Saturday, March 28, 2009


(March 28, 2009) Walnut Creek to Sunol to Calavaras to Sierra Road Climb. Sierra Road done 2x w/ Jack & Ward. Joined the first time by Stephan, Rusty, Tall Tom. Ride Out To Calavaras with Diablo Cyclists. Sierra Road 2x 116 miles, 8000' climbing, *316 rating*

Had to name this century after Madonna after looking at the elevation profile; so far official denial by sporkesmanperson for Ward Industries that Madonna will start doing commercials for them.

Had planned to do the well supported 300k Davis Brevet, lots of fun doing it a few years ago when folks were trying to qualify for Breast-Paris-Breast. But Jack had been on vacation, Joe on a business trip, and Dave doing Solvang in his quest for a triple crown on the recumbent, and everyone else seemed nonplussed about doing it. And Diablo Cyclists had scheduled one of my favorite rides, up Calavaras Road which is a very gentle rustic winding climb on the side of a reservoir which is lightly traveled. Usually this ride means that a few hearty fools continue on and loop down into Fremont and com back via one of the worst climbs in the Bay Area--Sierra Road. As someone said they forgot to put in gentle switchbacks, the road almost goes straight up at 10% for 4 miles. (1946' for 3.74 miles, good climbers do it in 30 minutes, pros do it in 15-20 minutes--per Chain reaction Website)

Well, for Devil Mountain Double training, where you hit Sierra Road after climbing Mt. Diablo, Morgan, Patterson Pass, Mines and Mt. Hamilton, it seemed like a good idea to add on Sierra Road--and do it TWICE.

After Ward Industries combo Red Light Changer-Universal TV OFF for restaurants/ this is my 2nd favorite creation of WI. It compares the length and elevation gain of Mt. Diablo North Gate Road (blue), the steeper Mt. Diablo Summit Road (red) , and the still steeper Sierra Road (green).

Doing Sierra Road TWICE. It seemed like ample punishment for ducking the brevet. And when the last 600' of Mt. Diablo--the 17-18% wall, seemed so scary and formidable, Jo-Jo suggested to do it twice-and sure enough, after always planning to do it twice a singular time was no longer scary. And in doing it TWICE I could familiarize myself with every lousy nook and cranny on the worst climb on the Devil Mountain Double.

A big group of us started from Walnut Creek, planning to pick up more club members on the way. After losing 30-somethings to Mountain biking, 20-somethings seem to have taken to road cycling and on the fast run in to Sunol, that ends with some serious rollers--the usual club gamesmanship went out the window as now the 20 somethings, this time James and Tall Tom kick our 50ish butts going backwards. But it is nice speedwork trying to keep up.

For another week an old enjoyable habit returned--I get a song stuck in my head and it can play all day. This ride had the psychedelic tune Grimly Forming by the Great Society--words to complex for me to remember much but melody just kept repeating with some of Grace Slick's vocals.

"I looked out my window, the cloud was grimly forming. Waiting for the rain I saw the one dark cloud falling. Soldiers paid no heed, I could hear their hollow laughter. Down the hill in pairs of threes, the Red Cross girls came after"..after this the words become sketchy-click on link above to hear great song and may it get stuck in your head also

At Sunol we picked up to solid oldsters-Joe, who is one of the best doubles climbers, and Rusty, a great technical downhiller. Now we had a huge group going down Calavaras, with Joe joining the youngsters and taking off while Rusty jumped ahead and was stuck in no mans land but still finished before a bunch of us chasers. Loads of cyclists out today on the first warm day of the year. Long regroup in the shade where a handful of us decided to continue on to Sierra Road while the majority of the club turned around.

Though Joe just returned from a long business trip he is our best climber and he declined to do Sierra Road--instead he just laughed at Tall Tom who is going to join us.

Very fast downhill into Milpitas/ Fremont but first stop at Ed Levin County Park for water. They had a Renaissance Pleasure Faire going on at the park, and a huge group of coed cyclists who seemed to have lost most of their group. We then continued on the screaming downhill to the place I laid out on the sidewalk, dead to the world, a few years ago. Then a relatively flat mile trough suburbia and then a corner with a gas station/ an Egg Farm, and left turn onto SIERRA ROAD GOING STRAIGHT UP.

