Saturday, June 17, 2006

Terrible Two-2006

(June 17, 2006)Terrible Two 2006 200 miles, 16,500' climbing, 100 degrees on big climb of the day.5:30-9:18; 102 of 283 starters , ahead of 64% of starters, 181 finishers by 11PM cutoff . Don, Jack, Doug, Kitty on the course but riding solo most of the day. Big stretch with Ish, Kitty and Grizzly Mark

Last year did surprisingly well on Terrible Two, even with 10 extra anniversary miles thrown in, and then did well on two additional doubles. But that was last year. This year doubles are rough, with hypothermia, heat exhaustion (DNF), and muscle meltdown. And when riding well, like at Sierra Century, unexplained mechanical, and lots of residual aches and pains. After Sierra Century while bike shop said American Classic wheels were good (the ones that had two blow outs), I had a string of continual flats, and with hand strength at 60-70% hard to change tires. Then bike shop said my cranks stuck in bottom bracket with new Phil Woods bearings--and they'll try to extricate bottom bracket in the winter--"but don't worry for now"--so I am. Brakes rattling around--maybe it is headset but hard to tell with stupid internal headset. Then handlebars not tightened down when bike comes back from shop--caught just in time for start of what should be a long training ride but my legs feel like crap, and we come across a huge bike crash that ends the desire of most of the bonus mile group after the ambulances leave. Shit, last year on weekend before TT did 100 miles on Saturday and solo'd 80 miles of gold country hills on Sunday, this year Jack and I limp through 80 miles and then do worse the next day on shortest club ride of the year--35 miles. At same time getting bad karma from American Classics so I decide on Terrible Two's, with lousy downhill pavement, to put on the heavier Open Pros with a rear tire I picked up on Halloween with the TT in mind-a 25mm Michelin (instead of riding my usual 23mm's.) Also realize that each year since started climbing I've switched to harder and harder gears--which in the TT's with plenty of 15-20% grades, may bite me in the butt. (Kitty and Cal Mike warned me)

pre 2003 39x27 (39 gear inches easiest gear) Doing no hilly rides
2003 39x34. (31 gi) As 34 is overkill, will change to...
2004 39x32 (33 gi) As love having 11-28-32 but too many gaps when racing on the flats, will change to...
2005 34x27 (34 gi) As lots of chain drop, change to ...
2006 36x27 (36 gi) Which isn't much easier than 39x27

So after going into Devil Mountain and Central Coast in what I thought was good shape and going out hard and falling apart on Devil Mountain, and DNF'ing on Central Coast, my game plan is to take it real easy at the beginning of TT My DNF at Central Coast means I'm not in the Triple Crown race standings, which prevented me from being hyped up. I'm not even going to try to chase Don, who has been riding many of the "easy" doubles on a fixed gear and then flys when on a regular bike--or try to keep up with Jack who has an "insane" rest stop schedule (at Central Coast he was one of few riders to stay at lunch for under 10 minutes.) Both Don and Jack just finished Eastern Sierra in almost 12 hours. Then there is Kitty who is 1st among the women in the Stage Race series--she also has an insane rest stop pace. So I'd bet the farm that they come in way before me. The only person I may see come in after me is Doug, a good rider but who hasn't done many doubles this year, is a little intimidated by TT which he has never done, and faded at the end of Davis Double. While the TT course is 9 miles shorter than last year, forecast is for mid 90's and upward , while last year was mid 80's tops. Last year I finished at 8:43--with reduced miles this should translate in a 8:07 finish. But with heat, lack of form, heavier tires/rims and harder gears I hope to come in a half hour off the mark, or around 8:40--which will still be before nightfall.

Day before TT I take an easy flat 30 miler out to Los Vaquaros--very warm early in the morning, great cycling weather; of course again see no other cyclists en route. (Central County a hotbed of cycling--not to many in East County.) Knee and thigh still sore--though only rode once (easily) since the weekend. Hard to believe that it was cool and rainy 2 days ago. By the time I drive to Santa Rosa it is almost hitting 100. Luckily not a NASCAR weekend like last year, so staying a a nicer motel than last year, for about the same $$$. Doug and I eat at Tuscany Restaurant which I spotted in 2005. Good meal and good conversation but strange that not a Diablo Cyclist dinnerfest like usual. Love pasta the day before a ride, but with heat losing much of my appetite. Tomorrow I better keep well hydrated and keep eating--so at rest stops I plan to down Sustained Energy shakes when they are really cold, and make sure my Central Coast hunger strike doesn't repeat itself. Doug is good conversationalist and a little apprehensive of the Terrible Two, so we probably BS a little too late so get to sleep close to 10:00 and set alarm to go off by 3:30--but in AM Doug is ancie and already up. Still cool outside-a shade under 60, so I decide NOT to wear tri top and take arm warmers, two decisions I'd regret later on. I also took some HEED (carried in a PEETS Coffee bag) so I'd have enough electrolites--but this year they had HEED at rest stops so I carried bag for naught.

New location of mass start in Sebastopol adds 5 miles to the beginning of the course, so more flat area for the pelaton to stick together until the mass breaks up on the Bennett Valley rollers. Get to high school by 4:45, unfortunately that morning is first chance to pick up number and afix to jersey, so bit of a rush. Men's bathroom backed up like always. Turn in lights, to be picked up at mile 185--can send them to an earlier rest stop on the Coast at mile 163, but if I needed lights on the Coast I'd sag in before riding over terribly paved long descent that brings you back inland. Setup bike-can't find good mesh gloves--luckily I have a beater pair in my bike crate. Before long some loony on too much caffeine is running around yelling "5 minutes to rider meeting...5 minutes to riders meeting." So what. Then minutes before the mass start the organizer gives a speech regarding what to expect at --but last year half the riders couldn't hear anything he said, and again this year no one in the back could hear any details--though just the word "gravel" was prominent. Didn't see any of my Diablo Cyclist clubmates. Here is where I made the best move of the day--slipped back into gym-no one in woman's bathroom and took care serious business.

Now 5:30, first light and we are off--first rest stop after one climb and 55 miles away. (I don't know what shocks century riders more who consider hard climbs unfair when they're late in the ride at mile 70 and that rest stops should be 20-25 miles apart--when I tell them at that on the TT the big climb is at 110 miles or that the first rest stop is at mile 55.) Jack up ahead; I don't see Kitty, Doug or Don, who my $$$ is on to finish the fastest in our group. I have no impetus, not riding aggressively, so more and more riders jumping ahead of me and more and more space between me and Jack. In retrospect while no reason to be over aggressive as no one is going to really improve at this early juncture--you have to work to maintain your position in the pelation like when you are defending your floor space at the Fillmore, and I'm not doing it. Soon in the 3rd or 4th group on the road as we zig in and out of Central Santa Rosa in tight formation. It is not until rollers on Bennett Valley Road--mile 14--that the pack starts breaking up. No Diablo Cyclists in sight. Unfortunately I'm with a couple of doufus cyclists. We start climbing and a group of 8 is hugging the right side of the road. I'm in the back, as to relax on climbs when I'm in the back I don't hammer. Two cyclists riding at the front to the left of our line. Car comes along, settles behind two cyclists blocking road--lots of curves so wary to pass. Girl in front of me yells "car back." Both numnuts don't move. Girl again says "car back"--cyclists don't move. Another car now behind first one, girl again says "car back"--nothing. A 3rd car now is blocked and riding next me to me, girl again says "car back"--both cyclists on the left don't move. Mindful of what happened at the Sierra a few weeks ago I scream "car back-get the fuck over and let the cars pass." After riders finally move over and cars pass this seemingly wakes me up and I go hard up the hills.

We start the first of five significant climbs of the day, Trinity Grade, which is perhaps the easiest as fresh legs or because not many 12%+ steep portions as we'll hit on all the other climbs. I'm starting to feel like a Sierra Club dedication is due, and mindful that the first rest stop is still 25 miles away I stop at the side of the road. Around next corner is a SAG handing out water--while I still have most of mine I figure I might as well retop--unlike last year when it was foggy it is nice and clear now and I'm sorry I dragged the arm warmers. You know it will be very very warm soon, Hit top of Trinity Grade and start twisting/ fast descent. Some workers along road with "caution" or "slow" signs--I yell out not to worry as I'll be one of the slowest going down this fast section, which leads into the Napa Valley. Go around a big sweeping left curve and at the side of the road is a crowd of cyclists. By the time I get to the bottom ambulances and firetrucks are racing uphill--find out later that a tandem had a blowout and two of the fastest cyclists around were thrown into the guardrail and taken to hospital. Shit--I've seen too many fuckin accidents this last half year.

