Friday, August 15, 2008

Tour of the Napa Valley-2008

This was once the premier century of the year, now do it every other year and seemingly biggest redeeming aspect of the ride is that we can get a big group of Diablo Cyclists to do it together. This was my 2nd metric century ever--and I was walking up Ink Grade on my hybrid bike, marveling how anyone could ride up it. A few years later after my big knee injury envious could when everyone in the Delta Pedalers did the 100 and I could only barely do 60--which ironically is the last century many of them ever did.

In 2003 this is where the Gruppo Pumpkincycle facade fell apart (though I was too dumb to see it at the time) when I got the Jo Jo/Whiny Mike early morning phone call with the bullshit flu, food poisoning, "we're gonna start after 8" story. Same year followed Big Jerry around this fast course, next year followed Big Mike around the course, and a few years later dug in while Livermore Brian and Michigan Tom hammered the course. So lots of memories, though not all of them good.

Though we'll ride as a group this course isn't as nice as the early springtime Wine Country Century in Santa Rosa. Grapes on both courses, but no Ocean on this one. Also very few rollers--this course is too damn fast, mostly flat between the the Mt. Veeder and Ink Grade Climbs except for the nice uphill section around Lake Hennessey. But the worst thing is the crowds, hard to find parking close to registration, a mob at lunch where all the routes converge, a mob waiting on the top of Ink Grade, and a mob back on the Silverado Trail, with many slow cyclists riding 3 across in the shoulder b.s.'ing away while blocking a line of folks in back of them. Good food at the end which is also crowded.

Strange having a Sunday Century--on the Saturday club ride I made sure to stay in the small chain ring. I "Stephan'd" (changed the route) the club ride, to make it ez before a Century and because HI Mike showed up with a a fixed gear. So instead of Oakland hills I planned to stay on the flats to Sunol and back--55 miles. Great that everyone of note joined my detour, and half way to Sunol HI Mike stopped at Livermore Cyclery to pick up his road bike that had been retrofitted with Sram gearing--first time anyone had changed bikes mid ride. Not only did I stay in the small ring for the whole ride but neve got out of the saddle either while our group averaged 17 1/2. Sore butt but felt like good training.

Tour of Napa Valley , Sun August 16, 2008, 100' miles, 5000' climbing. 17.1 avg, or is that 17.1 hours in the rest stops. Ward, Joe, Stephan, Big Mike, Big Jim, Andy, Beth, Jeannie, June, and Recumbent Tom. (180 course rating) (7:15-@3:00 with almost 2 HOURS of rest stops--definitely not a double)

I forgot how much fun this ride is--even if they cram everyone on 3 crowded courses into the same rest stops at the same time. The rest stop food is excellent--starting with the tables of baked goods at registration, a big selection of fresh fruit at the rest stops, and ending with with the gourmet veggie dishes at the post ride meal. They hit a home run this year by moving the lunch stop away from the golf course at Aetna Springs Road which had more room for the riders and room in the shade for more porta potties (used to be a clusterfuck cuing up and waiting to get into one of the stinky sun drenched ones,) and having a great cajun band, CZ & the Bon Vivants, play at the end. I even almost wanted to dance--almost...

Only step backwards was some poor signage--nothing but a last minute tiny ground arrow at the sharp right turn off the fast downhill off White Cottage Road. Later the turn into the finally rest stop wasn't marked.

Our big group started off at 7:15, in warm (for 7:15) weather, and we promptly shut down @7:25 when Big Mike had a bad tire blowout right outside the Yountville Veterans Home. After figuring out if we could even boot it, a sag wagon showed up and took him back to his car so he could replace the gashed tire. We promised to ride easy and wait for him at the first rest stop--30 miles away. Well, we kept the second promise. There are enough riders to get our dander up on this ride, and on the first climb up
1) Me right before the start and 2) Ward and Beth right out of the Veterans Home. 3) Jim and Jeannie.
Mt. Veeder, which is long, but not steep, a guy with tri bars came along and muscled his way between Joe and I who were riding next to each other at the front of the pack. Now Joe could have ridden away from him backwards but I had some fun, I accelerated ahead of tri climber a few times, and he'd follow closely and eventually wedge himself in again. Then we went to another tactic, Joe zoomed up Veeder and I slowed so soon there was a 200' gap with Joe up the road, forcing tri guy to chase Joe. Tri climber eventually came around and pulled me for awhile, then I finally got in ahill sprint, shot past and got back to Joe. We got rid of the tri guy. but this effectively killed me on Veeder, luckily we were about 3/4 of the way up.

