The Fun Ride, I mean the Death Ride, in a week. I already did 3 Death Rides this year (Devil Mountain Double, Eastern Sierra Double, Terrible Two) this year, and I did 4 passes in 2003 (self supported), 6 in 2004 (last time bonus pass offered) and 5 in 2005, 2006, & 2008. So its hard for me to get psyched up or nervous about this ride—which is good except that I can’t lose “the last 5 lbs” that will make going over 15,000’ easier. Apart from 4 doubles, have only done 2 ORGANIZED century rides, but at least a half dozen UNORGANIZED century rides, self supported, most with more climbing that most regular centuries.
On the other hand Donna is going to try to do 5 passes on the Death Ride this year, and work has conspired against her so her training hasn’t been the best. Unfortunately she was in great form last year—having come off training for the Davis Double—but afternoon thunderstorms over Ebbets when she was coming off pass 4 slowed her down enough and ended her impetus to finish the ride. This year she hasn’t gone up Mt. Diablo on a regular basis, done more than 1 century, or gone with my club, the Diablo Cyclists, on their slower Sunday rides.
In the last week she finally caught Death Ride fever and went up Diablo two weekends in a row. But Donna either rides solo or with slow friends, and doesn’t go on long rides—and apart from the Death Ride having 15,000’ climbing it is also 129 miles long. So I figured we’d get an early start and ride to the Mt. Diablo junction (@ 2/3 of the way up), join my Club at breakfast (Diablo Cyclists founded on anarchy and no officers, no meeting, no ride leaders—the breakfast get together is our social event), and then we could do some more riding from there. I grab my S&S travel bike—the gears slip, Shimano 105’s shift like crap (very long throw), and I hate the ergonomic handlebars meant to be pointed downwards (I ride with them parallel to the ground), so I usually avoid it.
Of course partner in crime Ward meets us on a cold blustery Diablo (it’s FN JULY!!!), having gone up to the ranger station earlier, and we go at Donna’s pace for the first 5 ½ miles until we kick it in with a mile to go to the ranger station. Funny—our club has intense climbing rides of 40 and 60 miles the last two days, but spinning at an easy pace was very relaxing. Warm at the Ranger Station but gets very cold on the way down South Gate—kind of like coming off Tam on the Mt. Tam Double in the early morning.
Funny, not a lot of “Death Ride” riders on Diablo today, we didn’t see many training late yesterday when Ward and I ended our club ride by going over Diablo, and Diablo Scott hadn’t seen many in the early morning yesterday. There had been scores in the weeks before—maybe they bought the tapering nonsense hook, line, sinker—nonsense as riding moderately a week before the event wouldn’t damage you and the worst thing to do is gain 5 lbs the week before the Death Ride with sudden inactivity.
We wind through Danville, where the cops don’t have much to do except hassle cyclists, and get to breakfast where hot coffee never tasted so good. Good sunflower seed bagels and of course have to pick up a slice of pumpkin bread for later. Diablo Cyclists are already there. In past years might be talking about upcoming Death Ride—the other day Amy told me one year 19 Diablo Cyclists signed up—but that day is long gone, only 4 will also be doing it this year. Try to find out about Jack’s European cycling trip but keep getting interrupted by Clint putting on a loud stream of consciousness show.
Donna wants to continue down to Sunol—which is flat/ rollers with either a nice bike lane down commercial Danville Blvd (though loads of stoplights), which over the highway becomes residential, almost rural Foothill Blvd (with few stoplights.) Jack and Ward are in, so is Brian and the last angry union man—Clint. Jack-Ward-Brian and I tried to set up so Donna would always be drafting behind one of us, though she makes it difficult by not saying when she is falling off a wheel. Clint roamed around and providing running commentary about ---well, a variety of things.
We get to Sunol when the stream train is about to depart, and go to the general store on it’s tiny main street decorated with mini flags for the 4th. Wind has calmed down and getting warm—perfect for a frozen fruit pop, and finish the now unfrozen Perpetuem. The new coffee flavor with a shot of chocolate hammergel is better than their orange Perpetuem which almost has no flavor.