Get to Silverado Trail and see some cyclists in the distance. Here is where you want to form a paceline for the 20+ flat miles through the Napa Valley to Calistoga rest stop. I catch up to one, turns out a guy from Santa Cruz Cycling Team that we were racing at Davis. He and I try to catch couple of riders way up the road but we aren't making any progress so we decide to take it easy and hope we are joined from behind. Last year I could have ridden up to cyclists up the road--but bike feels slower with non aero heavier rims and 25mm tires--or maybe it is just my shot legs. In any event we are soon joined by 8-12 riders--half who are willing to work at the front. When the pace starts dropping Santa Cruz or I go to the front to liven things up. Glad I took a bottle of Perpetuem and nibbled on 1/2 a Cliff Bar, so wasn't hungry at all.

Trinity Climb-3 miles at 1,350 feet. As 1st climb of the day am rested , and no killer grades like on later climbs, so "best" climb of the day. Fast descent into Napa Valley. (Graph courtesy of Santa Rosa bike club)

Get to 1st rest stop, mile 55, Calastoga at 8:47 which is +4 minutes off my same pace from last year (pace adjusted for more miles in the beginning and less at he end, where course is 9 miles shorter, which got me in at 8:43 last year which would translate to 8:07 today.) But with my being off form, heavier wheel and harder gearing, and expected heat, I am hoping for a 8:30-8:40 finish. Jack and Doug leaving, and indicate that Don is up the road. Kitty pulled in around the same time but left before me. I only stay for 9 minutes, whizz behind occupied outhouses, drink 1/2 a Sustained Energy Drink, fill up bottles with HEED and more SE, eat 2 fig bars and banana and take 3 Endurolights. And then I'm off. Not much of a rest after 55 miles but you have to be quick out of the rest stops when you can. Now I know where rest of Diablo Cyclists are--about 10 minutes up the road. Next 18 miles flat to rollers and then a stiff climb up Geysers Road.

Figure that if I make up some time I can catch up with most of them on the climb. Fortuitous timing, RAAM top 10 finisher and great guy Ish comes along. He had been at accident scene. I last rode with him 7-9 years ago. He says hi--tells me about what happened earlier, and then pushes a hard gear at 22 mph. Disregarding California Mike's advice about riding to hard to early I get on Ish's wheel and stay there for the next 18 miles. When road goes uphill, or telling a story Ish doesn't slow much. Lots of people jumped on behind when road is flat but would fall off on the uphill section. Usually I find it easy to hang on uphill rollers as everyone else's speed cuts sharply while mine doesn't, but here I have to stand and ride hard to stay behind Ish who is effortlessly turning the big gear.

Off to the side I can see some wonderful vineyards and some picturesque Victorian's-with bed and breakfast garden. Real honor to be riding in back of Ish--who trained for RAAM while working full time. Funny moment after Ish tells me about the white shorts he is wearing, which he says keeps you cooler on hot days and is a tribute to someone he raced against in RAAM who always wore white shorts. Eventually Ish gets out of the saddle, and the black saddle dye has streaked the back of the white shorts. I mention this to Ish as one of the drawbacks, he laughs and says "what are you doing looking a my butt." I think he's used this line numerous times before. We make the right turn and start the double summited Geyser climb. Typical cloudless California (almost) summer day, and it is now very warm. Ish says that i'll probably climb this faster than him, I respond that even if I do he'll shortly pass me on the gnarly downhill full of pot holes, uneven chunks and gravel, which I'm going to take really slow. Ish says he takes downhills slow also--but something tells me his definition of slow is much faster than mine.

Geysers-9 mile climb, 2700 feet, then 16 miles of lousy roads in the middle of nowhere-courtesy of Santa Rosa Bike Club-each horizontal line 200 feet

At the beginning of the climb I put in alot of effort hoping to see some Diablo Cyclist teammates--not anerobic or even high aeroboic but a serious sitting tempo (I don't want to get out of the saddle much as I'm trying to save my back for later on.) I pass loads of cyclists and quickly come up on Jack and Doug (don't recall passing Don and passed Kitty when Ish and I first took off.) Lots of looping curves and Napa Valley below looks great--wish I had a picture to share with you. I start putting some distance on Jack and Doug as they'll both zoom past me on the downhill and guaranteed that Jack will be at the rest stop for a much shorter time than me--no matter how little time I take. Running low on water and having caught Jack and Doug I take a lot off--especially after short downhill which then leads to next summit. Either I catch up to, or am joined by Grizzly Peak's Mark, who I finished last year's Knoxville with and then pushed the pace on Mt Diablo at the start of Devil Mountain with, and also rode hard with over the big climb on Central Coast. We are now riding a more leisurly pace--probably Mark mindful that he didn't finish Devil Mountain Double, and I'm mindful that I didn't finish Central Coast by pushing too hard early. We both talk about how our bodies shut down on the doubles we disappointingly DNF'd on. Now it is hot and down to 1-2 hits of water--fellow cyclist comes up and wants to know if Mark or I can spare any water as he's out. This is only place that great great support of Santa Rosa Cycling Club could have improved--a water stop was needed. Soon after I slack and bs with Grizzly Mark, Ish comes along and passes us steadily--same pace always, not the fits and starts that I am prone to do. We soon pass outhouses about a 1/4 mile before rest stop--big sign that no outhouses at rest stop. I keep plugging away, I can whizz off to the side of the rest stop (as popularly done in Italy.) I get to mile 84, top of Geysers rest stop at 11:08, +24 off last years pace.

Figure I got there 1-2 minutes after Ish but he is already gone. Mix a cold SE and down it before refilling with another SE and HEED. I'm only at rest stop for 9 minutes and I take off for least favorite portion of the course.

Geysers Road is in the middle of nowhere--a geothermal valley, with no traffic. The top starts steeply down but is well paved. Soon I hear "on your left" and Jack passes. Then 15 miles of a lesser downhill but over ruts, bumps, potholes, gravel... Actually it was better than I expected--some of the potholes had been filled in....some. And all the dangers on the road were marked well with white paint., so many descriptive 'OIL PATCH' 'GRAVEL' 'UNEVEN' 'BUMP' pronouncements were on the road. The bad thing is that there are many more gravel patches than last year--and instead of being filled with pea gravel many of the 50' gravel sections were filled with larger chunks. While I think the 25mm tires slowed me down today--over this section I was very glad to have them on--especially when I almost lost control of the bike on the last gravel patch when I hit some big chunks.. Of course on this section I passed no one, and a few riders passed me, including Doug at the beginning (who liked this part-no doubt from his mountain biking skills) --but for the longest time didn't see anyone. Real desolate. Keep humming Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot," great song to calm me down on descents.

16 miles of lousy downhill seemingly goes on forever--I am so happy when I finally come out on a real road. Join up with a young guy from the Southland who comes up to do the Terrible Two each year, and a guy whose name starts with "Y' and has a number over 300---wow, they have over 300 crazy people on this ride. We are now going towards Warm Springs Dam lunch stop, near where the Wine Country Century lunch stop is--we are riding the opposite way. Amazingly I know where we are. As I remember that we have lots of short climbs after lunch on Wine Country we now have mostly short downhills--the young guy does lots of pulling, the "Y" guy doesn't do any, and I do a few short pulls to help young guy out--though when I go to the front I remind both guys to be real attentive to road makings as I am the Diablo Cyclist champion--in getting lost. We come in fast to Warm Springs lunch stop at mile 110-12:50, +28 minutes after my pace from last year.

It is now very hot--over 90 degrees, and the big climb of the day, Skaggs Springs is ahead of us. Additionally, last year I got very sleepy tired after the 15 mile Geyser climb. So my game plan is to pull into the lunch stop, sit in the shade and down a bottle of cold SE, take some Vitamin B, and just lay in the shade with my eyes closed for 10 minutes. This is when the Santa Rosa Cycling club really gets great. At earlier rest stops they were cheering each rider as they came in, which would continue. But now with the waves of incomming riders thinning, for the rest of the day a worker would grab your bike, hang it on a bike rack for you, take your bottles and fill them, etc. See Doug and my old doubles roomate Domo Tom. Tom had driven out to this spot and planned to ride the second half of the course. Just basically said hi to him as I wanted to rest. After getting rid of bike I go over to place where workers are making sandwiches and get a wheat roll with ham and turkey--nothing else that I can repeatedly taste later. I sit on side of workers and then down a cold SE. I hear Jack nearby, his bike is being looked at by a mechanic. Doug comes by and indicates Tom and him are leaving, but I ain't going anywhere. I lay back and close my eyes for 10 minutes--interrupted by 2 workers who come over to see if I'm OK, "yes, I smile with my eyes shut and shoes off--just resting."