Usually we stop at the gas station but this time no one wanted to retighten up so it was right onto Sierra. Make the left turn and watch the road go straight up. We had a good group but I figured I'd be 1st or 2nd to the top and then could take photos of all my compatriots as they triumphally arrived. But sometimes things don't as planned."

The first section is the hardest--a straight road with no break in elevation, and I started off OK. A few times ago I had pushed the pace and had blown up--but this time stayed within myself and felt good, springing out of the saddle whenever road kicked up. On a mountain climb approaching a hairpin I always jump out of the saddle as hairpins are usually steeper-I like powering over hairpins that suddenly kick up. But you can't do this on Sierra, as the road never gets steeper, it just stays consistently hard. As a result of trying to stand on something already a double digit grade I put a great deal of torque on my back, and about 1 mile into the 4 mile climb my lower back was on fire, I was miserable. I stopped to take a short stretch, while everyone who had been behind me passed. I got some relief but my back again went out on the next steep section--this was agony.

Scenes from Sierra Road--do you know the way to San Jose?

After 2 miles I got off the bike again and this time spent 3-4 minutes stretching out my back. Pissed that I got off the bike and lost 4 minutes until I started pedaling and was surprisingly pain free. I was very glad Ward had talked some sense into me--I had planned to do this with an x25 wheel (like Ward/I did two years ago when we did Sierra Road on a lark) and I was SO HAPPY I had the x27. For the rest of the way up I was thinking I need to visit Janelle, the massage godess, and when I got to the top Rusty was yelling at me "you need to get a back massage man." No shit. Took me 44:30 to get to the top but I figure I spent 4-5 minutes off the bike stretching. I was asked if I still planned to do this monster a 2nd time--surly a sane person wouldn't, but I said I was still in for it and Jack said he'd do it to. Then Ward, who now must start giving the Death Ride or /a Double serious consideration, added something akin to "what the f," he was in also.

(L) Stephen, Ward, Jack, tall Tom and Rusty on the top of Sierra Road. (R) Ward running to do it again while Stephen contemplates the nuttiness of who he rides with.

(B) Rusty celebrating climbing Sierra by doing the Chicken Dance.

A few miles of rollers and a some fast downhill portions got us back to the end of Calavaras--Ward, Jack and I continued screaming downhill. Another stop at the park to hydrate and STRETCH!!!. (I gotta start being faithful to this.) Didn't bother putting on the vest going downhill this time--as it was soooo warm on Sierra Road that I figured it was good for me to cool off.

DeJa Vu. Again hit Milpitas, make the left on Piedmont, ride through a few dozen blocks of suburban neighborhoods, then suddenly the left turn onto Sierra Road. Wonder if the riders on the semi classic Flemmish Gent-Wevelgem where they go up the cobbled Kemmelberg twice, feel the same way.

Ward stops to take off knee warmers as Jack goes on ahead. Stupid me--a photo from down below of that first section would have been nice--it just steadily goes up like a street on a hill in San Francisco, only longer. Jack disappears in the distance and I suggest to Ward that we change the route, and drop down to Fremont BART and take BART back to Walnut Creek. But before I could think about it some more we were off going straight uphill.

The first section is the worst but come through it unscathed. Road elevation lessens along a left hand bend-then gets extra steep. My back gets tight again so I figure I'll just stop instead of riding in pain, and stretch for no more than a minute. One unknown cyclist rides past as I get off the bike. When I get back on I feel good and catch up to the stranger but back is hurting again in the same spot I took long break last time. Now a convertible is parked and couple yell out encouragement "you can do it." Surprised them when i said I know I can do it--did it earlier today. OK--minute is up and back on the bike-feel much better again. Again catch up to stranger near mansion at the top of Sierra Road, which means two more steep sections--one that finishes before a false summit. Pass stranger on first steep section but he ramps it up on false flat and motors ahead while I'm out of gas. This time 41:49 which includes about 2:15 off the bike stretching. Hey, if I do it a 3rd time maybe can get back under 40:00, which I easily did a few years back, --or maybe I'd become buzzard food.

