored every hilltop town I passed.

(**1**) Background-the Rest of the Story

Not germane to the tips to cycling in Italy, but offering in the way of background how enjoyable it was due to the Italian relaxed/ friendly attitude—2004 was a terrible year. I saw two people die—one at the hospital on New Years Eve and a few month later my dad. I usually visit my folks in the winter but didn’t go in 2003-04 as broke my collarbone—and instead of listening for a week how I shouldn’t ride a bike I planned a visit to early Summer—which was too late to see my dad alive. Meanwhile I couldn’t understand why my two Pumpkincyle riding buddies—who we had planned to do a whole schedule of Century rides together “disappeared,” and never talked to me. We were supposed to plan a trip to Italy with one of my disappearing riding buddies and my wife—ironically she became good friends with my wife and they started planning the trip together.

After my dad’s funeral I found out why we stopped riding or hanging out together—the 2003 riding--things like the self supported Death Ride--was a screen for “extracurricular activity. I was being used as a diversion—and when my two "riding buddies" broke up that winter I was no longer needed to be around as a 'suspicion diversion.' Incensed, I wanted to have nothing to do with going to Italy, but my wife had invested energy in the trip and was going to go with or without me. I talked it over with my friend John, the smartest guy I knew who knew everyone involved. He didn’t know what to tell me except “if you go keep a diary—one day you’ll look back at it and laugh.” John also told me everyone in the world speaks English—which is NOT true for rural Italy. Thinking EVERYONE spoke English made it easier to commit to solo riding--NO ONE speaking English made it more surreal, but still doable.

So, with 3 weeks before the trip I decided to go, and vowed that I’d be cordial on the trip-- But I would NOT go on any rides with my former riding buddy, though my wife kept telling me that Jo-Jo planned some great rides. F that. So with 3 weeks to go I bought a digital camera, an Italian Atlas, finally found out where we were all staying, and even though I know no Italian and am my bike club’s leader in getting lost, said what the F, whatever happens happens (2004 PR after Museeuw flats with 5km to go-Paul Sherwin “He’s a hard man I tell you.”) I was going to be a hard man and couldn’t care less what laid ahead, and figurd I'd just ride solo in a different direction each day. As it turns out I did more riding and enjoyed myself more than anyone in the group.

Thursday, January 8, 2004


(August 21, 2004) HOLSTEIN HUNDRED-108 miles, 16.4 mph, 7:15-2:27, solo,

Probably last time I will do this ride—as I found out from all the “wrong” arrows on the road—the Marin Century held two weeks prior is better attended, cheaper, and has more route options. (Diablo Cyclists has shown up as a tour de force at the Marin Century, only one riding the Holstein Hundred yesterday—of course no Delta Pedalers to be found..)

This one has a little history with me. Donna and I had done the metric a few years back (1999?)—on a 100+ degree day, and were dying on the hills, while smelling ALL of the cow shit from the hundred of Holsteins, and barely got by it.. Discovered they really have cows in Marin. Last year tried it again and had a very successful ride, I drafted behind Tom and Veronica’s tandem for the flat middle portion before the climbing began, and had lots of energy to drive home in the headwind past two astonished (racing?)girls riding a “two man.”.

This year they changed the route so there were more substantial rolling hills at the beginning. It still ran over familiar territory. Also with arrows from the Marin Century, Mt Tam Something, old Holstein route and Lung Association ride all over the place it was easy to get lost on the triple figure 8 loop that ran north to Occidental (Santa Rosa Century) south to Petaluma (Nicasio loop), crossing Tomales twice. I am slowly realizing close everything is that used to seem so far apart. Also that a ride can be tough with lots of small steep climbs instead of the proverbial “Wall.”

Did this one solo, but unlike the beginning of the year no expectation of company—and after Davis, the Death Ride, and my Sunday solo recovery rides it really doesn’t matter. The ying and yang—riding with Joann in 2003 made me a better rider, abandon by her in 2004 also made me a better rider. So unlike the spring century rides, where I was concerned before I did em’, I didn’t even think much about this one—didn’t even watch any Johan videos.

Ride coulda started at 6:30, which would have necessitated a 3:45 (usually 1 ¼ hours to get ready—on the road by 5:00.) Forecast said cool weather—it was only 100 miles—plenty of parking--so why start THAT early (taking a page from Whiney Mike’s book) Set the clock for 4:00, then when yapping dog woke me up at 3:15 I reset the clock for 4:15. Hit 140 on the scale-ah shit (really 146 ½), heaviest I’ve been this crazy year. Got out the door at 5:20—luckily stopped at gas station along the way (another Century with only 2 toilets at the start which is at Tomalas High School), and when I rolled in a few minutes before 7:00 cyclists already been on the road for awhile.