Am finally ready to leave after 20 minutes. Jack is already gone. See Kitty who rolled in well after me, but she is ready to leave quickly. Don, who had been club's strongest double ride, comes in after me--I thought he was well in front of the course. Don looks white as a ghost--the heat has hit him hard. He indicates that he forgot his lights and asks that if I see him on the Coast I should wait for him as I did on DMD--but at that point I doubt that Don will finish. Go up the road and turn off so I can water a bush. Pass Kitty who tells me where she stuffs food so she can eat as she is riding. Ask her her secret when you see her--it looks like she looses lots of "Pamla Anderson" weight as she eats. . Then it is immediatly on the 1st portion of the Skaggs Climb--wide open in the sun. This climb is brutal.

Skaggs Springs-15 miles 3800'starting at mile 110. After climbing 7500' miles in first 110 miles, 5000' climbing first 30 miles after lunch.

Leaving lunch worker said 8 miles to water stop--it seemed like 800 miles. Someone reported later that their cyclocomputer said 106 degrees, another said 114 degrees-I doubt it was over 100 but it was very very close and there is absolutly no shade. Bottom of my foot started hurting slightly going into lunch, and I am still trying to protect my back for the Ft. Ross climb so I am again passing most riders but if someone comes through I'm not chasing like last year. More traffic than I rember from last year, nice shoulder but warm weather brought out lots of motorcycles and boats as right next to Lake Sonoma--can peak to the right and spot the blue water straight down Water looks inviting, but would be a shear drop to get there. Finally get to van off on the side of the road and refill with lukewam water--in 8 miles I had downed most of my drink. A few false downhills always followed by at steep, sun baked, uphill. I soon hear a faint voice "Jay-Jay"--it is Jack, in a cutout deep into the shade well off the road. He indicates he is spent, and though he has water and endrolytes he is ready to call it a day and was going to ride back down to the water sag. Jack is a doubles veteran, and he'd be among the 36% of the starters who didn't finish. Seemed like he had what I had at Central Coast--heat exhaustion. Soon I'd hear my name again, Kevin 508 who lead the ocean paceline at Central Coast was in the shade--he was also done for the day. Leaving lunch I didn't think that Don was going to finish. Figuring that Domo Tom ("race you to the top"-on Geysers from 2005 TT) was hammering Doug to death, I did expect to see Doug on the side of the road also.

Some doubt that I'd finish--I promised myself a vest if I did. It is baking. Next water stop more established-a half dozen riders look spent, all with wet towels over their head. Worker comes out and a la James Brown (sort of) puts a wet towel on my back--feels great. Have an ice pop and some pretzels for salt. More cold drink. Last year probably spent 2 minutes at one water stop on Skaggs--now spending around 18-20 minutes at all three. Actually, last year had to stop on downhills and put on my vest, and wished that "hope next year is warmer so I don't have to put on vest." Another example of how you shouldn't wish for things--you may actually get what you wish for. After wet towel on my back soaked my jersey the descent off the first summit felt great, like an air conditioner was on me. Bridge at the base of the paved descent which ends to fast, I pull off to water more bushes, before starting up shear wall in front of me. Motorcyclist doing same thing on other side of the road, I offer to trade my bike for his motorcycle--he says nicely "I couldn't do what you are doing." Nice to hear as I keep beating myself up a little that I'm not pushing the pace like last year.

The heat is now getting to me on the 2nd summit. Think the problem for most riders is that it has been relatively cool/ rainy in Bay Area with only a couple of days in the 90's, so no time to get acclimated. Usually I'm a good hot weather rider but now I'm drained.

Funny thing happens that would happen a few times from here on out. I pass bunch of riders but I am spent. I see some shade so I pull over and rest for a minute--group of riders I pass come up and go by me. While I am kicking myself for stopping, they stop en masse about 50' up the road in next pitch of shade.. For most of climb all by myself. At one point ride with a graduate student from Berkeley--first I wish I was much much younger and doing this. But then I think back, when I was a graduate student I could barely ride up one mildly hilly San Francisco block. Finally get to top of 2nd summit and another water stop. This one well off the left side of the road under some nice shade trees. I'm a little tired and remember last year when I was getting sleepy riding to Camp Gulala, so when I spot a lounge chair I again want to lay out for 10 minutes and close my eyes. Finally, carrying HEED in a Peets bag pays off, as rest stop only has water, so I mix my own cold sports drink to down it while it is still real cold. Eyes closed, relaxing, when high pitched female voice pierces the calm "Jay, get off your butt and get moving"--it is Kitty, the perpetual motion machine. Lots of laughter, but I hang out for another few minutes till rested up. I actually wanted to stay there the rest of the day. On nice gradual downhill to Camp Gulala pass Kitty and see Grizzly Mark again, and we ride together to Camp Gulala rest stop. Actually about 1/4 mile from the real nice spot it was last year--mile 139, 3:58, +57 off last years pace. Now getting cooler/ in some shade, I mix a cold Sustained Energgy drink, unfortunatley they don't have chocolate Hammergel to complete my shake so I put in some berry flavor--when I ride that would become my plain water bottle, now with a tinge of berry flavor for the rest of the day. Grab some nuts and fig bars and ready to go in 12 minutes--of course Kitty has already come in and left. Surpirsed that haven't seen Doug yet.

Road starts off with some weird slight uphills, a swirling tailwind is grabbing the bike and I'm coasting at 20mph uphill--better than the Volcano (Sierra Century) effect. But then the torture begins. Last year, on the special +11 mile edition, the bonus miles were here as we did a series of gradually graded hills circling out to the Coast. Riders that I were with complained that they liked the old course that went directly to the Coast, which was shorter but steeper. What were they thinking? We hit "the Wall"--climbing 900' in less than 2 miles. Average grade of 10% with many sections much steeper. Two things happen here--my knee that was operated on in 2001 and has been fine since 2003 starts giving me trouble. And my lower back starts hurting when I transition to stand. Then my bike starts making a weird clang every time I hit a bump, which doesn't help my psyche--I am now trying to figure out how I can protect my knee, loosen my back, and where the f'n clang is coming from....and how to ride over the next 14-16% section. Grizzly Mark comes by, usually we are compatable climbers but he easly passes me. I'm passing everyone else and again decide to get off the bike to stretch--when I do 4-5 other guys pass and then they get off down the road. Clanging coming from loose headset cap on top of fork. Only one guy is back on his bike--he's been zig zagging the whole climb, which I try but it really doesn't help. A few time near the top we come across an open space with the cool air from the coast rushing it--the temperature probably dropped from 95 to 65 degrees in the space of a mile. After some more false summits a real downhill to Highway 1--and though sunny and clear with the temperature change it feels like it is very cold

Stop to put on my vest. Look up the road no one there--look back, no one coming down, so I'll be riding along the ocean myself. Which is good as I soon get pain from my knee-which I usually cover when cooler than 70, but don't have knee warmers with me. . Almost as bad as the damn pain like in 2002, when I'd have to stop a ride after mile 40-at least it isn't in spasm, yet. Sudden cool weather and pushing to hard a gear on the climbs has conspired against me. Two guys, one being the "Y" guy from earlier come by--they are not going that fast but I can't get on their wheel. Ocean is beautiful to the right, and more cars than I remember passing on the left, nice shoulder when Highway 1 is flat but have to ride on Highway 1 when road goes uphill or downhill roller appears. SHIT-knee twinge--wait for section I can pull off to take a Naparson, but it is so long I don't have any with me, so I take Advil instead. I'm thinking that at Ft Ross Rest stop I'll take arm warmer I've been carrying and tie it around my knee.

Soon riding a few miles solo on Coast and doing a lot of thinking. TT is much harder than last year, and I am rapidly falling apart. All of the timed doubles were hard this year. Last year I was super competative and psyched to do the timed doubles--this year I enjoyed the untimed events more. I have fun on any ride when I can finishing strong and I haven't on the timed doubles all year. Last year with good results on the TT and very good results on Mt. Tam I thought I was developing into a very good doubles rider--now I am fair at best. Last year I wouldn't have rested so much and would have been aiming for best finishing time, now I am just concerned about just finishing. Year hasn't turned out as I planned. Again. They never do.

