Tuesday, April 3, 2007
VE (April 2007) CHICO WILDFLOWER, 95 miles
w/ Ward, Doug and Big Mike (eventually) @16.3 avg, alternatively bsing and riding hard. 95 miles.
Support A-Course A-With such high grades assume everything is almost perfect.
Support: Plus: Loads of unique local food at rest stops, with bike mechanics, and a cool Chico quirkiness (bandanna maps instead of paper ones) to the event. Support Criticism: Need more SAGs on course where ambient glass on two early teen party hills produce lots of flats, and while lots of specialty food no basics like PBJ.
Course Plus: Off the beaten path roads with little traffic, almost no subdivisions, and pavement good on he flats and downhills. Course criticism: Very congested until the metric riders split off at @miles 30. After mile 60 (after lunch) course gets very flat--wish there was one more attention getting climb and some rollers. Otherwise an ideal event! Forgot how great it was. Tied-2nd BEST CENTURY
Forgot how great and unique this ride is--especially as it looked like it wouldn't come off. After last weeks quagmire getting Litespeed ready when weekend weather report went from iffy to shitty. 30% change of rain on Saturday--when we wanted to do some leisurely riding around giant Bidwell Park in Chico, and 40% of rain on Sunday. So at lat minute got GT ready again--back rack with brevet bag can act as a rear fender and carry around rain jacket and extra clothes as I WASN'T GETTING COLD this time. Actually sunny Saturday morning but around 1:00, when we hit Sacramento to the long dragout through the middle of nowhere to Chico-it started sprinkling which quickly turned to moderate rain which never let up, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees to the low 50's. Surprisingly Donna/ my mood good, we argued which was a more happening town Live Oak or Gridley, as we drove through these speedtraps--Donna conceded that with one luxury" motel, Black Bear Diner, old cemetery, and a few auto/ tractor dealers--Gridley was the place to retire to Ironically our Chico State daughter was out of town, in the lacrosse playoffs (they beat UCLA!!). Plan was now to walk around Chico with rain gear--we met Ward/ Doug at motel across the street which had a drug addict yelling at us. Found good tubes on sale in packs of 6 and a few of us bought them
Chico Wildflower Quilt made from old tee shirts, and local handcrafterd soda pop at the end of the ride, among the many things that make Chico Wildflower unique.
with big joke being "are you planning to use 6 tubes tomorrow." At another shop started playing around with a new Litespeed Vortex--with nice ti seat stays but beefy ones like my carbon ones instead of the old thin "the elephant sat on them dented " stays, and while Ward insults the hyper $$$ kryserium Wheels with the ONE red spoke I play with the Dura Ace brakes to see if the barrel adjustment are as easy as my new Camp Records. Finally bike shop salesperson comes over to us to tell us that this is NOT a store bike but a customer's. Oops. Other big seller was light rain jacket on sale; Doug bought one--the next day Ward/I contemplated counting the number of riders with the same distinctive sale rain jacket.. After Tierra Bella Steve B.--one of our long distance HOF's game me advice on how to dress for the rain, but he takes an incredible amount of bulky clothes with him--most people rather not carry much. Donna had a mid weight rain jacket and she disliked the thought of carting it around/ wearing it--than riding in the rain itself.
Then drive down to fairgrounds for Chico pre check in. A few vendors (unfortunately "Paul" not there--if dry I would had ridden out to his company as half my fixed gear components are has unique items.) In true Chico style the check in packet is in a reusable tote--where worker says in full earnest "now you don't have to get new bags at the grocery." We also get the bandanna map (don't I have a draw full of these) instead of a paper one--though I had with me xeroxed copies--but as very few changes along the route a detailed map and route sheet not needed--even for me--"Mr. Lost."