Sunol is usually crowded with cyclists as not only a stopping point from Central Contra Costa but cyclists from Fremont and Livermore-Pleasanton come up here also. From here two popular destinations are Palamaras, a nice rustic club but which entails some riding on high traffic volume Niles Canyon Road (this is where Recumbent Zack practiced his version of traffic calming at night on Devil Mountain Double) or a much longer quieter run out to Calavaras, which is a much longer rustic climb but not nearly as steep. Jack throws out going to Calavaras, Donna’s game so with Ward we press on.
Going out the approach to Calavaras is mostly uphill with a slight headwind, and I’d hang back so Donna could get on my wheel with Ward and Jack steaming ahead, and then they’d slow or stop to regroup. Not many cars, and a few cyclists coming from the other direction. Huge wholesale Nursery specializing in crated trees almost runs the whole length of the approach to Calavaras.
Get to Calavaras and it becomes shadier, road gets curvier, and it kicks up a little. Also center line tends to disappear, which makes it important to stay all the way to the right when approaching the frequent sharp left uphill turns that then bends back right and level off a bit. Almost like Italian Roads. Calavaras reservoir off a long drop to our left. This is one of my favorite rides—especially as we are NOT continuing onto Sierra Road.
Endless climbing zig zags—one car towing a boat?? comes around in the middle of the road but otherwise just enough traffic to keep us honest but very low volume and quiet. We’re going at a relaxed pace—not the frantic one we usually go on Club rides when we’re racing and as such the subtle grade is easy. It’s a pain in the ass shifting from small to big ring, (long long throw and then it takes awhile for chain to engage) and I’m not getting much of a cardio, so I decide to ride in the big ring the rest of the day and stay seated. At one point Donna gets unhooked so I drop back, but she’s game and we soon come around the final hairpin for a quick downhill to the turn around spot at the first house in the middle of nowhere. Nice huge shade tree we bs for about 10 minutes—Pumpkin Bread is perfect.
After short climb back ride back to Sunol is fast—probably takes ½ the time as going out though have to watch for cars—when we’re shooting downhill towards a right turn have to peak across to see if any cars coming down to arrive on the curve at the same time we do—again traffic staying light and only spotted one car in the above situation. We set up a nice paceline and Donna does a good job hanging onto the back at the moderate speed until she gets unhooked when some short climbs come up. But our moderate speed is faster than she usually travels so she is doing a good job hanging in there. Another quick regroup and we pass the place Ward drove by and shot photos when Jack and I were in the last portion of daylight while on Devil Mountain Double.
Another stop at the Sunol General Store and bs on the patio with another ice fruit bar. Its now nice and warm. On the return from Calavaras could sit on that patio all day lazily watching when the occasional car goes by. But its back on the long run down Foothill with just a couple of stop signs—cross the freeway—and down the shoulder of busy Danville Blvd next to the highway. While mornings on Danville Blvd are OK—the crowded afternoons are not the best. Donna hangs on well on the slight rollers o Danville. After Danville, on the flatter part, with a few miles left a guy passes so Ward and I plan to open it up, but notice that the guy is riding a fixed gear so we back off. Then in the last ½ mile we rev it up and practice lead outs though my chain keeps slipping when under torque.
Great day, a shade under 100 miles. Rode long enough to avoid any household chores. Local cable provider went all digital—forcing us to hook up cable boxes to our TV sets—after an initial clusterf where nothing worked all the bugs finally worked out. Every time I called when the boxes work, cable company would be more concerned with “do you want movies on demand?,” “do you want…” “NO—I JUST WANT TO WATCH THE FN GIANTS GAME.” But an ancillary benefit if I now get Verus which used to be OLN—the Only Lance Network. So now get to see the Tour de France—unfortunately watch it late when they dumb down coverage with Bob Roll, show endless low budget commercials, and gloss over most riders while paying constant homage to Lanceeee. I now know just to turn it on with 5 minutes to go when the great Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are put on from the AM telecast to make the final call.
The faux Greek Theatre in Volcano.
Postscript: Thanks to MJJ for the supportive comments. Two days later, Donna, Ward and I went to my cycling homeland--the Gold Country and did a great 50 mile out and back from Sutter Creek via Volcano to Hwy 88 (all climbing) and a fast back via downhill rollers on Shake Ridge Road.