Luckily I soon catch up to Kitty so I can end the conversation with myself, and we ride the remaining half of the 15 Coast miles together. I talk to her a little about her (and Jack's) "insane" rest stop pace--whereas they are so unique in their ability to go "in and out" that my trying to match their schedule is like trying to ride with someone who can hammer 40mph on the flats. At Central Coast, where lunch stop is timed, I mistakenly only put 13 minutes in, I should have taken twice as long. Maybe I cut my lunch short when I saw Jack pull in and then suddenly leave--and I felt that I was dawdling. But then when final results were posted most top half finisher riders took close to 20 minutes at the lunch stop while Kitty took 16 and Jack 7! Of course Kitty is now ridiing for time as she is contending for Triple Crown woman's race title.

Pull into Ft Ross, mile 163, at 6:08, +62 behind last years pace. Here lots of folks send their lights, but if I needeed my lights here I'd sag in as most of the way to the next rest stop is rustic with some fast downhills along some terrible roads. Again great workers cheer when I come in, and grab my water bottles. One worker comes up and asks "fresh Peets," I playfully pull out the Peets bag I 've been carrying all day (w/ Heed) and say "no, I only drink decaf." I see guy Doug knows who rode with us at the finish in Davis, he has called it a day. I should have asked him if he saw Doug come through but didn't, as now I'm just thinking about Ft. Ross climb. I down some SE and banana, but only at rest stop for 6 minutes. Yes Kitty has already left--though before leaving she yelled at eveyone, with half the people sitting around half dead "it is getting dark, better get moving." In real life she should be a golf course marshall--now many of teh zombies wanted to kill her.

And better get moving is right-obscene climb at mile 163. Steep Ft Ross Road starts immediately. I didn't tie arm warmer around my knee as gently spinning down the coast kinda helped, and I knew it would be warm going back inland, but knee is quickly tender on first 15+% section, and my back quickly spasms whereas I can't make transition to standing. Oh shit

Major climb #5 of the day at mile 162, Ft Ross. While the wall went up 900' in 1.7 miles, Ft Ross goes up 1500' in 2.6 miles. Average grade 11%

Ride past Kitty, and past the place I got off the bike last year when I had back spasms, but getting more and more difficult. I get off the bike to stretch, Kitty comes by and says "start walking"---both to help stretch my back and so that I am always moving forward. So I start walking at 2.2 mph--first time walked up a climb since Ink Grade 7-10 years ago. Grizzly Mark comes through. Loosen up and get on the bike, feel OK for awhile--but first time I stand entering a 14-16% hairpin my back tightens again. Get off the bike-stretch-walk, I see from odomoter that have only gone a little over a mile, so if I keep walking it would take me an hour to finish this climb. When I get loose I get back on the bike and stay seated--only having a 36x27 easy gear is killing me. Brutal climb is along a narrow road but without much traffic--try the zig zag trick whenever possible but not much room to continually do it. If not slowly dying the tree lined road would be great. Tiny bit of relief always followed by a 15%+ section. Soon get back to Kitty and I ride her pace so I don't overextend. I'm po'd that I can't used my USUALLY easy climbing gear--wheras I can stand for 5 minutes at a time. Now I can't stand at all. Another hairpin that I trudge around and up ahead is another "WALL," 15-18% to the top--which I recognize as Big Mike and I did a solo ride along the ridgeline last year. (On the TT last year everything enveloped in fog and couldn't see the top.) I'm po'd that I'm dying out--but for once when in disrepair I remember my motivational "training tapes." (Usually just remember them when I am feeling good.) I hit the base of the wall-stand and start to power up while yelling "there he goes again-HE NEVER GIVES UP, EVER!" (Phil Liggett call of Museeuw when he hits the steepest climb and started to drop and then surges back to lead group on the 2002 Tour of Flanders.) I think Kitty yelled for me to calm down and/or take it easy but I was too excited as I was going to power to the top of the last damn section of this climb, and did...

Get to the top and right turn onto the ridgeline. Series of uphill rollers, but shallow enough that I can ride in the drops, stretching my back out, and the warm weather feels great. The spinning is helping my knee. Soon on a mostly descending road with some significant uphills, I have to laugh as last year this is where I'd pass Jack on the uphills and he'd repass me as soon as the road turned downhill--seemed like it happend just last week. Glad I laughed as this is another section of twisting roadway that doesn't have the greatest pavement, and with long shadows harder to see potholes and cracks. Come upon Grizzly Mark who is having trouble on the uphill sections--I'd get ahead of him on these while he'd come by on the downhill section. By this point I couldn't wait to get to paved "surburban" streets--I remebered the great straight run in we had last year to the mile 184-Monte Rio stop, where I waited to collapse but wound up leading a paceline. We finally got out onto the Cazadero Highway--no one up ahead or behind us, Grizzly Mark and I taking turns pulling. Unfortunatley, instead of a 7 mile stretch on this--a straight shot to the rest stop, they now detour us after 3 miles and have us do more rollers on a side road. Grizzly Mark suffering now and I try to do as much pulling as possible. Get back onto main road and we pull into mile 184, Monte Rio, at 8:07. Still running +62 minutes behind last year, but first segment in awhile where I didn't lose more time to 2005.--but it is 8:07 is when I had hoped to finish the damn ride.

Pull into rest stop with wild cheers by staff. One guy grabs my bike, and my bottles and I go to set up my lights. Look around-no Doug. I hadn't seen him on the road so either he is stuck in an outhouse or he is ridiing great. Grizzly Mark indicates that he is pushing on as I'll probably catch him on the uphill portion of Bohemian Highway.

In 6 minutes I am ready to go, and before I leave I get my revenge on Kitty, who pulled in about 5 minutes after me. She is sitting on chair off to the side and I yell out "Come on Kitty-time to go." I know she'll be off soon, and now I start hammering back to catch up to Grizzly Mark. It is only 8:15 or so--45 minutes before sunset, but with dense trees it looks like sun has already set. Feel good that new huge taillight is on bike (along with old tiny one, and reflector band around leg--put on after sag driver Lee's lecture every time we passed a rider with a puny taillight on Central Coast.) Soon see Mark ahead on one of the numerous uphill sections on the Bohemian Highway. Look back and no one down the road, and no one up the road--and now that I am feeling good want to protect "placement.," which will be shitty enough. Mark had carried his light--a small one but cleverly mounted on his fork so it lit up the road nicely. I didn't think that I'd be riding after dark on this so didn't bring the helmet light but 6-15w on handlebar is good enough. I mention to Mark that I just want to protect our placement now, and he has gotten his second wind and starts doing more pulling. Meanwhile, it is suddenly getting cool inland, more knee twinges, so I take some speed off. Pounding the pedals was fun while it lasted. It is darker than it should be. Today I'm doing a good job picking out turns (heck-I ride solo enough), and Mark knows the course well.

Soon after I complement him on his innovative light mount I hear a crash-- his light falls off bike. Mark stops 1-2 minutes to fix, as no one up or down the road I may as well stay with him. We start at it again and are circling the outskits of Occidental. Some traffic and real nightfall has set in. We can see well up the farm road and no bike lights in the distance. Soon buildings become more frequent, we are getting close to town, again crash-Mark's light again flies off fork, and we stop for 1-2 minutes to correct. Go up the road a little ways and suddenly Analy High School, follow the blinking lights around the parking lot--to more applause and checking in. Final time 15:48, +71 minutes off last year's pace. Disappointed but from heavier equiptment and lack of form I expected to be off by +30, and brutal weather accounted for the rest.

Over 100 riders DNF'd, only 55% finished by 10:00, the cutoff to get the "free tee shirt" that you can't buy. Ironically, though finishing 102nd, as more starters than last year finished ahead of 64% of everyone, which is what I did last year when I had quicker time and finished 89th. And I did what I Iove doing, being able to finish the ride strongly. See Doug at the finish--he had NOT collapsed and came in -14 minutes ahead of me, becoming the fastest Diablo Cyclist on the ride. I never would have predicted this guessed after he had suffered at the end of Davis Double. I had expected Don, Jack and Kitty to all finish way ahead of me. Made me think back to a Paul Sherwin nugget after 2001 Paris Roublex "at the start of the day no one would have put Servis Knaven's name down as the winner of Paris Roublex, but that is who it is going to be." Don't know if Domo Tom helped Doug though he did talk Doug into being light on Ft. Ross and only fill one bottle of water--Doug quickly ran out and asked Tom for some of his-"I'm out too" deadpanned Tom, so then they had to stop at a fire station for a refill.

Kitty soon arrives--she lost the stage race series to Lori of Fresno, a great climber who has been riding in hot weather, and who finished @1 1/2 hours before us. Usual great outdoors spread at the end of the ride--talk to Lori and Doug briefly, but Doug didn't take warm clothes and it is getting cold fast so he leaves while I have 3 helpings of main courses-lasanga, polenta and chicken. Hey, it's after a mostly liquid diet all day.

