Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stockton Delta Century On A Fixed Gear-2008

May 4, 2008 (day after Wine Country), Stockton Delta Century, 100 miles, 426' climbing (all out of rest stops back on the levees, 17.1 avg. With Don, both of us on fixed gears, and Donna at mile 66.)

While this is a "tier 2" century (more beginner riders, less of a crowd so less energy, no hills except for freeway overpasses) this is a great ride to do for doubles training. Don did 100 miles at the Santa Rosa Wine Country on the fixed gear yesterday, Donna and I both did 120 miles. I think it is sometimes easier to ride a double than to do back to backs--as overnight my legs tighten up like crazy. Also, this would be a good chance for Don and I to get some extended work together on the fixed gear before we do the Davis Double. After last year's windstorm I'm happy he is out so I can get some rest. Of course with Don, being a Diablo Cyclist fixed gear traditionalist, you have to wear the crazy socks on the fixed. Our club is serious about riding but don't take ourselves seriously--the other tradition, a squeaky toy, adorns the handlebars.

This ride starts well west of urban Stockton, and never comes close, meandering through tiny towns that dot the Sacramento Delta--a waterway that runs from Sacramento to Antioch that surrounds low lying islands that are below sea level and surrounded by earthen dikes and roadways above. There is a backroute highway that goes to Sacramento "the slow way" that crosses numerous draw bridges. The course changed a little this year with more riding in the "middle of nowhere" as we basically did a figure 8 through isolated towns that have missed the California development craze.

We spot one of the Delta Pedaler good guys, Neil, at the start--he recently finished his first double. Then as on all the century rides Donna took off early, riding solo, on her first back to back Century ride. Start is from a beautiful winery, and a rooster kept yapping and reminding us how early it was, again. Saw Joanie, "the on your left lady" (I'd tell her the story at the end of Davis) at registration. Don pulls in and we wait around 20 minutes to see if some clubmates who were "on the fence" pull in, but no one else does. We are talking about the Santa Rosa Wine Country ride when an old parking lot attendant sneers "did you ride yesterday in THOSE socks." I answer ever so politely "no sir, as yesterday i wasn't riding my fixed gear." Parking guys demeanor changes instantly "wow--a fixed gear, fixed gear-you can wear anything you want with that."

Ride actually starts riding through the vineyard-Don wonders if the whole ride is like this. Thinking back--when I first moved to California I was blown away every time I saw grapes growing, now "eh, nice." Soon we are on regular farm roads and my legs are having trouble turning--ouch. One rider we pass says "nice socks." I see a guy in a racing kit up ahead so I pull up to him while he is setting a nice 17 mph while bs'ing with a leggy woman. Unfortunately I ask Don if the pace is OK and he says "well it is a little bit slow." Remind me not to check again with someone who has done half a dozen doubles on a fixed. So then we have to ride hard by ourselves for awhile. Soon a three person paceline is up ahead that we are inching close to but having trouble catching--which is good as when you catch a paceline to quickly they are going to slowly. When we hook on a woman starts to pull at 21, which hurts. We are more than happy when her significant other finally goes to the front and the speed drops 2 mph. My punishment for making fun of Dave yesterday is that the rider is on a recumbent, and he is directly in front of me. Luckily after I pull and drop back he asks if I want to go in front of him "YES," so I can have a normal bike block the wind. It is the woman who hammered earlier and we start bs'ing about the old Sierra Century.

First rest stop is mile 27 at Molekumne High School--as small building with a nice shaded lawn in the middle of an old town with half a dozen streets. Real rest rooms inside. After waiting all year there are NO CUTIES at this rest stops--pre peeled seedless tangerines like they had last year. Then discover where all the climbing is--each town is below sea level and to get back to the top of the dyke--road it is a 100' by 12% climb. Damn, in the wrong gear.

Over a few draw bridges--giving me a chance to sing out "scenic water crossing." Then ride gets more rustic as we actually go and ride some of the lowland roads. Nice day, not a stiff headwind this year. Three guys join us--they are hard core fixed riders and admire our rides. I'm pulling and suddenly hear a crunch--Don's wheel had loosened and tried to fly off the bike with his chain mushed in the spokes.