Ride back down to Calavaras is great as can ride in the drops and stretch out my back, though I'm a little pissed that I had to get off the bike and worried what will happen on DMD. Now, instead of screaming downhill to Milpitas we make the sudden right turn to Calavaras and hit "The Wall." It's less than a 1/2 mile long and maybe 10-12%, but after what happened on Sierra very scary. I'm sitting and spinning, babying my back--Ward is right in front pacing me and Jack is spinning up the hill 100-200' ahead and pulling away. I may have the worst spin in the club and I feel like I'm going backwards--so I just say "Fuck It" and shift. Ward hears the shift and says "aren't you glad you have an easier gear." "FUCK EASIER GEAR"--I shifted into a harder one, stood on the pedals, shifted again and caught up to Jack.

Calavaras going back to Sunol is slightly downhill and with a tiny tailwind--so its much faster on the return trip--always good. Sunol didn't come fast enough as we were all almost out of water, and even Jack enjoyed the long rest stop. First hot day of the year and a bottle of Perpetuem and 3 bottles of Heed for 80 miles hadn't been enough, so tried to get well hydrated here. Damn-general store had no frozen coconut bars. Nice run on Foothill from Sunol to the freeway--only 2-3 lights/ or stop signs, but once across the freeway we hit every light through San Ramon/ Dublin/ Danville and beyond. On our rides this is a nice road early in the Am with little traffic but it is the worst part of the ride in the afternoon. Jack, Ward and I did a nice 3 man back to Walnut Creek where the ride suddenly ended. Almost 120 miles, 8,000' climbing--a very hard self supported double metric Century.

Happy that this was done but now have concerns over DMD, which may be good as I'll go out easier. I have to get my small chainring replaced, though the x34 is useless on the flats and leads to chain drop, most of DMD is straight up or down. I was going to do this for the Terrible Two anyways. This will give me 5% easier gearing, like having a 31 cassette with a regular 39 chainring. And next I have to get Janelle, the massage godess, to loosen up my back.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

PT. REYES LIGHTHOUSE (Or How I Lost 75% of My Group)

(March 21, 2009) 83 miles, 5500' rollers w/ Ward and Tom and starting with three x as many people I lost. (Some ride leader), 16 avg. *138 rating*

In a fit of insanity I signed up for Devil Mountain Double, which is one of the 3 hardest double in California (18,600'.) I figured that I want to do it one more time (finished in 2006) and its going to get harder and harder each year. It is less than a month away. Funny how signing up for this is great motivation to strictly diet to drop some weight. Also need to put in some mile so a significant chance of rain doesn't curtail a ride.

The ride out to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse takes us East to West from the populated side of Marin County through small redwood groves and small towns to a series of significant rollers past historic oceanfront cattle ranch's to the tiny Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, jutting out on a piece of land 300 stairs below. In the summer it is almost always windswept and foggy, while in the winter it is sunny and much more comfortable. It also attract scores of people this time of year as it is one of the best places to see California Gray Whales migrating. For cyclists this time of year is great as the park service closes that last 6-8 miles of narrow rolling road to the lighthouse to cars (putting people on shuttle buses) , so we can navigate through the cattle guards and slow rollers in isolation.

This is one of the three rides I volunteer to lead each year, which almost anyone can do. As it is an out and back folks can cut it short by turning around at Pt. Reyes Station, a town well short of the lighthouse with a great bakery (2nd best in California.) Or, near the end some of us long distance crazies add the 10 mile out and back over an attention getting climb to The Cheese Factory, which gets us over the 90 mile mark. Last year the turnout was huge.