The descent off Veeder is twisty, steep and narrow so I told Joe that when I crest I'll keep going and the rest of our club can regroup with me when they catch up to me on the downhill. No one from the Club caught me but lots of riders who I had passed on the uphill did as I was now even taking it easier than usual waiting for a rolling regroup. Additionally my heart was still racing from the initial climb--and now only 80 more miles to go and I had already pushed too damn hard. Finally pulled into a sunny spot by a stop sign on Dry Creek Road where the Terrible Two comes through, where we all regrouped except for Big Mike.

Now Ward and Big Jim made sure we weren't taking it easy on the rollers until the first official rest stop in Napa at mile 30. Here we find a nice, well stocked, sunny rest stop next to a school where we hung out and waited for Big Mike to arrive. 1) Stretching while waiting for Big Mike, and 2) Big Mike arrives at Rest Stop #1 after getting new tires at Wheelworks--now we all want him to pull us.

A little rolling through suburban Napa (ho-hum) where Ward promptly fell asleep and led us down a dead end street. And he has a GPS. He now moves far out front as the 2008 DIABLO CYCLIST GETTING LOST LEADER--a crown that Big Mike, June and I usually vie for--and Big Mike and I never look at maps, never mind a GPS. The funny thing is that about a dozen cyclists didn't make the turn either and followed Ward on the 4 block detour.

Now moving towards the Silverado Trail. A clown in a Yellow Discovery Jersey pissed me off a couple of times, at intersections/ stop signs he would squeeze through our stopped/ slowed group to get to the front. Yep-way top pass people--at stop signs. I got on his wheel and he soon missed one turn, and some riders following our group crashed. Then we promptly saw an ambulance tending to another rider who had crashed up the road. Discovery clown came back on when we slowed past the ambulance and again cut ahead when we waited for cars to clear before making the left on the Silvarado Trail. I figured hell, if he wants to push through us waiting at an intersection he can pull us to Roubaix, or at least to the Lake Hennessey turn 10 miles of rollers away. At this point Ward rolls up to me and holds up an "air" microphone (had to check his hands to see if camera was out) and starts doing a mock interview "Mr. Museeuw, are you going to ride on the Discovery wheel...." Very funny.

Discovery's riding style was "not the best" and when we had a change to hook up with a strong rider from the Stockton Cycling club we did and dropped the Discovery rider. We were also joined by a good guy in a UC San Diego jersey. Our paceline stayed together all the way down the Silverado Trail, with the Stockton guy doing most of the pulling even after I took a turn and then told him we had lots of folks to share the work. I then rode as the ticket collector--so if any of our weaker riders dropped off the back I'd bring them back up, but though a few close calls no one did even with a moderate crosswind.

After turning onto the Lake Hennessey road we had 1 1/2 easy uphill miles to the rest stop, and I had said yesterday I'd lead out here. Usually the road is jammed with cyclists, but we were so late due to our earlier stops the usual herd of cyclists blocking the road had thinned. I went to the front and a up'd the pace, which I took up 5 notches when an ass in a white pickup came by and shaved our group.

Lake Hennessey rest stop (mile 47) is real nice in a shady grove. Someone playing violin music. We stayed here @15 minutes, when some of us finally got our bikes ready Stephen said "we're leaving already??"

Joe and Jeannie

We continue riding along Lake Hennessey and turn onto a great stretch, Pope Valley Road, where there is a long but gentle climb and then rollers that have gotten serious. We were together for about 1/2 of the initial climb but then our group went to hell. June had left the last rest stop early and Joe now shot on ahead. Ward, Stephan, Jim, Beth and I formed a good working group, which meant calling out the cracks and ruts all over the road marked with white paint chevrons. We ran into Johnana who I had ridden a large part of the Death Ride with, and she joined our group until she pulled off to wait for some friends. Many folks across the road smiling at us--either like sight of our paceline in the same kit, or happy that we are so far behind. In past years this had become a racecourse with many fast groups but due to our morning delays all the fast groups were already at lunch, and we were just passing lots of folks on the road. We were too quickly past Hubcap Ranch and at Aetna Springs Road (mile 66) where the lunch was nicely moved away from the golf course and into its own semi secluded area.

1) Joe, Beth and I at the lunch spot, 2) Stephan, June and I starting up Ink Grade--Joe probably just finished it.

It was now starting to get hot--just in time for Ink Grade--the signature climb on this ride. Maybe this had our group stay at lunch for a long time. We'd have less than 3 miles of a slight uphill to loosen up before the 4 mile climb. I remembered that there are some steep parts but apart from remembering that the last 1/4 is shallow, I didn't remember much of the climb--and Stephan reminded me tha the middle sections are the steep ones.