Apart from lack-o-toilets checkin was fast with some snacks and a goody bag provided. Map of route was piss poor-xeroxed from a road map. One thing that leapt out was 7 rest stops for 100 miles; figured with me starting so late I’d skip the first two and stop for the first time at mile 36. On the road at 7:15.

Start is from Tomalas to Valley Ford on a clockwise loop. Cool outside and the rollers started immediately—and as usual I felt like shit. But passing scored of people—heard one person say to another “he DID the Death Ride” in reverent, hushed tones. Yeah—I remember when that ride seemed unimaginable—it wasn’t that long ago.

Whizzed by the first rest stop and then start clockwise section of top of triple figure 8—partially on Highway 1 to Bodega and then a back road, and then back to Highway 1. First I ran into a Diablo Cyclist who I had done the Santa Cruz ride with (?, I gotta improve on names) and talked with him for awhile until I sped off on one of the climbs. Then turning into Bay Hill Road the air became thick with fog, and the roads wet, and another big climb. I started powering up on it, standing a lot as felt good and the climbs weren’t that long, just steep. Passed a long legged girl with a tri bar setup and she called out “you make it look easy.” Laughed and answered that it wasn’t and kept up the pace. My glasses started to fog so I cut speed at the top of the climb and tried to ride with em’ on the bridge of my nose. The frequent road markings had disappeared, no bikes around me, had no clue if I was on right route. All of a sudden tri girl zoomed by with her fogged glasses in her mouth. Still was able to talk and tell me about Serotta (too heavy for climbs?) and on a downhill section kicked my butt, and I almost lost it going wide on a left handed turn. When I caught up to her on an uphill section I told her that I don’t think she touched the brakes along the way—she just laughed.

Somewhere along this stretch passed the event photographers--first setting up. Jesus, I’m 45 minutes late to start.

On next hilly section rode away from tri-girl and was soon on back on Highway 1 at Bodega Bay—where I had gotten lost on the Santa Rosa ride. There spotted a rider wearing the Devil Mountain Double Jersey with the crazy elevation gains (week before when off the front and riding the Santa Cruz mountains with June and person who knew Ish-wearing DMD jersey, the DMD rider crashed over a rock.) “Marlin” was training for the Furnace Creek 508, and was riding the strangest bike I’d seen—looked like some clunky first edition of a Softride with an aluminum broom handle as the beam. Exchanged pleasantries re our respective jerseys, and stuff about Double Century rides (I think he told me to do Solvang.). He was another rider with ortho problems. “Marlin” leapt out and put a little distance on me on the rough portion of the downhills, but I rejoined on the flats and we pacelined on Highway 1 to the Coleman Valley Road turnoff. On the climb I paced him off my wheel. Nice guy-I gotta check the Furnace Creek site to see how he does.

Coleman Valley Road is the one that you drop down onto Highway 1 on the Santa Rosa ride—on the steep downhill—now was going up it with nary a problem. Eventually wound up coming down at Occidental, where the Santa Rosa 120 cutoff is, and continuing the clockwise loop on the top circle back to Valley Ford. Here is where things got interesting, a rider decked out in full Mapei gear came along and zoomed past me—didn’t say a word. And full gear meant the funky Mapei bib that didn’t have the shorts built on—just a weird cutout in the back for the shorts to peek though like “chaps.” I jumped on his wheel and hung in. Had my Domo Arm warmers rolled up so tried to straighted em’ out so he could see the enemy” team. (most non Italian riders on Mapei formed their own team--Domo, in 2001.) Big downhill came about and he slowed down—worse downhiller than me?, wants me to pass? I let him stay in front and he was taking it slow, he tried to ride me off on the flats but nothing doing—when we flew by people I’d still send out a shout; Mapei was too Euro-cool to talk to anyone. I took a turn or two at the front but knew the 36+ rest stop was coming up and didn’t know if we’d be sprinting. I rode up to Mapei’s side but he wanted to stay in front, I obliged and stayed on his wheel. and that is how we came into the rest stop, 1-2, same time. I had talked and called out potholes along the way, he didn’t say much except when we pulled in he wanted to know what mile this was. Strange bird.

Rest stop only had two porta-potties and I (again, have to stop having cereal the day before an event) had semi runs. Tried to get out as fast as possible but still 14 mintes at the stop. Great banana bread.

Rest Stop 1-37.58, 9:37-9:51 (2 hours, 22 minutes; 142 minutes), 15.9 mph

Next section was back in the middle loop again, this time doing a clockwise route back to Tomales along pretty flat roads.