But under a threatening weather report (20-40% chance of heavy rain predicted all week, albeit to come in anywhere from early afternoon to evening) only a handful of folks showed up, and most chose to turn around at Inverness, the town after Pt. Reyes Station, making it @50 mile ride, and not tempt fate by riding in the afternoon. Professor Dave is shooting for the "Triple Crown" this year, so next week he has to do Solvang (one of the recumbent friendly doubles) so he turned not as much afraid of the weather as to taper. Of course maybe folks turned around early after I threatened to sing "I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar," a Jonathan Richman song that has been stuck in my head all week. And after last weeks imitation of Lindsay Buckinghams's high pitched whining in "Go Your Own Way", who could blame anyone. In any event, Ward and I were the only people to carry on after Inverness, though Domo Tom (our first guy to mile 80 on all Doubles) was "up the road" for most of the morning. In any event I lost 63% of my group--75% when Ward and I arrived at the lighthouse first after Tom took the same wrong turn he took two years ago.

Most of the way out I got to relive the start of the Mt. Tam Double, which is now my favorite ride/ race. On Lucas Valley Road Chris was surprised by the patch of redwoods we rode through--always nice to see someone new to the ride react to something we take for granted. Then past Nicasio and the flat run in that ends with some minor hills. Some cyclists out but not the massive amount usually seen. Under dark gray skies with the usual breeze (albeit very cool today) coming in from the West, Tom was down the road (no doubt looking for the person he claims stole his bar end plugs at Pt. Reyes Station years ago--while everyone else weighed in that they just fell out) while everyone else stayed together. At Pt. Reyes Station had the great Whole Wheat Vegan Scone, with the sidewalk littered with cyclists. One recumbent legend (at least Dave knew who he was) pulled in on a recumbent tandem while Dave had to almost apologize that he was on a regular bike.

By Inverness the sky had not gotten any lighter and that move to turn around snowballed. Only Ward and I carried on--surprised that no one else had gone on. Well Tom had gone on but he rides in his own zone, which at the start of any ride is very fast, and he was way ahead of us. After Invermess starts a long and pesky hill (not serious but very notable, which drops you down to 'Historic Cattle Ranch M" which starts the Pt. Reyes Seashore (a few miles down the road is "Historic Cattle Ranch G," then it is counted down to "A" with one historic ranch every few rolling miles.) To our pleasant surprise, the cross wind was a mild 5mph and more importantly the sun was out with mostly blue skies.

Serious rollers start once your in the Pt Reyes headlands in the final run to the lighthouse. The return trip is much faster, and though it is uphill back to Big Rock, there is usually a friendly tailwind. (Charts and graphs courtesy of Ward Industries.)

Lots of tourists with cameras with huge lenses at the lighthouse and lots of whales in the water. (I had a great travel FILM camera but I've been brainwashed and kept looking for the LED screen. ) Ward and I may have been the most nonplussed people there every time someone yelled out "there's one" and everyone scrambled to see a shadow in the water with a tail occasionally emerging. (I wanted to see them jump through flaming hoops like at Sea World.) Who we didn't see was Tom, who had gone up the road ahead of us, and there was no way to go further that didn't involve a kayak.

My Cousin Vinnie wnts to ask all the folks that turned around--"and what is that yellow thing up in the sky called, don't be shy-shout out the answer if you know it." In the summer half the time you can't see the lighhouse from the bluff due to the rolling fog, today was sweet..

Sun disappeared behind some clouds and it quickly cooled off--just when Ward/I ready to go Tom pulls in, he made the same wrong turn he made 2 years ago and had pulled into the shuttle bus parking area. Or maybe he was looking for the person who stole his barend plugs. We soon set back--on the return DOWNhill rollers predominate so much faster ride. I stopped to take some pictures of cows on the road and Tom sped off down the road. Ward slowed to wait for me and we had a nice fast out of the Pt. Reyes headlands, our pace quickened by the sky that suddenly looked threatening.

With Ward and Tom looking North. Thanks for Dave for the photo editing help, which wouldnt have been needed if he had taken the photo instead of turning around to taper for the 2012 English Professors Convention. *Congrats to Dave for completing the Solvang Double*

Close to Inverness it started to sprinkle, enough to pull over and put on a rain jacket but non enough where I soon regretted having a rain jacket on. By Pt. Reyes Station the sky had already cleared and Tom was having a banquet in front of the Bovine Bakery.

