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.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re: the guy who crashed in the crit. I don't know about his wheel, but his fork sheared off at the bottom of the headtube. Carbon is not a ductile material. I think the sound we heard was the fork breaking.