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.

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