On the way back Ward and I kept the pace high, threatening sky again an incentive, while Tom was now paying for his earlier hammering--but that was cool having him slot into 3rd wheel. We cut out the 8-10 mile side trip to the Cheese Factory which necessitated a long climb--we had gambled enough this day. The run into Nicasio was disappointing; usually there is a tail wind but today just a crosswind that seemed to pick up. Still dry through Nicasion. Ah, there goes the customary tailwind through the redwoods back towards big rock. Some more heavy mist and the usual gang of cyclists were missing.

Went quickly up the Big Rock climb with Ward close on my heels--incentive being that Tom and Ward are two of the best bike handlers around and didn't want to get dropped on the downhill. Counted out 11-12-13 for every turn in the road, memorized for the final homestretch on the Mt. Tam Double last year. Off the downhill--about 3-4 miles to go and we regroup into a 3 man paceline while the clouds regroup and open up on us--significant rain on this stretch. We must have been riding hard, usually I'm a cold wimp and it was only in the 50's, but never wanted to stop for the rain jacket. Luckily we timed all the lights perfectly and only had to stop before Highway 101--where I got a quick reminder that wet rims don't stop all that well.

Good day of riding, weather could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse--a lot worse.

Postscript--the weather subject predominated emails from folks who didn't come out or turned around early, bunch of pessimists:

B- "I would like to know if you guys got wet out there at the light house...or on the way back?"
Dr.D- "Are you boys dry? Hope you made it safely back to the cars without getting wet."
YJ-"...we thought of you guys freezing your asses off at point reyes"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

MINES ROAD DOUBLE METRIC CENTURY (Walnut Creek to the Junction)

(March 7, 2009) 120 miles, w/ Ward, Jack, Don, Brian, Cris, Tom & Dr. Dave on Recumbents. Joined by Paul, Beth, June 10 miles in and about two dozen Diablo Cyclists 30 miles in. @6000', 15.7 *184 rating*

"Sometimes Things Just Don't Go Exactly As Planned"-Paul Sherwin

Highly anticipated ride that went off very strangely.

Started off with me thinking ride started at 7:30--luckily I always get to starts early so I can leisurely get ready. Got at a call at 7:00--"where am I. Oops, blew the start time. Nice group waited for me in the freezing cold and we finally lifted off at 7:15.

We had a good working group from Walnut Creek to Livermore--as Ward later noted we weren't dead at the end as there wasn't any nonsense (aka NY lingo "no fuckin around")--no attacks and counterattacks to kill time. With Steve B. retired no one pushing the pace if we all started bsing. It was overcast, dreary and it felt much colder than the supposed 55 degrees. Cursed that I decided not to bring toe covers. I had trouble getting warm all day. Pace was moderate--only time pace quickened was when two tall tri guys raced past and Ward sprinted up to catch them on a fast part (slight downhill) of the course while few people remarked that I showed restraint. Restraint went out the window when we hit a slow portion (slight uphill) portion of the course and I led a charge past the tri guys--most of our Club sped past. Later, on a straight portion the tri guys passed again and a few of us jumped and hung on their wheel, Paul was disappointed when they turned off before the next climb so he still led a charge over it.

Thanks to my not being able to tell time we got to Livermore at 9:15 to hook up with our compatriots--we were supposed to get there at 9:00 but most folks were still in the bsing stage. Meanwhile a few of us went to whizz--no bathrooms so a secluded spot in the community garden had to do. Thought we were busted when a cop soon stopped Ward, but only to admonish us not to ride the wrong way on the sidewalk.