(1) Don and I on our fixed gears with our special fixed gear socks and squeaky toys. (2) Donna joined us at mile 66.. Thanks to John Miles for great photos.

Don his usual unflappable self as he declares that some of the spokes may snap--he resets the chain-tightens the wheel and we're off again. At mile 38 is a huge brick building in Clarksburg--an old sugar mill that has been refurbished as a winery tasting room with an expansive lawn. On most of the century rides we've been on riders spill into all the nooks and crannies of even the nicest rest stops, but here the rest stop engulfs the riders hanging out. See Donna who is leaving as we pull in. Triple Crown Doug if working this stop--he pedaled down from Sacramento. Each rest stop has good mini muffins I stuff my face with.

Now it is back on ag roads counterclockwise on the smaller figure 8 loop. Heading west we can feel a slight crosswind but still nothing bad. The road is flat flat flat and the ag scenery usually never changes unless a unique home suddenly appears, or a field of Horsetail Rush. We occasionally catch and pass other riders--when I'm pulling I always say something as a courtesy. If Don is in the lead I'd hit my squeeze pumpkin numerous times, and then when Don would pass rider would see Don's squeak squeeze whale and think it was him. Most riders enjoy it--a few surly. Don and I are pretty steady, never getting passed and slowly passing a few riders. All of a sudden three guys come flying by and I'm really restrained--by a second later some solo guy comes flying by trying to get on their wheel. At that point I jump-zoom past the last guy and then get on the trios wheel, which I stay on for 1/2 mile until a "scenic water crossing" over a metal grated drawbridge. (If it rained this ride would be a disaster with all the metal grated drawbridges.) Don and I regroup and again we arrive at the Mokelumne High School (mile 63)

Donna there--shes making great time so we suggest she should ride with us. She solo'd the last 3 century rides and I know how shitty it sometimes feels from 2004. We start off dropping down one intensity level but Donna can''t hold our wheel--we crank it down one more and she does fine. Don is the easiest guy in the world to ride with--he'll ride any pace and keep the rest stop schedule as anyone needs.

We get back on the levees which is kinda cool, basically a large, smooth bike path among the trees and water wit nary a car. Soon we hit an open section and the crosswind becomes notable for the first time--and Donna falls off. Next comes one of those seminal moments in marriage that happens often.

Me- "There is a crosswind." Don't ride behind me. We'll ride in an eschelon. The wind is coming from the right so ride to my left, halfway back."


Me--(Bewildered-we would take the whole right lane but we haven't seen a car in 20-30 minutes)

Don-"Why don't your ride over there" (pointing to the spot I told Donna to slot into.)

Donna--"OK" (moves into the spot)...."THIS IS EASY"

Eventually we get back on the main road--which means a car very few minutes, but now we have a tailwind, cna get back in a regular paceline, and Donna pulls us for awhile.

Now comes one of the two treacherous climbs of the day. At mile 77 we get on a ferry (In my Delta Pedaler days I thought I missed a ride on a Mark Twain Mississippi Sidewheeler--a year later I found myself on a dinky platform that runs across the water on cable) getting off a steel deck is a 100' @15% hill back to the top of the dyke. As I can't clip in before hitting the hill I have to walk up. Soon after we cross another drawbridge (a dozen "scenic water crossings") get off the dyke to another town with an old brick school rest stop. The flat parking lot is gravel so barely clip in before hitting the 100' @15% hill with no momentum so almost almost almost fall over but torque as much as possible to make it. No doubt my diving onto a huge cushion on the lawn and laying out helped--done in tribute to Donna who last year, when much hotter, didn't want me to lay out on the lawn.

Now zig zag back to the finish--usually with a tail wind. Don is pulling at 20-21, she asks that we take it down to 17. We'll I'll split the dfifference, I go to the front and keep it at 19 and she does fine hanging onto our paceline.

Alright--another century on a fixed gear but not blown away as when I did it last year. Much easier this year with less wind and tag teaming with Don. Really nice pasta feed in the winery's grove. At one point the band says they are giving away prizes, Slipstream socks, for people answering quiz questions, and the next one has to do with racing. Some bozo starts yelling "Lance Armstrong, Lance Armstrong" so I start yelling "Johan Museeuw, Johan Museeuw." Question is "What is the Queen of the Classics?" The socks are mine.

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