Joe again spun away ez, and I spun away from the group but was losing ground to Joe, who is riding on another planet (t2nd on Eastern Sierra Double.) Unlike 2004 when I was mad at Ink Grade and seemingly everything else, I wasn't standing on the pedals and killing myself, but just going up at a real nice spinning pace, slowly but steadily passing lots of riders. Saw the guy from Stockton who now looked dead to the world--he told me he had blown up. The middle sections were steep but not that bad--I kept waiting for them to get worse but they never did until 4 guys in Hammergel kits shot through. I repassed them which got their dander up and two of them soon sped by me and I couldn't recatch. I did pass a guy who had stormed past our group leaving lunch--figuring I would catch him on the climb so was happy I did. Then into the shallow section where the other two Hammergel guys flew past and I couldn't get close to them. Damn. I then saw a couple on a tandem wearing Mt Tam Double jerseys so I slowed to talk to them--turns out they weren't totally crazy and did Mt. Tam on single bikes. Getting close to the end--and here comes Stephan and we rode in together. Told him I was po'd that I couldn't keep up with the Hammergel guys and he said "they weren't on our ride--they didn't have wristbands on" which Joe and Ward also noticed when passed by these guys. We were on mile 72 of our ride and they may have been on mile 10?, 20?... In any event, made it to the top in 25:12, darn, in 2004 I did it a few times in 22:--- , but in 2006 on this ride I did Ink Grade in the same time.

As a long loopy downhill soon followed I kept going while Stephan stopped to fill up his bottles--we had all made up to regroup at then end of the downhill by a sudden sharp right turn. Stephan caught me on the downhill--Joe was already waiting at the turn--a turn where riders are coming down at 25-30 mph and the right turn is marked by a small white arrow.. Here we'd call out to riders shooting past the turn and saved about two dozen from going off course in the 10-15 minutes we waited to regroup.

Once we regrouped a nice rural route for a few miles until we turn onto the Silverado Trail. Due to earlier delays and long rest stops we were now behind the middle of the ride, which may have been a blessing as here is where 30-60-and 100 milers all come together jamming up a shoulder running alongside a busy roadway of wine sipper drivers. Now the shoulder was a little less crowded than expected with Stephan, Ward, Joe and I pulling the group to the next rest stop.
When not pulling I was recycling recumbent jokes to Tom, formerly used on Professor Dave, as punishment for recumbents being totally useless in a paceline.

Another great action shot taken by Ward while riding-- Beth, Big Mike, me and Andy

After 6 miles we miss the UNMARKED turnoff to the final rest stop at mile 89, where some of us enjoyed the misters set up--I enjoyed the homemade cookies even more. Then it was another 9 miles on the Silverado Trail. Joe was pulling hard when some folks in our group were in dange of falling off--so Jeannie put her stamp of authority on the pelaton and went to the front and purposely slowed us down so we could keep together. But then June wound up in teh front, upped the pace, and our group finally broke up until the final turn among the grapes. Here Photocrazy was set up--not only with their usual automatic cameras but a tape recording right out of Munich Disneyland--a loud taped message playing over a loudspeaker "go to the center of the road, go to the center of the road, AND smile..." Actually the photos came out real nice--capturing our group in bunches in twos and threes taking the corner. Nice.

Joe, Jay, Ward, Stephan, June--we thought we were pulling the rest of our group-where did they go?? (Photocrazy)

Then right into Yountville which indicates the end of the ride with multiple stop signs and cops on bike ready to give out tickets for running a sign. Someone opined it would be embarrassing for a cop on a mountain bike to catch up to one of us. Our average speed was hovering slightly above 17 mph--so after leaving town a few of us cranked up the final hill to the Veterans Home complex.

As mentioned earlier a good lively band at the end, and someone had the foresight to get us a table right in front of the band, where we were blasted by their music and wildly applauding their efforts. Beth may have been miffed that some little girl was anointed "best dancer," we all declined helping Beth meet the challenge saying things like "if you can dance now you didn't ride hard enough." Good food--sausage--chicken--gourmet veggie dishes, but the line for the food was so long that getting seconds was "discouraged."

Fun ride but it really dragged out. Though our group rode hard all day we could never make up the time spent "not riding." We didn't start particularly early (Benecia Cyclists were leaving when we pulled into the parking lot) and unfortunately Big Mike had a mechanical at the beginning. But contrasted to even non-timed doubles rides we dawdled about rest stops, which permanently put us in the back of the ride. Riding 17+ mph with 2 hours of non riding time is the equivalent of riding 14.5 mph with 1 hour of rest stop time.

Ride finish photos--good music and food and setting and gruppo. Most great action photos on this page taken by Ward-o-crazy, a few by Recumbant Tom, some of the end o ride meal ones by me. (from the top in clockwise order) 1) Beth, looking to get someone to dance, in front of CZ & the Bon Vivants; 2) The gang listening to the music (Tom) ; 3) Big Mike and Ward chowing down; 4) June eating and Stephan contemplating route changes he is going to suggest to the organizers; 5) Guy running a bike stereo off a generator; 6) Mike-Beth-Ward-Stephan, its time to go....

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