Two dozen cyclists set to leave when someone realizes that Don/ Brian not there--Don had a flat down the road. They hurriedly pull in and we're off in waves. At one point I'm pulling the paceline and when I rotate back and spot a gap in the line I set to pullin and see someone sprinting like crazy filling the space. What. It's Brian's Brother, Craig, the Patron Saint of Beginning Cyclists. He's out of breath but wanted to tell someone in the front group that Don had another flat. I circle back and we spend a long time inspecting Don's tire for the cause of the problems--by the time we're set to go we have little chance to catch anyone but the slowest rides on the 28 mile, mostly gentle climb with some short but notable parts , rural Mines Road. Devil Mountain Double (one of the two hardest) is in 6 weeks and this is one of the many climbs on the course, Don and I are still on the fence but I'm a little further off it and ready to send in an appy than Don.

Don/I/Brian mostly stay together as the larger front group did. A few large houses to the side, otherwise very rustic in the valley with a stream off to the side running full force due to recent rains. Minimal traffic but always annoying when a rice rocket shoots by on the curvy unstripped portions and the driver leans so far over he almost winds up in ones lap. Got wet going through the proverbial 2nd runoff puddle that covers the road with 3-6" of water. Unfortunately even though 80% of the ride is a climb, and the sun finally came out, a chill was always in the air.

The Junction usually has a nice warm garden spot next to the "Cafe" which you share with smoking motorcyclists, but today a non stay inducing chill was in the air. Most of the pelaton had been at the Junction for a half hour and ready to go, and did while I was jamming down a home made pbj sandwich. Damn--if I carried it I'm gonna eat it. Of the first group, Ward waited for me while Don and Brian looked like they'd stay for just a few more minutes. The hardest hill on the ride is the climb out of the Junction before starting the 20+ mile downhill. As the pelaton had left 10+ minutes before us the only hope we had was to catch the recumbents, when we didn't see them and we hit the downhill section we knew we wouldn't catch anyone. When we hit the first "lake" on the road, and not wanting a wet butt gingerly rode through it this time, we decided to wait for Don and Brian. Nice picturesque place, not a building in sight on a desolate country road--with a car passing by every few minutes a creating a big splash as it went through the water. Sunny out but a real chill in the air. Hands and toes weren't frozen like the morning but you just felt the chill. After 10 minutes Ward tried calling--no phone service. After 20 minutes the lost boys showed up, they had waited for the last two people before setting out.

Sow another 30 minutes behind the pelaton. It stayed chilled for about half the descent but a few funny things happened near the bottom. The grade kicks up for the last 5-6 miles and I used to be scared of this descent but now handled it real well. And I was having such a good time on the descent that I didn't notice that it had warmed up nicely. Now full of energy took a long pull back to the library, where the pelaton was probably wondering how I got lost this time.

The 120 milers + June and Beth started back and we kept together nicely. There are some rollers and we had a nice rotation worked out with Dave and Tom on their recumbents--someone on a normal bike would lead the charge up an incline and one of them would shoot to the front as soon as the road leveled off or started going downhill. Cris was hammering this part--when I commented that she was no ready for the Cinderella (goofy beginner women's only century ride,) she laughed but might have been ready to throw something at me.

The pace back was high; we kept losing 1-2 riders so we had a few extra regroups, but now they were in full sun and some heat which was nice. The "Postal Situation" (attack by an unknown rider) never materialized down Danville Blvd; though at mile 117 we all worked for recumbent Dr. Dave to catch recumbent upstart Tom when he tried a breakaway.

Great group ride to and from Walnut Creek to Livermore and back. For the Mines Road part I had a Paris Roubaix moment--Servais Knaven chasing the pelaton with Freddie Rodriguez and Hans DeClerq and falling further away from the action.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


(February 27, 2009) 95 miles, 3000' climbing, 17.0 average. fixed gear w/ Don, Brian also on fixed gears. Ward, being sane on a normal bike. @7:40-1:40 *125 Rating*
Not to be confused with the Foothill Century out of Sunnyvale, "the only KOSHER CENTURY"--as the awful end o ride meal in Merced was definitely not Kosher.

Elevation brought to you by Lehman Brothers--now a division of Ward Industries.