When I started off one guy dresses in mountain bike shorts and spinning 150rpm zoomed by everyone. I dug in and caught up him, definitely tiring watching him pedal—plus he was weaving in and out. With crosswind I went to the front, and then we switched off a little. Came upon two Benecia Cyclists and asked them about Peter Van Slyke-racer I trained with at the Fremont Crits. They laughed-oh the refinery guy???, but said they’d pass on my greeting. I kept going strong and spinning guy wearing baggy shorts (anti-Mapei guy) with tattoo on his leg, who surprisingly told me that no, he wasn’t a mountain biker—just from San Francisco. He soon died out when the hills began.

Unbeknownst to me we were going back to Tomales High School. On the rollers into a slight headwind two guys shot by and I stuck to their wheel, while we passed a dozen cyclists. At intersection on Highway 1 we saw right run arrow back to Tomales, after turning someone realized that we had done it this morning, and we were now supposed to go left, along the counterclockwise lower loop. We then doubled back to the intersection, which would take us along the rollers on Highway 1 to Marshall. A big paceline came through—heading South on Highway 1

Traveling slightly downhill at first, about 10 riders now in the paceline.. Guys that I joined by Tomales High School went to the front. Mapei guy was in it, plus another guy wearing a counterculture type moon jacket. I just sat in the back, seeing how things developed. Soon the steep rollers started and the paceline broke into two, with me joining the 4 people mentioned above. Mapei went to the front and I went and sat on his wheel—he powered over the first two rollers in first position but I was having an easy time hanging right in back of him.

On the next roller Mr. Counterculture viciously launched an attack and I spun up and got behind his wheel. I was just playing Museeuw at 2001 P-R and killing the attacks.

Next roller and Mapei went to the front and again I just sat in 2nd wheel and easily stayed behind him. OK—time to play also. Next roller was big one and I decided to open it up, I went into it hard, shot up and stood, no one came near me.

I slowed to regroup at the top and gang-o-four back on. I think Mapei guy went up the next roller first with me sitting on his wheel. In any event we hit the next big roller and I went hard up it again, and then there was a sharp left handed turn up Marshall-Petaluma Road—the one with the peace bell we usually come flying down. (Left hand turn came at suddenly—some signs with arrows and early warnings would be nice.) . I continued to pound on the pedals, it was mile 60, and 4 more miles to rest stop—and I was was not going to get passed again. Hurting and dug in on the climb, false flat,, another climb, mile 64, no rest stop. Long downhill-more uphills-damn it was getting warm. I turned around once, no one behind me, but kept up a strong pace. Finally, Mile 66 ½ the rest stop finally appeared. Secured bike and went and got a drink before Mapei appeared—not saying a word..

Mile 66.9 11:28-11:40, 239 minutes, 16.8 mph.

Fortuitously at the rest stop took off undershirt—though it wouldn’t get broiling it was now pretty warm. Was now going to ride counterclockwise lower loop-- “backwards” along Marshall Petaulma road. Was it that long ago that Delta Pedalers did this ride from Olema, or Jo Jo organized arthritis ride of last year?. How things change. Out of rest stop in 12 minutes after b.sing with the ham radio operator for awhile. Passed three girls from the morning who had commented on my Death Ride kit—this time they commented that I had passed them in the morning. Later I found out the made a wrong turn and never did one of the loops. Not to many other riders on this section. Came out on Hicks Valley where Tom and Veronica were beat from the climbs going in the opposite direction last year. No road markings on the road, no cyclists around, made a left turn but then dug out the map to doublecheck.

Rest stop at mile 74 quickly coming up. Figured that was a good place to top off and skip the next rest stop. This rest stop was at Union School—and was deserted-3 workers, 1 porta potty, no bikes. I quickly went in, had some great banana nut bread and pulled out. Only 10 minutes in this one. While I was there the ham radio was loudly indicating that there were many riders lost, doing the wrong route etc. Hard to know who was doing what with so many arrows, AND the Oakland Yellowjackets who I saw en masse all day were either doing the ride or doing their own thing (saw them going in the other direction previously.) Was told that 250 riders were on the 100 mile route, I was number 28 (not bad for starting 45 minutes late) and only 9 riders had stopped at the Union School rest stop.

Mile 78.42 12:24-12:34, 282 minutes, 16.7 mph.

Got my ass kicked, and it was my own fault. Leaving Union School road started to go up and there was a nice sized hill. My legs were starting to feel heavy. Guy comes along setting a nice pace along the hill and passes and said hi—he was standing and motoring,. Figured I could sit and spin onto his wheel like I had done most of the day. I sat and I wasn’t coming close to him—by the time I figured this out and stood and was able to keep pace he was long over the top of the hill. Standing wasn’t bad, and I could have kicked myself for not putting in the effort earlier.

When getting close to Petaluma sudden left turn and then we were in subdivisioon city. Scores of riders going the other way, but I had checked map and I was on course. Mapei racer and moon jacket friend were coming in from a different direction-like they had taken a rest at a neighborhood park off to the side. This part of the ride was disappointing, looked like the Balfour Loop.