I think about what is a harder ride Devil Mountain Double--with longer but less steep climbs or the Terrible Two. Biased sample, but everyone (@ half--dozen) I asked today who had on a DMD jersey or I had know did both rides said TT. DMD is 2 months earlier so less time to train and less flat roads to paceline on. But almost all TT climbs are as steep or steeper as the steepest one on DMD. My conclusion, with a moderate weather TT, DMD is tougher. But when it is really hot, TT is tougher. I was falling apart on DMD but made it up Sierra, no problem. Today I was off the bike a lot, and so were many other people, on the late climbs. And as far as the course goes (again, maybe I'm biased as overly familiar with most of DMD course) the TT is much more memorable.

Go over to control central and they have Don still on the course and estimate he'll finish in 20-30 minutes, so I sit around at the end and watch riders come in and see workers get continually psyched for their arrival. One poor guy has come in but has to stay in bike clothes as his friend with the car keys is still on the course. Heck the best thing about finishing a 200 mile ride is getting out of the bike shorts and shoes. Kitty comes by to check on how she did on stage races--disappointed that she fell to 3rd. Heck, 3rd place woman, wow. In a few weeks she is doing a 8,000,000 meter brevet. While I sit at the control center one weary worker sits alongside and wants feedback on ride-tell her support is first rate, and where difficult sections of course were. . Some excitable crazy, could have been guy screaming "5 minutes to rider meeting" that morning, runs up to us and wants to know if I'm "that special guy" he's been hearing about. Riders coming in start to thin out--Don comes in with borrowed lights--after the 10- free tee shirt cutoff but before 11- cutoff for ride credit, so he's happy as he is celebrating this year that he turned 50 by doing 10 doubles (3 on a fixed gear.) When he comes in I yell "go Diablo Cyclists;" I think he is glad to see a familiar face. He is surprised that other Diablo Cyclist doubles veteran Jack DNF'd, a reminder that this ride really broke our group apart so no one knew what anyone else was doing.

I had the luxery of changing my clothes when I went to eat--but Don is beat and just wants to scarf down food in the same clothes he's been in for the last 17 hours. Unbelievably, he is thinking of doing the club ride tomorrow while I plan to be off the bike well into the week. Just as unbelievably, now that I finished this ride I am thinking of eventually doing it again--but with gearing that is at least 10% easier--a low of 32 gear inches .

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Sierra Century (Plymouth) 2006

Pre Sierra Double Metric Century, 2006- 1 week to go One week to go to my favorite event of the year. No longer the preeminent event with the Terrible Two, Devil Mountain Double, Death Ride.... but still plenty hard with 10,000 of climbing. Unfortunately this year Slug Gulch has been taken out--rumored that a wine fest is taking place nearby. Disgusting Hale Road has been put in, hard to imagine dozens of cyclists bombing down that twisting narrow road over postholes and cracks towards the (hopefully dry) creekbed.

With my and daughter's hospitalization, and then rain thru May, it feels like I'm missing a month or so and we should be going up to Chico next weekend for the Wildflower instead of Plymouth. Picked up training Memorial Day weekend , lethergy, bad weather, and doubles recovery has me "pushing" much less than in the past. And with GAS prices I haven't even ridden in the Gold Country this year, in past years I've been up there at least every other weekend--so much so that people on the Sierra Century think I'm a local. It seems like I've been riding less but I really haven't been.

2002-end of May 1076 miles, ? trainer minutes. Week before: big ride weekend before: MINES ROAD (59 miles) Results-Did the Sierra metric--doing a hilly century the furthest thing from my mind-envious of Jo-Jo and whiny Mike being able to do 100.

2003-end of May 2191 miles, 2390 trainer minutes. Week before: PT REYES STATION (61 miles), MORGAN TERRITORY-VASCO (56 miles) Scared shitless of the double metric but signed up so I'd keep climbing. Was riding every day for a week-Jo Jo ordered me off the bike the Thursday before. Watched 2002 Paris Roubaix over and over and over. Results-We may not have been the fastest group out there but 120 miles done nicely.

2004-end of May 2641 miles, 2580 trainer minutes. Week before: NONE-Dad died. Came back after two weeks and ironically only rode Thursday before. Results-went out solo and too fast and started dying 1/2 way into ride, then saw Big Mike and Jo Jo ex Bill and tried to keep up with them. Amost sold the bike after bonking on on Slug Gulch. Finished strongly in paceline at the end so I kept the bike. Determined to join new bike club the following week.

2005-end of May 3239 miles, 1117 trainer minutes. Week before: Tunitas Creek (52 miles), Slug Gulch preride with Donna (67 miles), Diablo Cyclist Palomaras ride the next day (69 miles), 3 long hilly rides in a row.--then two days in a row up Mt Diablo. Results-great Sierra Century where I went charging up Slug Gulch and all the climbs.

2006-end of May 2968 miles, 3235 trainer minutes. Week before, three great Diablo Cyclist rides--Morgan Territory and Diablo (60 miles), Crockett and Diablo (60 miles), Santa Cruz Hills (60 miles) Hooked into a couple of races to the Ranger Station
Beautiful field of oaks surrounding Plymouth-right outside motel, which I first saw years ago when I only did metrics.

(June 3, 2006) Sierra CenturyNo Slug Gulch Hale Road alternative-- self imposed Charleston Grade (20% climb) w/ Big Mike, Doug, Ward, and partially with Michigan Tom; 108 miles (tire trouble) , 15.6 avg, somewhere between 7460-8235' climbing, 6:36-3:30

As hadn't been in Gold Country all spring--this ride brought about loads of reminiscence about cycling since 2002-and ride report will reflect this.. Felt like I was seeing an old friend when Donna and I got to Plymouth, in the lowlands of the Gold Country. We both don't like camping and biking so we were moteling it, while most Diablo Cyclists camping out at the Amador Fairgrounds--the great start/ finish of the ride. Instead of doing a loosen up with an ez ride in the Gold Country, as I do every year, we took and ez 30 mile spin to Los Vaquaros Reservoir close to home. Finally saw another cyclist in East Contra Costa County--when we took a rest at local bagel shop cyclist reappeared--it was Bob P., one of the old time members of the Delta Pedalers who used to own a half dozen or so high end road bikes and waxed poetically about all of their special features, when I started riding and I was intrigued. I hadn't seen him in years. Eerily transported back 10 years.

Eventually got up the Gold Country in late afternoon. Pre day checkin was organized as usual, found Doug's campsite but no one was around (they were wine tasting.) Nothing really goes on in Plymouth, so we headed over to Jackson which was closing down at 5:00, but once again had a great meal at Buscaglia's--4th year in a row. Donna and I honestly talked more about our cycling trip to Italy than we had since 2004, which affected our riding together since. I still have incredibly mixed feeling about it--all the solo riding made me a tougher cyclist but I still wished we would have put it off until 2005 where we could have planned more and we'd gone ALONE.

At checkin worker told us that no Slug Gulch due to El Dorado County problems? Other staff talked about the wine fest necessitating the route change which will still have lots of climbing but keeps us in the hot lowlands. Loads of people gathered at large map looking at new route which was a tad confusing with lots of out and back loops so arrows going both ways on lots of segments. The route maps given out didn't have the new 20 mile bonus loop, we'd get a new map once we made the 1:00 cutoff. Secret bonus loop a tradition of Sierra Century except now traditional bonus loop published on a satellite map and this on easy to remember as just a loop south of Volcano--so just a pain not to give it out the day before, and have all information on one map. Someone asked about Slug Gulch's replacement climb of Hale (Hell) Road, which is a nasty downhill on a moon cratered road, has running water after a blind turn, and immediately shoots uphill. I had been surprised and wiped out in the water a few years ago. Someone volunteered that she had been on it 2 weeks ago and still had water on the bottom. Great. So I told Sac Wheelman that he should send folks up Charleston Road (3 long sections of 17-22%) and he just looked at me like I was crazy and said "NO!." Heck if you are going to torture people....

Unfortunately Sierra Century is tied into my memory of Jo-Jo, my first guide to the Gold Country, and current debate over starting time also had me remember to well Jo-Jo and Whiny Mike's shenanigans regarding starting time at Napa Century in 2003--first indication that something was amiss. Big Mike, Doug and Ward bought into my wanting to start at 6:30 as it was going to be 90 degrees, and narrow roads would be clogged later on, but other club mates waited until 7:00. More importantly, unfortunately many of our great "bonus mile"compatriots were missing, doing harder rides--Don and Jack doing 200 mile EASTERN Sierra Century (Jack had sworn never to do another Planet Ultra event, we kidded him that he was doing it so he wouldn't have to do Sequoia Century the next day like last year.) California Mike doing a 6,000,000 meter overnite brevet. But great to ride with Big Mike again, this year we didn't train together as much as we did last year--me being on doubles track and he probably trying to catch up on some of the home stuff he blew off last year when we rode hard together on zany routes all of the time.