I was psyched for this century, as needed the miles, but disappointing Diablo Cyclist turnout. Perhaps it was the early weather report that promised more rain this weekend (it has rained almost ever February weekend, washing out our chasing around the Tour of California on Nixon Birthday weekend), or the 2+ hour drive deep into California's agriculture valley. In any event the forecast, always better than for the Bay Area, changed late in the week from 40% rain to partly sunny. The fixed gear boys-Don and Brian were committed as though some serious short hills a good century for fixed gears, but everyone else was negative or nonplussed.

GREAT DOUBLES TRAINING!!! Yep, that part about making sure to prepack everything the night before. That included a quick check with Don to make sure he was still doing it on his fixed, as if I was going to ride solo I'd take a regular bike and that necessitated preparing different water bottles. Then going to bed early the night before, still not getting enough sleep when the alarm clock goes off at 4-. Then the drive in the dark--to get to Highway 99 which is the major highway through the Tracy-Manteca-Modesto-Turlock-Merced-Fresno towns of agland (Highway 5 to the west also cuts through agland but it doesn't go through anything--it is just the fastest way to Los Angeles.) To get to Highway 99 I have to loop around country and secondary roads for an hour, passing though the relatively new Mountain House subdivision, which made the edge of the Bay Area commute 3 hours to San Francisco, and now is the poster child for foreclosures. Then pass through Manteca which used to be solid agriculture and also has become a subdivison haven--they build a complex of baseball fields that resemble famous Major League ballparks--I have to check that out on the way back. Finally the sun comes up when I get close to Highway 99 and pass the "Flying J" and "Loves" Truck stops. Coming back from Italy I remember thinking how disguising much of American strip mall landscape is.

After an other hour get to Merced, park next to a real small town downtown with some nice old buildings. The town square is "fenced in" as they will be running McClain Pacific criteriums all day--we should get back in time to see the Pro-Cat 1's. Quickly pay (one of the few Century rides you can still pay the day of--Santa Rosa Wine Country 2 months away is already sold out), glad to see that Ward joined us, and we are quickly off--3 of us in our crazy fixed gear knee high argyles.

A few people said they didn't want to travel so far for a flat ride--but the course isn't pancake flat like Stockton. The first 19 miles is flat through ag land with loads of pink blooming fruit trees--in a month with wind it will look like a blizzard when the buds go flying off the tree. The far roads have no stop lights and are lightly traveled, and the few we encountered gave us wide berths. The sides of the roads are muddy from the recent rains but the middle of the road is dry, albeit poorly paved. Here we all take turns pulling and have a good 4 man going. A fast moving three man paceline passes us and Ward/I jump on the back--then when the road goes slightly up I put a dig in the front. The back two guys laugh as they're passed by a fixed gear, the guy who was pulling as not happy. They catch me and I pull until the uphill ends, no fn way I can keep up on a fast part of the course. They are the only people who passed us that we didn't recatch and pass all day. We regroup and pull into the first rest stop, as all the others, has bottled water and energy drink and an abundance of bananas. Vest and glove liners came off for good.

The next 7 miles starts having some serious rollers. You leave the agriculture zone and start riding more in cattle country. We regroup at the end of the roller section and again three man for the fast 6 miles to the next rest stop at Turlock Lake, which despite recent rains is VERY VERY low. Worker there indicates that upstream reservoirs haven't released water yet.

But Ward, you didn't get our stupid socks in the photo.
After I complained a strange photo appeared in the National Enquirer (rumored to soon become a division of Ward Industries) with our fixed gear socks and an (illegal) alien suddenly appearing.