Finally tuned in to Chilenos Valley Road, some small climbs, passed the girls who told me they missed a loop and may do more miles—that gave me the idea of doing an extra 20 at the end as wasn’t tired and would be good training. With this in mind I stopped at mile 88 rest stop just to top off and grab something to eat—here they ahd free sample Endurolights, Cliff Shots and Cliff Bars. Unfortunately my pockets were kinds stuffed with my vest and undershirt. Ready to leave I saw “Marlin” on the side and gave him a nod. I got out of this rest stop in 5 minutes—great-rest stop[ times going down all day 14-12-10-5 (plus 1 minute to check map)..

Mile 88.64, 1:13-1:18, 321 minutes, 16.6 mph.

Started riding and felt that someone drafting off of me. Slight headwind, I felt good, no problem. Figured good situation. I would have someone to switch off with during the rollers into the wind part of the course. Turned around, it was tri-girl, big smile on her face, now down to a halter top.. I kept pulling and then was tired and told her we’d have to switch for just a minute or two-which was OK. Problem was that on the hills she fell off badly, and on the slight downhills she’d motor to pass. Apart from this her speed in the flats was excellent, she said that she hoped she wasn’t slowing me down, told her that I was going to do bonus miles, so non killer pace into headwind was OK, UNLESS someone tried to pass in the last 10 miles. Words weren’t out of my mouth when Mapei guy shows up with friend and Mapei guy flys by. I think about it for a split second, and then jump to catch up to Mapei. Jeeze, one year later and I’m like Larry U. at Lodi looking at guys legs instead of the women.

As noted earlier it was warm-I was down to one jersey, Tri Girl was down to a halter top. Mapei still has his Mapei arm warmer on his arms, and a Mapei vest over a Mapei jersey over his Mapei bib chaps. OK-I didn’t expect him to take off his bib chaps. (As Liggett or Sherwin would say--it looks like someone spilled a pot of paint on the guy.)

I sprint and get up to Mapei easily, and when I recover ride at the side of him. He is either sandbagging or he is tired—as he isn’t riding as fast as when I pulled to the side of him at the beginning of the ride. Once again, if we do enough miles people slow down to my speed. This time he talks a little, says that the important thing is to “pace yourself”—(?, flying by riders ain’t pacing yourself.). I commented on how Domo Farm Freites dislikes Mapei—I don’t think he knew the history.. Then we get to a curve with a little hill and I go to the front and dig.

I ain’t looking back. I don’t hear Mapei on my wheel but if he regroups with his friend they can run a two man. Against me is that we’re riding into a headwind along Tomales Petaulma Road. On the upside there are a series of significant rollers where the two guys had contacted me before Tomales/ Highway 1 on the first go around. I am hammering, passing riders, still saying hello.. The thought of doing 20 extra bonus miles has left, maybe a few just to cool down. I pass the house I drove through earlier with a bunch of American flags in front, wasn’t THAT far to the High School from here by car. But I’m not in a car. Keep passing lots of cyclists as all of the routes have now come together—have to keep an ear out for any cars approaching from the rear. Hey, my odometer says 100—where is the f’n finish. It is at 102+. Finally I see the school, look back, no one is there.

I ride past the cutoff to the school and circle back. Mapei guy is about 2 minutes behind-scowling. Tri girl waves, about 4 minutes out. I go down the road with the benefit of a tailwind, but don’t want to do the bigger rollers again, so come back with 5 extra bonus miles.

Come back at 2:27 and 107.79 miles. Odomoter says 16.4 average. 7 hours, 12 minutes total time, with 42 minute s of breaks 6 hours 30 minutes-390 minutes or 16.58. About half a mile faster than paceing off the tandem for half the ride (an easier route) last year.

Go in for postride meal—volunteer asks if I want chicken of veggie—veggie is something called a “fretata.” I want chicken but want to try both--she says it is against the rules but will give me a piece—a SMALL piece. I can’t understand it, when you pay $$$ (this one $50) and ride 100 miles it should be all you can eat—especially when the rest stops weren’t that well stocked. Don’t like the cow theme but the tee-shirt was orange so I bought one. Not that many riders eating in Courtyard—lacking the energy at the end of Chico, Sierra, Napa. Chicken, rice and salad was quite good—then drove up to Rohnert Park to look at new bikes and thought about how a 100 miler isn’t that “special” anymore..

August 28, 2009, Tour of the Napa Valley, 97 miles, w/ Big Mike, 18.5 mph **ALL TIME MPH RECORD FOR A FULL CENTURY**, 7:00-1:25

Walked around SF with Jessie yesterday, it was over 90 degrees, so excepted it to be a furnace in Napa. Weather turned out to be perfect—one of the warmest starts I recall (Big Mike “you sure you want to take that vest") and while it got hot it never got oppressive.