Morning of Sierra Century saw Bill, Jo-Jo's ex, and invited him to ride with us. How weird things are--as I was used as a "buffer" on this ride a few years back. Bill wasn't nearly ready but was intrigued that Big Mike and I were going to throw in Charleston Grade--a climb much worse than the departed Slug Gulch or the added Hale Road.

Donna set off at 6:05--not sure of she was doing the 100 or going to try the 120. I didn't think she'd do the 120 as lots more climbing than Santa Rosa, but her outlook is good as the tough 100 miles is her fallback position. She is again riding solo as her riding friends gone on divergent paths which don't include Century rides--I've been trying to get her to do some Diablo Cyclist rides. Big Mike, Ward, Doug and I took off at 6:36. For once the fast downhill that starts the ride not freezing cold--it is going to be a hot day. Were going at a nice pace but passed a few times without responding--seems like alot of racers from Valley Spokesman Lifestyle racing team passed us. At one point I hooked onto back of their huge paceline but road from Plymouth to Ione had many more potholes than usual--there were even a few sudden gravel patches, so I backed off from paceline. Big Mike, of all people, at first thought we were going too fast, but then he started to hammer and Doug started to yell out that maybe we should slow down." Ward having knee problems but just rode whatever pace was being set. Some woman riding hard to keep up with paceline but she was always riding to the side of it, and to the side where there was no crosswind protection, making the ride alot tougher.

Doug, Big Mike and I. Ward is unfortunately out of the photo --along first fast portion of the Sierra Century. With route change we'd all be reclimbing it coming back at the end--which wasn't bad (tailwind) but as many people groused about harsh ending as moon cratered Hale (Hell) Road. Photo by Photocrazy.

Soon into Ione at mile 21, 7:35, 19.8mph, and like last year skipped Howard Park rest stop and went to secret bathrooms. Here ran into Dr. Steve of Erma' s Diner--more throwback memory/ irony. Was it really 4 years ago when I was just starting to climb and went on a few of Dr. Steve's midweek rides with Jo-Jo? Then when I knew that some Gruppo Pumpkincycle/ Delta Pedaler funny business was going on, and decided I had to join a new club right after 2004 Sierra Century, I rode with Diablo Cyclists and Erma's Diner on the next weekend. Erma's Diner ride led by Dr. Steve. Nice people with Erma's who love to ride but they're just a little too far away.

Road from Ione to Sutter Creek has steeper rollers and here a few riders would come though and one of us always pick up the pace. Again the Lifestyle team goes by without saying a word, I stay on their wheel. Big roller coming up and we all go up hard and I shoot out in front--but then slow after climb to regroup with my gruppo. Fun playing games on this part of the road but one I'm focusing on that DIABLO CYCLISTS are GOING to take out the 12 mile climb up Volcano Road, which is coming up.

Sudden big downhill and in main street of beautiful Sutter Creek in early morning, still remember when I first saw it doing the metric route, and was blown away. Then sudden left turn (luckily Sacto Wheelmen arranged to have cops at key intersections, like this one) and on great 12 mile uphill run to Volcano.

Volcano must be my favorite section of road. In past years I'd come up here most Sunday's and begin rides on it every week. Climbs 1000' over 12 miles, so gentle climb with ALWAYS a tailwind. Beautiful stream alongside most of it. Tree shades. Local knowledge helps--real gentle until last 2 miles were F-A-B-I-O Hill (name written on pavement) begins, then gets steep with false summit and another two attention getting uphills. I tell clubmates that we just have to keep it together until FABIO Climb--just stay with anyone who passes, and then I'm going hard. Well, kinda hard, long distance training with lack of intervals has scrubbed off some of any speed I had. (Two years ago I came up for a recovery ride day after long ride--when I got out of car a racing couple from Stockton area were also setting up--of course we then had to push each other the whole route. I couldn't do that now..)

Added bonus--last year we had passed Donna on rollers between Ione and Sutter Creek. This time we didn't catch her until start of Volcano Road--Ward correctly quipped "means she's getting faster."
Donna happy in the early morning, at end of the ride I'd come across her hating the uphill in hot weather. Thanks to Photocrazy for photo

We start up Volcano and going at a good but not killer clip. If anyone passes I'd jump on their wheel and we'd stay with them. When no one passing we'd slack off--a bit. At one point a guy who rides fixed gears on doubles, comes up on a mountain bike and stays with us and tell me how it would help my knee and I have to read his website. . He'd stay with us until the FABIO section. So not anaerobic, just high aerobic. A few times two guys tried to jump ahead but we nailed them back, they weren't going anywhere. Then we get to FABIO Hill, with a few people and we've play the pass and repass game with. I go hard for as long as I can--get to top of climb first but damn-people on my wheel, I can't sustain the pace, and I know some kickass roller sections coming up, so need to back off a bit. . Luckily Big Mike is one of the people who came with me, and he shoots to the front and takes a long pull then goes hard on the next roller. I go over behind him and then go back in front to pull Mike to next roller. We soon look back--other people who went up hard on FABIO Hill have been dropped.

Big Mike and I come in together to Volcano, , mile 43, 9:12, 17.7 average speed. Great great rest stop in cute town in the middle of nowhere. Real crowded, I think back when I or Gruppo Pumpkincycle rode through town when it was deserted except for Rosie--the honorary mayor who always sat on the same bench gabbing away. Now she's gone. Ride is supposed to continue up gentle Ram's Horn Grade (6-8% is my guess.) Mike yells that we should get going as he doesn't want to tighten up, as other way out of town is Charleston Road that we are going to do. It is a 2.6 mile climb with three significant parts. The first section is .45 mile and STEEPER than the kick ass finishing ramp on Mt. Diablo (which is @ .1 mile at @ 17%) I know it is harder, as on Diablo I can choose to sit or stand, on this first section of Charleston I HAVE TO stand. Then a brief reprieve and another .4 mile climb, 4x as long as the Diablo ramp but just as steep. Then nice downhill which leads into another .2 mile with a grade like the Diablo ramp. We plan with Doug/ Ward to meet up with them at next rest stop at the bottom of Fiddletown speedway.

Big Mike and I come in together to Volcano, , mile 43, 9:12, 17.7 average speed. Great great rest stop in cute town in the middle of nowhere. Real crowded, I think back when I or Gruppo Pumpkincycle rode through town when it was deserted except for Rosie--the honorary mayor who always sat on the same bench gabbing away. Now she's gone. Ride is supposed to continue up gentle Ram's Horn Grade (6-8% is my guess.) Mike yells that we should get going as he doesn't want to tighten up, as other way out of town is Charleston Road that we are going to do. It is a 2.6 mile climb with three significant parts. The first section is .45 mile and STEEPER than the kick ass finishing ramp on Mt. Diablo (which is @ .1 mile at @ 17%) I know it is harder, as on Diablo I can choose to sit or stand, on this first section of Charleston I HAVE TO stand. Then a brief reprieve and another .4 mile climb, 4x as long as the Diablo ramp but just as steep. Then nice downhill which leads into another .2 mile with a grade like the Diablo ramp. We plan with Doug/ Ward to meet up with them at next rest stop at the bottom of Fiddletown speedway.

Mike and I wondering if any riders leaving Volcano would follow us straight instead of going right and staying on course. No one does. The road immediately kicks up but Mike says it is easier than he remembers. It immediately kicks up again and Mike remembers quickly how steep it is. Odometer drops to 3+mph.. It is actually nice NOT to be surrounded by lots of other riders, but riding in solitude. Damn, why haven't I been riding up here this spring (yeah-rain and hospitalization) . Not much traffic on this hill and real rustic. At one point a U-Haul passes-straining to get up the hill. That's about it for motor vehicles. At the top of the initial section we see a woman on the side of the road in a scant athletic outfit--we think she is another cycling crazy and is resting in the shade. When we get closer we see no bike-turns out she is a runner and we shout out friendly encouragement back and forth. Ward and Doug shoulda been here. Hit second section but as the worst is over it doesn't seem bad, recover on downhill and 3rd section is a breeze. Mike and I turn right on Shake Ridge Road and head towards Daffodil Hill, which is the ending of Ram's Horn Grade, and we can rejoin regular route.