Ward disappointed he can't get the Chico Velo "share the Love" tee-shirt with a cyclist giving a car the finger---bowing to pressure Chico Velo drew in another finger on cyclists hand so now he is giving car a backwards peace sign. But we are told that washing with spray in wash and the extra digit comes right off--but all they have left is XXL's. We then all head to a pizza palace (except for Big Mike-who is eating with family at fancy restaurant and sounds really despondent that we are going to get pissed on again tomorrow.) and have a really long meal. Ward discloses the statistics on the women's club clothing order. Ward/ Doug not going to ride if raining in the AM, Donna and I will but I'll cut back to the metric. Back at fleabag Ward/ Doug staying at there is an antiquated computer they use (30 minute sign on) to check the weather--shows rain expected till 10am and then turning to light rain for another few hours. As we (at least Ward/ I) hope to start the ride at 7:00 tomorrow, we're f'd. Back to motel, still raining, and depressing early bedtime with sleep punctuated by call from our youngest who had party broken up by police, and then hard to get back to sleep. But better sleep than a few years ago when we crashed at our oldest's, who had freight train running outside the building all night.
5:15 alarm--expect the worst-open door--NO RAIN--just a heavy mist in the air and ground wet. Sprinkles slightly during 10 minute drive to fairgrounds--where we find one of the few paved spots. Donna is ready and heads off by 6:45 into the mist, I'm ready at 7:00. See Ward who says he is almost ready but indicates Doug is taking his time. Big Mike shows up and says he'll start ride with his sister. Doug then walks by holding a huge frappacino and he is in no rush to get started--Ward and I are like minded re starting century rides on time (shit, if we had to wake up early and get ready...) and we push off into the gloom--but it is dry.. Ward looking for arrows on the road and misses the large cutout Hawaiian Clown marking one of the few turns on the course, and we have to circle back a half block.
Within 10 miles we are suddenly out of town and going up the first climb of the day--Humboldt Road. The grade is not particularly steep but the road surface is "not the best." We are dodging ruts and potholes and admiring the graffiti--which is not the "Basso" kind but more the "Lance Loves Cheryl" variety. This climb and Honey Run obviously a teen hangout which means broken beer bottles, and about a half dozen folks already off on the side of the road fixing flats. My legs don't feel "awake" yet, and I'm wetter than hell--not from the mist but from wearing two wool tee shirts-a jersey-a windbreaker and a vest. Thank buddha I'm not wearing the rain jacket also. Ward also "suffering" wearing a heavy rain jacket. A couple of people pass but no impetus to chase as we weave through most other riders and potholes and flat changers in the mist.
Ward & me (I) coming down from Paradise--soon I'll get stoked as the sky will suddenly turn bright blue. (Photocrazy photo.)
Didn't want to stop to take off clothes as loop soon ends and straight ski slope downhill on smooth Route 32 begins, and clothes come in handy--which we shed at bottom where we are joined by the metric riders to Honey Run. Two guys in racing kits hammer by and I get on their wheel as one guy has on a full fender. When I thank him for riding with a full fender he attacks and I get on his wheel until the first left turn up Honey Run Road. I then drop off--road is too wet to play in the rain, and they run the yellow changing to red light. One more turn where I meet up with another weirdo--uncontrolled intersection where we have to make a left turn and there is an oncoming car. I yell stopping--schoolteacher ma turns around and STATES "She are NOT stopping." I say a number of times so it may sink in--"Stopping meant what I WAS DOING."..
Make the turn--and Ward/ I hammer on Honey Run Road--narrow slightly downhill road usually stuffed with riders but not to many now. We are flying past the riders that are on the road--apparent that Donna has gotten faster as this is where I caught up to her two years ago. Get into a three man paceline when Ward yells FLAT and we pull over on a quite country road. Kind of surreal--when he starts changing flat not many riders coming down--then about 5 minutes into it , it suddenly sounds like swarm of bees are out of the hive and the road is stuff with passing cyclists.