Real different “negotiating” the time this year. Big Mike had emailed earlier in the week wanting to leave at 5:30-6:00 which would have gotten us started at close to 8:00 (he's game to begin early but is always late,), I had suggested leaving at 5:15 with an eye to a 7:00 start time. “Sure” said Big Mike. Much different than the endless negotiation with Whiny Mike last year and the resulting last minute “bike rider mystery bug” story weenie Mike and Joann concocted that couldn’t pass the smell test.

In any event lots of history at Napa—from the first year on the metric where as a new Delta Pedaler Dave S. invited me to join a three man pace line and then had to walk up Ink Grade with the hybrid. Talking Donna on the 30 mile loop when she first got started (with two valve flats at the beginning.) Only trailing Frank and Dave “a minute or so” up Ink Grade after Dave fought fires the whole week—and then watching him get “toasted” and sing Polka songs at the end of the ride. Jealously watching Mike, Joann and numerous other riders et out on the 100 while my knee kept me on the 60—which I rode with Verena, limped around at lunch, got passed on Ink Grade by two women, watched Verena do a tremendous downhill run, and then knee buckled when going to see Rachie play soccer directly afterwards. Then last year, after the promise of riding with a big group I just set out with Jerry and we hammered to what was up until today a new record of 17.7 average speed, with our catching Mike/ Joann on the Silverado Trail, and my wheel tacoing at the end.

In short, this is the Century with the most history, and what started out as the century with the MOST climbs (Mt Veeder, Mt Veeder, Whiney Mike would warn about) and used to be number 1. But like the old movie house—it’s luster is fading fast.

Diablo Cyclists were riding this one, but many doing the 60 on a fixed gear. Big Mike and I planned to do this one; in a year no one else had ridden centuries we had done Pardee and the second half of Chico and the Sierra together. In a year of incredible irony, if there was anyone who rides like Jerry (out after getting hit by a car at the beginning of the year) it is Big Mike—hammering on the flats, not wanting anyone to pass them, and tearing up the downhill’s. In short—another powerhouse, though not as tactically aware as Jerry (but few riders are.) And where I get excited when I see a rider ahead and want to catch up to them, Mike is aware of riders behind him and wants to stay ahead.

Trained hard on Tuesday-Wednesday and Thursday with Wednesday setting a new record up Mt Diablo (66:25) But with “Italy I Wanted to Cancel” trip readily approaching have been busy scrambling for bike routes- and whole year with all the bullshit hard to concentrate—so weigh finally crept up over 140 (142 on scale so in reality 148 ½.) THIS WINTER—getting to 136.

Big Mike & I hammer through the 100 miles of this semi-hilly (@5,000' climbing) at 18 1/2 mph--mostly on Big Mike's effort on most of the course and mine when he started to tire near the end. We also rode a smart 2 man--Big Mike pulling on 80% of the course, and I'd take over on the uphill grades or when I sensed he was getting tired. Great Photo by Photocrazy near the end.

We set out at 5:15 and got to Napa at 6:15-6:30, what I thought was good time but there were already tons of cars at the Yountville Home. We had to park on a rolling grass field full of goatheads by the swimming pool, with Mike’s SUV on a severe tilt so the doors wouldn’t stay open properly.

Had to walk up the big hill to registration (probably should have gotten bikes and ridden up—my bad call.) For once not chilly at the start and registration lines were long—lots of riders had already set out. Couldn’t get a second route map which didn’t even have mileage in the back (we ran out last year), they no long give out headbands, and had to go on another line to get the patch which used to be free. No food at start and freebee bag had a patch kid and a cliff bar-whoopee. At least they brought in a few porta-potties. Saw Frank and Verena riding up as we were ready to leave.

Hard getting bikes ready on undulating, thorny parking area—carried them to sidewalk, Mike’s cleats filled with mud after he talked me into leaving vest back in car. Left at 7:00 even.

Leaving the heavily tree lined avenue of the Yountville Veterans Home, saw about a dozen hot air balloons hovering straight up that had just launched. With tailwind we hammered down Solano Avenue, I was kind cold so didn’t mind setting a nice pace to warm up by. At long traffic light one rider commented—so you are both going to hammer the whole route? “Why not” I responded—“it is only 100 miles.”

Honest response—though two big fair climbs and one long uphill grade no really steep killer climbs and no series of leg weakening rollers. I just had to worry about keeping Mike in sight on the downhill’s and staying on his wheel in the headwind. Already figured where Mike would lose me would be where Jerry lost me last year—on technical downhill off of Veeder., and I was right.

Noticed area where only rider who passed us last year had done so, but this year knew that Veeder not that steep and we kept the pace up. I took a little off so I wouldn’t ride ahead of Mike, but he working hard and I didn’t have to take much off. Air was weird, cool and damp, and if I put in a bigger effort probably would have had a coughing fit. Passed scores of riders, near the top a girl shot by on the climb but I just followed, staying on her wheel. No used to passing anyone now with downhill section to follow. Someone playing fiddle at the top—but was like funeral/dirgie music.