This bonus climb just took us 2 miles off course. Water stop at T-intersection, no sign of Ward/ Doug, we figure they are now ahead of us but in actuality they left Volcano well after us and are we don't know that they are behind us. We need race radios.

. Actually the top of Ram's Horn Grade/ Daffodil Hill really isn't the top, there are a few more miles of steep uphill rollers. Physically demanding but mentally fun as we are soon going to be on a great part of the course--the 12 mile fast rolling downhill into Fiddletown. Get your "E" ticket ready.

Usually the double metric route goes down the Fiddletown Speedway twice, but this year's route change only has us going down it once. Even when I hated going downhill I always loved this road. It starts off steep with gradual curves--I usually take this part gingerly. Then the road flattens out a bit with some hairpins and then 8-10 miles of downhill rollers, the kind you (or especially me after being sawed off on the downhill section) can come back on by shooting half way up the short roller, then stand and power over the uphill section while getting back to cyclists in the front. Over and over and over. Unlike most rural roads this one nicely paved and clearly divided--and early morning (@10:00) not much traffic--auto or cyclists. UNFORTUNATELY THIS WOULD CHANGE LATER ON.. Then right outside Fiddletown it gets a bit hairy as steeper downhill section with crappy potmarked road right into town, but by then we should be slowing as rest stop in park in the middle of a very deserted town. (Last year I did a self supported which included going down and back up Fiddletown Expressway--and I slept on park table for about a 1/2 hour--never saw anyone.)

Once more Big Mike OWNS this section of road--they should erect a statute to him on it. Two years when bonking after dad died a trio was chasing him to no avail and I got a free ride in back of them--last year on 2nd go around Mike hooked into a hotly contested race, and even though I rode great that day I had no chance on this section and couldn't help much. Big Mike just shoots over the rollers like they aren't there.

We hit some of the steeper sections to the Fiddletown Road approach and see a couple of Valley Spokesmen Lifestyle racers down the road--from group that flew past us earlier in the day. Told Mike to stay behind me and let me get us up to them, so he'd be well rested. I dig in and entering Fiddletown Expressway we are right behind them. We start the downhill section-I still am not that great on downhills but much much better than in past years, and I hang on the back and stay with Mike and the Lifestyle guys. Now going into a slight uphill before next downhill and Big Mike jumps HARD. Lifestyle guys rev up the pace and immediately chase after him. For the first few miles Mike is always in sight and it looks like they will get back to him, and I'll have to go if we do. Luckily the road is not very crowded with cyclists, the few that are on the road we zoom past. As these guys rotate the pull I sit 3rd wheel, pleased that I am not getting sawed off on the downhill portions and easily following on the uphill rollers when they go harder. In retrospect if they went hard on the downhill I would probably be dropped but each would in turn attack on the uphill roller and rest on the downhill which was fine by me. A few times they looked back and see me, but instinctively know that I'm not going to do anything to help in the chase. At one point one guy goes somewhat ahead so I mark him and then get into second wheel. Shades of 2001 Paris Roubaix--if I get to the front I'm dropping the speed 5mph. But never have to do it--soon Big Mike out of sight and I'm getting a free ride to Fiddletown--past the Hale Road junction that we'll be immediately coming back to. Shades of 2 years ago when I first rode with Big Mike.

Arrive at great Fiddletown lunch/ rest stop, mile 62 at 10:32, 16.8 average, 4,000 feet of climbing. No Ward or Doug.

In 5 minutes Doug and Ward come in. Rest stop is very busy but well organized, I like that they have HEED drink--while no one drink can satisfy everyone’s taste HEED is made up of the complex sugars that is the basis for the doubles diet. Other club members and people we know come in so we sit around a little too long and bs.. Up to now the route has been the same as always, now it is going directly to Hale (Hell) Road--so what's the hurry. We leave 30 minutes later-at 11:02, just in time to see Donna pull in, which will be a big relief later on.

We backtrack on what was a fast entry into Fiddletown, now we have to slog uphill for 2 miles. Michigan Tom, a cyclocross racer from the Diablo Cyclists joins us--he left 15 minutes after us in the AM, , hammered and joined us at the Fiddletown rest stop. I warn him, like I warned everyone about Hale (HELL) Road--pothole strewn downhill with sudden right turn and running water then an immediate steep climb through a hot valley. Sudden right turn and we are there.

First section is level and actually paved. Off to the side are 25% driveways Jo-Jo and I used to challenge each other to do. Downhill starts and "rough road" sign doesn't do it justice--on some places there is no choice but to ride through a rut, pothole or uneven patch job. Luckily not to many cyclists and no cars--albeit the motorcycle cop going back and forth. I must have scared all my clubmates, for once I was going downhill first.

Enter sudden right turn section and I see ground composition change drastically. I slow but not much as there is an immediate steep uphill. Creek bed is dry so I yell out "DRY--OH NO WET." Sure enough, right in front is about running water about 6" high--about 6' wide we have to ride through. At this point some numnut cyclist is walking her bike, but instead of directly towards higher ground she is crossing perpendicular--right in my path. Shit--visions of me wiping out here in 2003 flash through my head as I yelp out a warning, while Michigan Tom is laughing that I first thought it was dry. I refuse to 'cut the wheel' (how I crashed in 2003) walker/cyclist jumps out of the way.

Series of steep uphill Italian rollers (Definition: Italian Rollers-long enough that you have to sit down before you go over them) start. Tom and Doug taking the first few hard as I stay with whoever is in the front. Tom yells out he has to lose 27 pounds, I yell that I have to lose 7--. The hills seem to get more relentless-I think I see spot I once pulled over on 100 degree day doing this solo.. Eventually I just get into my own zone and climb away from everyone. I finish climb at 11:50--the cutoff for bonus miles is 1:00.

Sacramento Wheelmen have a bare bones water stop (no restroom) at the end of this climb--giving out Hale Road pins and the bonus route map. Real anticlimatic. Rest stop is not nearly as nice as great one on top of Slug Gulch. Soon Big Mike, and Doug pull in. Concerned about Ward--he comes in and indicates his knee hurts--so he and Tom set out to do the 100 mile course-turning right on Shake Ridge Road. I feel great, can't wait to see 20 mile bonus loop. . Big Mike, Doug and I set out on the 120 mile loop, we are actually going back to where Mike and I earlier came off Charleston Grade towards Daffodil Hill. I have to pee--and houses on this part of the road--so I indicate that I'll pull over as soon as residential area ends. Soon I say that I want to do a Sierra Club dedication right at the top of Charleston Road, which we'll be riding past. Bad karma--I say this about 200' from Shake Ridge/ Charleston intersection, and BOOM my front tire shakes and pops off rim. . I'm surprised that it is enact. Walk over to intersection and slowly inspect/ change tire. With bad hand hard to get tires on/off American Classic wheel set. Fresno Lori rides by towards bonus loop. I am real careful as I inspect everything and don't see what caused blowout. Usually have tires at 120psi, now probably overfill with C02 to 130 (which is too much for American Classics.

Now a little impetus out as we slowly go back towards Daffodil Hill, same route Big Mike and I took in the morning when we climbed Charleston as an alternative to Rams Horn. Now, for the bonus 20 mile loop we'd be going down Ram's Horn, circle past Volcano along hilly and rough roads near caverns that the Delta Pedalers went to (as the last good club ride I was on two years ago --though Whiny Mike got mad at me when I say that the caverns needed singing Pirates like in Disneyland.)

Now Big Mike, Doug and I pass the water stop on top of Ram's Horn Grade and start the approach to the descent. Road is real crowded with cyclists, many coming up Ram's Horn and we're going to be going down with a few others in about a minute. BOOM, my front TUBE explodes again, and pushes front tire off of rim. I'm so f'n lucky that we hadn't started the Ram's Horn descent. Pull over, carefully look at tire. It looks good though Doug convinced bead is damaged. Big Mike goes back to water stop to see if he can get me another tire and tube. Change tire slowly, and instead of using C02 I pump tire to about 80 psi. Big Mike doesn't come back so Doug and I go back to water stop--June and Stephen pass going the other way. Big Mike couldn't get anything for me, I know the surface of the 20 mile loop is not the best, so I decide to go back on the 100 mile course where Shake Ridge is at least smooth. I go to sags lined up and after much pleading get a spare tube (one volunteer didn't want to give me one, she said I already had my flats???), and pumped tire to 85-90 psi. Now backtracking I soon past the top of Charleston for the 3rd time today.