Luckily though misty, and I had taken off a layer, it is not cold. We pass up on the Covered Bridge rest stop--it is only about 15 miles into the ride, and we start up Honey Run--a gentle climb albeit some attention getting hairpins, but a real twisty, narrow road in the middle of nowhere. More high school party graffiti. At the beginning there is a center line and a few times I have to go on the line to get past 6 cyclists riding slowly across or weaving--then center line ends, road narrows, and cyclists are solidly across the road. Now when I pass someone I start moving over to the right, as some people on the left are hardly moving--at some points it looks like the Koppenburg in the Tour of Flanders. Ward/ I decided we are going to stick together--meaning I'll take something off on the climbs and he'll take something off on the descents--but when an opening suddenly appears in the block of riders you have to go for it. At one point an opening appears--I jump through--but off to the side a girl drops her chain and after I go up the road there is a crash. Too many people to turn around and see what happened but when I get about 1/4 mile up I can turn and no sight of Ward--I pull over and he isn't coming up. Oh shit--he was in the crash?? I turn around and going AGAINST a mass of bike traffic--half with their heads down--I start going downhill at 3mph yelling "bike up, bike up." I finally get to Ward--luckily he wasn't taken out when girl tipped over but he had another flat. I recall a decade ago that sag motorcycles were going up and down Honey Run--today didn't see a sag until after the first rest stop.
Ward a great guy to ride with but I usually tell him his value is that he has a full GPS setup on bike to track esoteric ride stats and the best full frame pump. (He also does a lot of work at the front.) Well his GPS system had already gone to hell, and now his full frame pump wasn't working so he had to use my crappy mini. We soon get going, misting at top of Honey Run at Paradise, and about 10 blocks away the first rest stop. Ward tries to get a tube from mechanics who saved my ass on Chico (broken alloy nipple repair) a few years ago, but they are all out as many people need after so many flats. They remember me--partly as I sent a written thank you after they save my ride. Big Mike waiting for sister and we spot Doug. Really rich local pastries the food of the day--apricot coffee cake my favorite. While they had a nice selection of fruit including bananas, but no simple, "non rich" things (PBJ sandwiches, granola bars) that you'd find at other rides. Just coffee cake, date/ nut pound cake bread and giant muffins. Kind of a cluster fuck leaving the rest stop as this is one where everyone stops at, and hordes are coming in and leaving.
Not raining but road is very damp (it rained on Donna @ 30 minutes before) , and after a series of attention getting 600' rollers there is a long downhill. A traffic light sends us and a wave of riders out and Ward/ I hammer up the first few rollers to separate from the group, and then I successfully counterattack on the other rollers if anyone comes by hard. We then hit a straightaway where Ward yells a warning, a tandem flashes by but I'm ready so we get pulled to the beginning of the downhill--pulled past loads of cyclists.. Being a crappy downhiller I'm not going to ride the tandems ass on a wet road, but though I'm not that fast I'm amazed that I like this downhill--I remember years ago when it scared the crap out of me.
Pass Photocrazy where I get photo with Ward, where I tell him that last year I was blackballed from site by strange owner as I once got free photo of me and then photo of Donna--one free photo per rider, but owner didn't like that same person got both. In a few days Ward would see what I meant when he tried to get the free photo. That is why we now usually pack cameras on a ride, but under threat of rain we didn't. We slow for Doug, see the 60/ 100 miles routes split--take a sharp right turn and we can see the whole Chico Valley where we are heading--and it is sunny with BLUE sky all over.
This is my favorite part of the course--we seemingly lose over 50% of the riders while going out to Table Mountain, so suddenly the roads aren't jammed. We are also on some lightly traveled roads that are well paved, that even have some mini rollers. In fact Ward/ I just bsing and taking turns pulling at 20-21 when we look back and we made about a half-dozen friends sitting on our wheel. We get some other guys to take a (short) turn, but they soon drop back so Ward and I go hard when we hit the rollers. I'm not strong enough to drop anyone on a flat road, but the rollers allow Ward/ I to separate and get to the next rest stop in Oroville about 2-3 minutes ahead of the pelaton. We later thanked Doug for staying behind and defending our position (sure.)
Turns out there was no need to rush to Oroville--big rest stop with more pastries and real bathrooms in a nice park like setting, and not crowded like the earlier ones. Sun still out and climb coming up--one of two tee shirts comes off, so does neck buff and bags around feet. No sign of Donna, I tell Ward when I see here she'll beg for me to take her rain jacket. Another mechanic at stop-Ward gets replacement tubes and we are off--through the whole 3 blocks of Oroville subdivisions--and then we're on Table Mountain. Wide open climb but grades are mostly gentle. We all stick together until some yapper po's me-on flat sections he'd come flying by red faced but on sections where road starts going up he'd come back. Then he'd fly by again on a flat part. Then come back on the next uphill. So on next uphill I hit the section hard and had so much adrenaline I just kept going hard--zooming by lots of riders. Felt great. Water stop at the top where we regrouped where Doug/ Ward go ahead of me on the downhill but then almost take a wrong turn which is almost impossible at Chico; I go by on the twisty descent and notice that the rain had basically made my rear brake useless. Shit--but i'll have it repaired by the bike mechanic at the next rest/ lunch stop. Pull in and go straight to mechanic.