Started the long downhill and Mike jumped out. Road was crowded, I was passing lots of people, and as expected a few people were passing me. Lots of sharp curves, missed one and went slightly into oncomming traffic lane. Ah shitty. Looked like Mike took a little off a few times so I could catch up but I’d soon be off the back again. Some uphill rollers started and here I’d put a big effort to catch up to Mike, but he was hammering over them, and there were sudden downhill,/ curved dropoffs on them. A US Postal rider went by and Mike and he started racing, I barely caught up and jumped to the front but was totally winded, and when he took off on Mike I couldn’t help at all.

At one point I called out, big uphill, and sure enough around a curve near a gated house a big uphill appeared—Mike promptly had to stop as he dropped his goo packet. Remembered uphull as here is where I got back on terms with Jerry last year.

So we lost US Postal rider but we had motopred past everyone else. Around mile 29 pulled into “Valley Floor” rest stop—didn’t spend more than 8 minutes at rest stop and was good to go. Unfortunately theis rest stop only had hated Revenge spirts drink—food wasn’t anythning special.

Rode past housing traks and subdivisions. Big Mike went to the front and we had a crowd developed, and suddenly markings/ sign said right turn,. I started making the right from the outside of him—he went straight—pelaton followed me after near miss crash and Mike riding on sidewalk. When he went to the front again I bugged him the next few intersections re the correct way to go.

Wound up on Silverado Trail heading north for 10 miles with a slight tailwind. Mike was hammering in the front and we were joined by a 3rd rider, so I let Mike know we could all take turns and we had a 3rd wheel. EXACTLy what happendd-at same sport-with Jerry last year. In fact as we passed one rider I called out and she was startled—same place I got yelled at last year “you scared me.” And then, when uphill rollers started (long but not steep) the 3rd rider was dropped—same as last year. I tried going to the front on the uphill rollers, on the flats I’d keep it at 22 and Mike would get “impatient’ and go back to 24-26. In fact, the biggest “hurt” was after I’d take a long pull, Mike would go to the front and not increase speed gradually, but just hammer from the get go.

Phil Liggett-"Knarven is falling off the wheel and is in trouble now, trying to hold onto Hincapie’s wheel. (Later) Peeters is on a piece of elastic on the back of the group—or is this it. "

What was noticable—real noticble—ws abundance of CHP Officers en route. Wonder if that was more to have cars behave or for us to stop at stop signs (years ago one officer was ticketing in Yountville for bikes not stopping.) In any event, never been on a ride with such a big police presence.

I must be real jaded now. The trip up Silverado passes mile after mile of rolling grape vineyards. Shit, when first moced to California was so impressed seeing them, But nicer vineyards, wineary buildings on Santa Rosa ride, and heck, even see grapes growing in Lodi. Much rather enjoy riding throughh densly wood forest sections, like the Lake Hennessey-Pope Valley portion coming up.

Got to intersection where 60 milers join us and quick turn onto road going up to Lake Hennessey. I went to the front and passed a large group of 60 milers seemingly moving backwards on the slight uphill grade. At mile 45 we were quickly at Lake Hennessey—another real quick stop of 8 minutes of less. Average speed 19.2! This rest stop thankfully had Cytomax—so pee-fill up bottles-banana and fig newton. Saw Diablo Scott with Mapei shorts waiting for his group. We also had caught up to big contingent of Benicia Cyclists who had started when we first were going to registration table (20-30 minute head start) and thought I’d seen Peter rolling out.

Continued up Sage Canyon Road to Chilies and Pope Valley Road—about 20 miles of mostly uphills, but nothing steep and usually with a tailwind. Kind of like the Sutter Creek-Volcano run. We made the sharp left past a watchful CHP officer—disappointed no Miles Photos out this year, and then we started to uphill.

Two cyclists jumped ahead of us and we sat on their wheel for too short a time, the road leveled out and Big Mike jumped out. I got back to him and suggested that I’d have sat on their wheel a little longer and tried to keep it a 4 man. Gotta take a gift-breather when you can. I slowed the pace down and the two riders regrouped (one also wearing a Sierra Century jersey-kind of like a team; other rider said he was to cheap to get jersey, told him I was too had been waiting for them to go half price but then got email that only a few were left. He said he was too cheap even to by them at half price.) One guy did a great job setting the pace on the uphill, when he’d slow I’d go to the front for a long turn. Mike was falling off a little so I tried to keep it at a steady, consistent pace.

Phil Ligett—When they reach the cobbles Museeusw give it everything he’s got. (substitute the word uphill for cobbles.) …Who would have thought that we’d ever see the same members of a team finish 1-2 again, nevermind 1-2-3."

