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)

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