Donna waiting for me--after almost 30 years of marriage she needs me. Just as I predicted she wants me to carry her rain jacket. That's cool as I have the bag and later tell her that her jacket slowed me down. Donna then off--she gets out of rest stops fast--as Ward/ Doug/ I plan to take a long time. Premade hero sandwiches--but I usually don't put anything on them (anything I can taste later) besides meat and bread--guy finds one without much in way of tomatoes and lettuce but it had mayo and I'll taste it for the next 20 miles. Big Mike pulls in, but he'll try to wait for sister again--shit, he'd be great in upcoming valley. Almost no hills (except freeway overpass ones) left after mile 60, but usually a head wind in flats back to Durham (directly South of Chico) , and once you reach Durham you ride a circular route back to Chico with ever changing winds. A strong rider passes us and we jump on his wheel and dig in. Stranger does about half the pulling across valley--Ward/ I split the other 48%. Oh that's right--we're short 2%--at one point we turn around and have about a dozen riders on our wheel and no one is coming through to the front. Actually at one point someone does--and paceline slows down 2-3 mph so I go back to the front. Finally disgusted that no one else taking a turn so I rotate to the very end--bad move--light is about to change and while strong rider/ Ward speed up to catch the yellow some riders can't hold their wheel-general slowing-I have to sprint out to get around riders and get through intersection while it is still safely yellow, I rejoin a half dozen riders climbing the a freeway overpass, but then strong rider/ Ward/ I pull a three man breakaway to Durham. (Doug still defending our position in the pelaton or beat from all the business travel he's been on)
Meanwhile Big Mike has given up waiting for his sister and starts chasing back to us, but he can't form a paceline that can hold his crusing speed. Then my trio passes a bunch of riders and a few join us--then see Donna ahead so I go to the front so I can say hi to her. The rest stop has been moved out of a vacant lot now at a new Durham Schoo, much nicer. Doug rolls in a few minutes later. Never see Donna as she doesn't stop, we're ready in about 10 minutes but in rolls Big Mike so we hang for about 5 more minutes so we can all ride in together--which is usually one big hammerfest in changing winds along a perfectly flat road. Two years ago we did this section twice.
We start off and road is market strangely--hula clown directional sign points one way for the 30 and another for the 60. We guess right and off we go. We're not going balls out--20-22 mph tops, and look back and we again have a dozen friends. Only Diablo Cyclists, trio in racing kit, and tandem doing work, everyone sitting in. While pace line isn't going nuts about 1/3rd of riders eventually drop out. About 1/2 way back one of the racers gets a phone call so his group pulls off. We continue around the orchards--Big Mike saves my ass a few times when I'm pulling and we turn into a headwind and he soon comes to the front. About 2 miles to go and we see Donna. Ward/ Mike/ I quickly decide to slow and pull her in, and as we slow pelaton shoots by and starts to disappear. In less than a minute Donna says that she is fine, and that we shouldn't wait so we start a hard chase back to the pelaton. We close the gap behind Big Mike but the silos in the distance rapidly appoaching that indicate we'll soon be in Chico; Ward later said that he heard me yell "9 seconds" and quickly though "here we go." As I jumped, Mike jumped, Ward followed closely and we caught the pelaton right before the farms ended and town began.
Sky getting slightly overcast a a bit cool, and no one enthused to do the loop again--for me I was just happy to get a dry Century in and Donna only 5 minutes behind so I didn't want her to wait. Great tri tip meal with good salads. Sick of HEED I did take two handcrafted local sodas, though not diet. Nice event--loooong drive home where it started to rain in about an hour.