When we got to the downhill section Mike and other riders jumped, and I mostly sat in the back. At one point a guy with orange rims and another rider joined us—on the only steep downhill section Mike took off and I couldn’t close the gap. One of the new riderrs did a nice bridge and I sat on his wheel going up—Mike was beat (serves him right for jumping) and I stayed with new guy until he bailed out at Pope Valley Store (lots of riders stopping there) and he gave me a push to get me back into the stop in the paceline. Here Mike and I hammered past hubcap rance, but no one racing this year, and we passed scores of riders.

Made sudden left turn into goldf course/ lunch road/. Road crowed as hell, and we just rode at 12 mph from the 22-24 we were doing a few minutes ago., Everyone taking it easy. All of a sudden pile of glass on middle of road, rider we had passed now coming in like bat out of hell--”yelling on your left”—I moved over VERY slightly as to not run over the glass and wondering what this crazy person is doing in a "feed zone." Mike said he must have needed to got to the bathroom/ 66 miles and average 19.0 miles per hour. Think we were there around 10:30 but couldn’t swear to the time.

It was getting hot at the lunch stop and it was mobbed. Long line for the porta potties and drinks—even longer line for food. Downed a bottle while waiting for the outshouse,, Mike had made it halfway through line—wasn’t really hungry so asked him to grab me a banana and half a bagel. He came back with a spread—no sandwiches but two plates heeping with all kinds of fruit.

Found a spot in the shade, sat on long strip of cardboard as ground was rocky. If anyone overdrover the golf course green we’d get hit on the head. Saw Diablo Scott again. Saw Peter from Benecia bike club—came over and we b.s’d about racing. Another guy from Benecia Bike Club had seen me on Diablo Cylist ride and knew June from Contra Costa Times. When leaviung saw Jack come in. But I had never seen so many people packed into a rest stop. (not Volcano or Fiddletown, not top of Honey Run, or Santa Rosa Lunch stop—this was the worst.) Estimate we were at stop for 30-40 minutes, with 15+ minutes just waiting in line for food.

At lunch Mike and I made a good plan. Ink Grade was coming up and I’d probably beat him to the top of the 5 mile climb. The there is about a 10 mile wide open downhill that he’d easily pass me on. So instead of me or him waiting, we agreed that I’d just ride over Ink Grade, go on the downhill, and he’d either catch up to me or we’d regroup at the sudden/ sharp right handed turn near the bottom of the downhills.

Left and taking it easily on slight uphill—needed to get legs back. Suddenly a rider calls out “you need to pick up speed” it was Paul and “Michigan” Tom from Diablo Cyclists. Paul said they rode very hard to that point—but before I could ask him what his average speed was (can’t imagine anyone riding much harder than Mike and I) all of a sudden it was the sharp right onto Ink Grade, and I started to hammer.

Ink Grade was crowded, and now my breathing was good but legs were a little heavey from the 19.0 mph to lunch. Funny, on the Clearlake and back ride I solo'd a few weeks ago, I hit Ink Grade at mile 80, but had ridden at my own pace (@16) and legs were better than now at mile 70. But passed everyone in sight, and the didn’t want to get repassed. Was warm now but most of Ink Grade heavily shaded. At one point flew by US Postal Jersey guy who was also wearing shorts of guy who passed us earlier in the day. Like to think it was same guy but not sure. I was mostly sitting and spinning until I’d come to a hairpin turn and then would stand and power over them.

Passed house that burnt down/ water stop. They had a booming sound system playing Rolling Stones tunes. Was temped to just roll in there and end the ride. Funny, I have never stopped at that spot. But also didn’t want Mike to pass me easily on the downhill so kept hammering up. At the end the road was almost blocked by cyclists waitin for their friends—did Ink Grade at 22:25 (last year 22:49, @ 22:15 a few weeks ago after Clear Lake ride.) Disappointed but again a little bit to heavy, a little bit too tired, and no one had passed me.

After getting to the top of Ink Grade there are still a few sharp uphill rollers; one guy passed but I easily repassed. Then the big downhill that used to scare the heck out of me. This one is wide open—kind of like the Bears, and I was able to do it nicely. One guy passed and I followed his line, but he kept digging as he thought I was racing him. At one point caught up to him and told him that wans't racing but needed to get to cutoff before my friend—the big guy.

Funny-on a very straight ski slope section, all of a sudeen a FAT (as opposed to BIG) guy comes barrelling past us. Rider I was with looks back, I shgake my head—no, not him. But when the road became curvy again, and leveled slightly so you had to pedal, we both repassed the FAT (not BIG) guy.