The next 23 miles starts have longer and longer climbs but the grade isn't as bad as in the earlier section of rollers; uphill with shallow grades (3-4%) are good for a fixed gear. Leaving Turlock Lake two Stockton Bike Club guys passed and Ward/I again jumped on their wheel. Again I put in an attack on a steep portion, they repassed on a downhill and took off as Ward/I waited for Don/ Brian. Once we regrouped Don pulled and pushed the pace as soon as we hit the first uphill--soon we were back to the two Stockton guys.
Unfortunately Brian was struggling on the hills so we waited for him as the Stockton guys took off. We again regrouped, 4 manned through a flat zone and started climbing again where we could see the Stockton guys about a 1/4 mile away on long climb. Ward and I again picked up the pace as I led the charge up the hill. What seemed like an eternity and lots of standing on the pedals we finally caught them--turns out nice guys who know some people we do. But now didn't want to get repassed so I still would push the pace on uphills (stood enough and pulled that I ripped the skin off my finger that wraps around the lever while climbing) and on downhill sections I'd draft off of Ward who slowed enough to make sure I could keep close.
Pulled into lunch with a 17.3 average speed at mile 56. At lunch ran into the Benecia Bike Club, who always seem to start a hour ahead of us and joke that they are once again in front of the Diablo Cyclists. Big comfy 60's retro cushioned chair at familiar lunch stop (also rest stop at Riverbank) which I vowed not get get out of as I sank further and further in. Pedestrian bread and peanut butter (wonder if Planet Ultra is buying up all the recalled peanut butter power bars at a discount.) Saw one of the great climbers from the Benecia Club, she and one of the taller guys from the club were chasing her compatriots who had left a few minutes before they pulled in.
Hell started as soon as we left the lunch stop which is basically 13 miles on semi private Merced Falls Road. Surrounded on both sides with rolling fields dotted with oaks. It starts off with seriously steep rollers and they are hell--I could barely get over them while Don seemingly floated over them. Then a fast downhill where I hit (a new fixed gear record) 33 mph which means 152 RPM. Ward circled back and forth from Don back to Brian and me. One guy shot by and there was no chance in hell to try to catch him on this fast downhill portion--but when we reorganized into our four man paceline for the 6 mile flat road into the the Snelling rest stop we caught up. Better than I did in my last race nearby 5 years ago when the pelaton dropped me on the third circuit of the course, then I looked in town for a fresh cup of coffee (ha.)

We cut 5 miles off the full route by not doing a loop around Snelling. Usually I'd want to to do as many miles as possible but today no complaints, legs were very sore from all the hard standing, and actually had a thing spasm when we hit the first slight uphill.. A 14 mile run on Snelling Road, for the first time all day consistent traffic buy a nice wide shoulder. We had a slight tailwind that made going over the gentle rollers a breeze, Don and Ward kept the pace up in the front and I watched out for Brian (protecting our sprinter) if he fell off, but who didn't need much help, and we soon just hit our 2nd-3rd and 4th traffic light all day at the edge of town.

Got back into town just when the little kids crit was ending, think a girl on a pink bike with a basket and training wheels won--or maybe she was just the crowd favorite. Looked forward to the good bbq, remembering it from 2 years ago--and our lunch tickets says "any lunch from the designated lunch booth." Well any lunch turned out to be just two choices from the menu--tri tip sandwich or 1/4 chicken, and when I asked for the tri tip sandwich they either ran out or my coupon wasn't good for that, so we all got the chicken plate which had a tiny white bread roll and some apricot jello mush and dried mini chicken leg with No slaw or other side item. Good band playing goldie oldies from the 1960's (say it ain't so) and small craft booth setup where Don looked like he is ready fro the handcrafted carbon wheels.

Watching the crit and dreaming of a century ride with good food at the end.

Back to the Pro-Cat 1 crit, with loads of teams I never heard of apart from Rock Racing. It was a 50 lap affair and we kept rooting for the guys in the back. After seeing 20 laps, and our hero who had stayed in the back started moving up quite well, we left to leave and went past the lap sprint point ($100 to the leader of most laps) when we heard a crash--one rider in a bad accident and his carbon wheel looked like a hinged over pancake.
Crit racing-roller derby on bicycle.
Otherwise a good day riding. Nice course and good rest stops. And without alot of people on the course Ward set a record by not yelling at anyone weaving about.

On the way back home stop in Manteca to see the movie set Polo Grounds (nice job but you killed the dimensions-lets go for 258' down the line and 500' to center field.)