Really really pissed that I couldn't do the bonus loop as felt real strong, pissed that Ward and Michigan Tom, who had turned directly on the 100 mile course would be long up the road. More than pissed I'm incredibly apprehensive--just waiting for the next BOOM. I pull into top of Hale Road water stop to see if Donna there but she isn't, so I continue on apprehensively. Shake Ridge is very fast, I've done it scores of times when doing the Volcano loop, but now I'm continually braking and scrubbing speed whenever I hit 20 mph, and getting passed by tons of folks. Kinda relieved when we hit two substantial uphills (one memorable one where Bill, Jo-Jo-ex used to throw bike into lowest gear, stall out and stop everyone else's momentum, and then spin uphill at 120rpm) but even here a few guys shot by and I didn't have the chasing spirit in me. Just worried about getting back unscathed.. (Later I'd find out that Michigan Tom also had a blowout and crashed because of it... wonder if rough surface on Hale Road f'd up the wheels)

While going into Sutter Creek guys comes along and asks me how I'm doing. Tell him not doing well as had two blowouts and now bobbing along with 85psi in front tire. Guy says "your having a better day than cyclist who went under the tractor on Fiddletown Road." WHAT? I ask what happened to the guy. "Cyclist is dead." Immediately so happy I had seen Donna at Fiddletown--then hits me that someone died on this ride--on portion of ride that is usually the most fun.

Later I'd run into Dr. Steve, who filled me in on more details, as some of his Erma's Diner clubmates had been behind the accident, and then CHP shut down the road for a time. Seems like tractor/ log hauler was in front of guy on Fiddletown Speedway where 30 mph is an easy speed to reach and maintain. Cyclist went into oncoming lane of traffic to pass, a car was coming up the road, cyclist quickly went back into proper lane, but clipped tractor/ log hauler, and went under tire, and was crushed. First reports had it that guys wife was right behind him (she wasn't), and that lots of people saw the uncovered body. While the route change already took a little élan out of this event (I was sure when I first heard of the accident that it really happened when someone bombed down Hale Road), this news totally deflated the event and would haunt me and many participants in the coming week as details emerged.

. Apart from continual details of this tragedy emerging in the following week, an undercurrent of resentment between locals and cyclists also emerged--which surprised me. I thought that the Gold County was heaven for cyclists with little traffic, and controlled intersections, and laid back drivers (except around the Railroad Flat skid row.) I never thought twice about riding the nearly deserted roads solo. One local on a Colango (Mr. Campy) , who I saw a few time over the years, once told me that the only thing you have to watch out for is certain people who leave the bars at strange times. On an Erma's Diner ride one member "warned" me that if I was following him and we got to any stop sign, traffic or not he'd stop and unclip--he didn't want to piss off any motorists or cops. But nothing ever led to any uneasiness riding solo almost week after week on the back roads, and thought that the Sierra Century was a welcome event. But news reports kept saying it wasn't.

In news stories about the death there was always mention about how the locals resented cyclists--especially cyclists who ride in a big group and then are all over the road. Lots of fair minded locals wrote how dangerous Rams Horn Grade had been with cyclists all over the road in both directions at the same time, and they were surprised that someone else didn't get killed. Someone from the Lifestyle racing team posted on Sierra Century comment site that he almost had a bad collision with cars stopped while cyclists all over the road on Ram's Horn Grade. (Week later find that NRA clad local made veiled threats to Stephan and June about getting hurt while cycling in area day after Sierra Century.)

This got me into a long and morbid discussion with Donna during the following week. We already hate cars that don't want to share the road even when we are at the extreme right, pass to close, pass and then cut us off when make a right turn into a shopping center or even worse intentionally try to inflict bodily harm (last week in Santa Cruz some kids in a car threw a bottle at the cyclist in front of me.) What can we expect from drivers who no longer know how to signal and don't realize that the left lane is the fast lane. But many cyclists have no clue also. Donna, who rides on the extreme right side of the road, is pissed that she continually gets passed by pacelines who don't say anything and then swerve sharply right and cut her off. Conversely, one of my pet peeves on century rides are the slower cyclists who are intent on chatting away while riding 3-4 across the road, and oblivious when you say "on your left."

In any event, the death and the resentment that surfaced in the aftermath sure stripped away the innocence of what I had previously regarded as idyllic cycling country and the perfect organized ride.. Now close to Sutter Creek, where there is a new rest stop this year. (So far the new rest stops on the new route have been poor replacements for the old ones.)

Got into Sutter Creek from the northeast side and looked for rest stop but none in town. We then had to go uphill and cut across very busy Highway 49. Luckily rest stop was actually nice, in a school on the southwest section of Sutter Creek. 1:45.

No club mates or Donna at stop, and no reason for me to leave quickly. Maybe Big Mike or Doug will come up from the 120 course. In any event I had my wheel checked by local bike shop that had station at rest stop--mechanic did a very cursory check but said it looks like no damage to tire. I felt a little more confident but noT much. Went into shade, shoes off, half a diet soda and half a turkey sandwich. Getting warm--in past years we would have been at a cooler high altitude, but now we were in hot valley for good. Didn't want to dehydrate, and mindful of what happened on Central Coast Double so I just sat in the shade and drank half a bottle of HEED--scooping in more powder in my bottles than the diluted pre mix. Didn't know if this was allowed but no one seemed to mind.

Next part of course backtracked on Sutter-Ione Road and then Willow Creek, rollers in the sun with very little car traffic and not the best pavement. In fact some hammerhead came by and scolded me as I wasn't riding on the extreme right side of the road as most of the cracks/ potholes were there and all I needed now was a pinch flat with 85psi. So when yahoo passes me on the right and says something (buddy, I'm holding my line-just call out and pass on the left) , I showed great restraint NOT catching up to him and racing (he wasn't going very fast--but I was still scrubbing my speed at 20.) I think this is where I soon saw Dr. Steve who filled me in on what Erma's Diner knew about the death.

On Willow Creek I started feeling a little more confident and opened it up a little--but had little zip. I'd pass a tandem going uphill and when it came by I didn't have the jump or desire to get back to it. I also had NO idea how many miles to the end--I was on the 100 mile course but had done the early morning detour to the Charleston Climb, and I had started and then returned on the 120 mile loop--so I approximated that when my odometer showed 100 miles that I still had 10 miles to go.

I confirm my approximation by asking a rider how many miles he had. Turns out he is a racer for Sacramento Golden Wheelmen. Good time to make friends as we make left turn on Highway 16 and face a headwind, so we trade pulls. A big paceline comes by, we get on the back but only for a mile or two, the big paceline pulls into an unannounced water stop. Golden Wheelman and I continue on, I'm real happy when we make right turn onto Old Sacramento--now out of headwind and Lodi Century type road, but next 6 miles is climb back to Plymouth we speed down in morning.

We actually have a slight tailwind, and I'm happy. Hot but I'm feeling good--tell Golden Wheelman that if my wife isn't finished and not at fairgrounds I'm going to turn around and go down the road, back to Highway 16, and do this section again. He must think I'm crazy because half way up he tells me to go ahead, he is dying out. I start contemplating where to get water at the fairgrounds for doing Old Sacramento out and back again. Shortly there is a big block of shade on side of the road, loads of cyclists under the tree. One of them---is Donna, who then leaves and we ride in together for the last few miles. In the upcoming week loads of people would complain about this uphill finishing section. I didn't think it was that bad but loads of cars (who had finished the ride earlier and leaving fairgrounds) constantly passing in other direction--not the prettiest finish.

As always great food/ picnic at the fairgrounds. See Bill, Jo Jo's- ex, who wound up doing Charleston instead of climbing Ram's Horn a 2nd time (120 milers went up and down Ram's Horn 3x, ironically I wasn't on it all day.) Ate end of ride meal with many Diablo Cyclists but much less than in past years as we had been scattered all over the course and doing different routes. Trina (never shy) wanted to know if Donna picks out all of my orange clothes for me.

Like always I posted on Sacramento Wheelmen message board--thanking them for the great support but (they wanted feedback) indicating that the new route left alot to be desired. Most people were like minded, and as details of the death became known that also became a prominent theme, along with conflict with the locals. Between the route change, the death, the blow outs, and aftermath conflict with local the Sierra Century had not being the seminal ride of the year. I was bummed out the following week. I wrote to my club mates that if Sierra Century goes back to the old route I'm doing this again next year. But if they keep the new route I'll lead a club ride the weekend before, doing the Slug Gulch shortcut route that I've done self supported numerous times right before and after the Sierra Century, and bypass the actual ride. But unlike in the past--I had NO desire to go back up there and ride the following weekend around what I thought was cycling heaven.

(My thanks to Ward Industries for recovering this last ride report of the greatest century ever after Yahoo Geocities went wacko)