Got to sudden right hand turn where I was going to stop (well marked this year) and I made a big sweeping turn so I wouldn’t jam up any riders behind em when stopping. Ah shit—someone had swept lots of glass to the side of the road I went to. Started talking to an Asian rider with a Meryx bike about his machine—he loved it; Paul came by about 2 minutes later and Big Mike about 4 minutes later.

When Mike came by still a little downhill section and I wasn’t ready. He created a gap, and then slacked off so I could catch up—but a CHP car approached and I didn’t want to ride far from the shouldr and was jammed up by some slower riders. Put an effort in to catch Mike when we turned into “sewer plant road” when a rider shot by—who promptly dropped his bandana and had to stop. Told Mike if he comes by again we are chasing.

Left turn onto Silvarado trail at mile 84—and miled headwind as predicted. One of the worse endings for a ride and road now has tons-o-tourist cars and wide shoulders often blocked by slow riders riding 2-3 across. All of a sudden paceine shot by us which Paul and Michigan Tom were on, Mike and I jumped on but last rest stop at Napa College (mile 88) was quickly upon us.

Another very crowded rest stop—water/ sports drink buckets were running low—seemed that they only had water out. Another rest stop were were quiclkly out of in 8 minuts or less.

Now I was retuirning the favor for Mike doing most of the pulling on Silvarado earlier in the day, and passing scores of riders at acomfortable pace. All of a sudden a tandem came by with two riders in tow, and we HAD TO jump on. And this was climbing tandem (couldn’t figure out if two men or guy and girl)—so there was no slacking off on uphill roller portions. Guy with Gerenositler jersey in front of me, Mike behind, and this was the order we’d stary in riding into Yountville.

Wind was coming in from the right so rode slightly to the left/ rear of guy in front, but had to keep making sure not to overlap wheel as he (and paceline) had to suddenly come out to left because of slower riders on shoulder. One scary moment, riders across the shoulder and someone in paceline had to jam on brakes—and you couldn’t swing out far left with car traffic on Silvarado. Luckily guy in front held his line (he had done a few wobbles previously) and then I was scared that Big Mike would run into me—but luckily he was a few feet off the back. We started up again—Mike hurting a little but I was feeling fine. But damn, no one gets away on the last 10 miles, and our average speed, though dropping, was in the mid 18’s, so had to keep it there.

Until we made right turn onto Yountville Cross Road. Just like the whole f’n year the crosswind killed me, but I remembered it wouldn’t be long until we went back into the headwind and Photocrazy. Tried to ride on the right of rider in front but too many slow people clogging lane,. So had to grit my teeth and hang on for dear life. Kept hearing Phil Liggett’s voice about Servais Knarven holding on for dear life at 2001 Paris Roubaix.

Sudden left turn and Photcrazy sign, turned around and looked for Big Mike but he had fallen off a little. He didn’t even see the “Photocrazy ahead” signs. But as we both looked resplendent in the same Sierra Century jersey (nice jersey but damn, it was a day to ride sleeveless) slowed for him, and unlike Party Pardee there was no Team in Training Asshole to undercut the photo. Think Photocrazy got us both—we’ll soon see.

Another turn into headwind and I motored to get back to tandem, but soon at Yountville, so regrouped with Mike and rode in together, reaching the parking lot at @ 1:25. Not quite 100 miles,

99.6 5:23 riding time, 6:25 total time—18.5 average speed..

Of course as soon as we arrived band took a break, but for once they had a good band playing (no Polka or bike instrument experimental band this year.) Calistoga no longer a sponsor, I guess, so no free Calistoga’s, they had free soda fountain sodas but out of Diet Coke, so just got water. Very mediocre veggie burgers and very chewy turkey burgers (used be a sausage/ real hamburger paradise) but fantastic orzo salad. In fact went back for seconds, while long line for crappy burgers no one on line for salad only.

Found table in shade, met up with Steve , June, and Jack. They had started at 7:30 after meeting in Walnut Creek—had about 6-8 in their group. June introduced me to her friend as a great climber, which I never view myself as, but that was nice. Big Mike intrigued by a triathlete who after doing a 100 mile ride then runs and swims. We probably stayed for an hour, good times, longer than we usually do.

Pre Sierra, Death Ride, Chico,. Davis Double, . Tour Unknown Coast—Napa was the “Queen of the Classics.” But the Queen has lost some of its luster. Other rides are much better supported-better starts-rest stops and ending meals. Other rides have better/ harder hills/ routes with less traffic. Most importantly other rides—even ones that are filled to capacity like Santa Rosa, seem much less crowded. While it is great being in a century filled with cyclists (unlike Holstein or Pedal Round the Puddle) it is also nice not being caught in a traffic jam. And Little amenities (free patch, headband, Calistoga) have quietly disappeared. Napa is nice to do, and is convenient, but solidly behind Sierra, Chico and TUC, and I’d probably rather do Santa Rosa.,