Wednesday, January 1, 2003

GRUPPO PUMPKINCYCLE-Introduction-1997-2003

Note: In October 2009 Yahoo Geocities--their free web page service for dummies, shut down. Up to early 2008 posts here are a patchwork of what was saved from Geocities and old ride reports.


The Gruppo Pumpkincycle Bicycle Club came about in the Fall of 2002 for numerous reasons. Chiefly, the local bike club, the Delta Pedalers, did less and less riding and more and more whining about meetings, rules, secret rosters, and advocacy consisting of trying to organize boycotts of local bike shops and debates over where to start a ride. I was just coming back into cycling after being disabled/ limited with a severe injury, and just wanted to ride--especially all of the grueling , hilly rides I had enchewed in the past. Luckily for me there was a new member of the Club that thought the same way, and eagerly encouraged me to keep trying tougher and tougher rides that I had no business doing. Our "directeur sportif" seemingly knew every cycling group in Northern California and she'd drag me to tougher and tougher rides, and at the beginning saved my butt when I was the last person up a climb. At the same time (while the Delta Pedalers couldn't get a new jersey approved) we were working on designing a unique, whimsical jersey. After all, Patti Smith should be on a bike jersey.

On rides we'd b.s. about politics, music and cycling in Italy; after epic training rides/ events, we'd write a summary for this website.We were joined by a friend who a few years back was one of the most easygoing people I knew, has a great musical/ political knowledge, and a damn good cyclist who would fly by me. But "Mr Counter Culture" was riding less and less, and complaining more and more. Now he was into telling everyone else how they should live their life, and was never enthrawled about this web site and other Gruppo Pumpkinycle antics. There was a seeming disconnect between his being a "member" and his actions, which would only become apparent a year later.2003 was amazing--I never would have predicted the rides that we successfully completed. The "directeur sportif" and I did the 120 miler in Santa Rosa (in a rainstorm) and the
Sierra Century (of Slug Gulch fame.) "Mr. Counter Culture" joined us as we did, self-supported, 4 passes of the "Death Ride" course a month after the real event.

But towards the end of the Summer things started to unravel, rides were suddenly cancelled--culminating in our planned ride of the Napa Century going down the toilet for reasons that didn't pass the smell test. Then in the fall we did the easiest ride of the year and I broke my collarbone--and heard from my two "friends" less and less. Something was amiss. The "directeur sportif" and I had planned to do a whole slate of century rides in the spring of 2004--for reasons that kept changing these also went down the toilet and I wound up doing them solo, and I never understood what had happened. I was riding tougher and tougher rides--the Davis 200, Sierra 120--6 passes of the Death Ride but was at a loss to figure out why our riding group collapsed.

Then, in early summer of 2004, the reason for all the chicanery became apparent. Angst gave way to being pissed off--really pissed off--which didn't subside until I returned from a "self awareness/ discovery" (yeah, I know it sounds hokey but it's true) cycling trip in Italy. Turns out that 2003 was built on on big lie; having an alternative bike club that focused on the essence of cycling was all a bunch of crap. The Gruppo Pumpkincycle Bike Club was a wayward home for midlife crises. But, under a grand illusion , from 10/02 to 10/03, the Gruppo Pumpkincycle Bike Club was the greatest Club of all time. The illusion motivated me and helped make me a much better rider. Its collapse in 2004 pained the hell out of me, but forced me to be a better rider still. (11/2004)

Below is a list of "long rides" (at least at the time I thought they were long) I did before the Sierra Century 2003. Ironically, I hated climbs and avoided climbing rides like the plague until the end of 2002. In winter 2001 (before a big accident when a dog undercut my wheel) I started working out on cycling for the first time in the off season (on rollers) and thought if I worked hard, my eventual strength would be to power along the flats. Geeze--was I in for a surprise. On the flats most people are faster than me until we are well into a ride, I can't accelerate and a crosswind kills me--but when the road turns up I can hold my own. If you would have predicted what I'd be doing before 2003 I would have told you that you were nuts.


DELTA CENTURY (Stockton)--metric--solo-flat--my first century on a hybrid bike. Was warned that winds would pick up towards the day, so I started with the big boys. I figure I was passed by 500 cyclists; I passed one woman who I still feel sorry for. Part of route was out and back--happy to finally see slower cyclists in the other direction, who started later. Amazed that we wound up all the way to Walnut Grove. Come mile 40 my back and butt and arms were killing me, luckily a school principal came along riding my speed (with a disc wheel) so we could b.s. all the way in.

TOUR OF NAPA VALLEY (Yountville)--metric-solo-some hills. Still on the hybrid, came across Dave, founder of the Delta Pedalers, riding a three man paceline. He invited me to come along, but no way I could stay with these guys. Got to Ink Grade and had to get off the bike in the middle of the climb and walk awhile. Did I feel like shit. Now-even on solo training rides in the area I go to Ink Grade and go bonkers and attack Ink Grade--kinda my revenge on that climb.


SUNRISE CENTURY (Lodi)-100 miles-flat-w/ John and Ann P. and ? on mountain bike. My first full 100--and on a real road bike (GT Course.) We were pretty slow and John/ Ann's new cycling friend on the mountain bike was slower still--we may have been the last people to come in that day. But we finished and we were stoked. Only time I saw water released from Pardee Dam.


CHICO WILDFLOWER-metric-60 miles-w/ John. Real strange going up to Chico, isolated 2 hours North of Sacrmaneto in the middle of nowhere. Never thought I'd return--ha! Seemed like the ride had TONS of climbing. John and I must have been the slowest folks on the course (but we had stayed out in downtown Chico past midnight the night before)--they had gourmet pizza at the finish but by the time we came in all they had was Pizza Hut/ Round Table.

WINE COUNTRY CENTURY (Santa Rosa)-80 miles-some hills-w/ Frank and Verena. We actually started as a big group (were there really more than a dozen Delta Pedalers at the start!) intent on doing the metric and it was cold, so three of us went to the front and started drafting tandems. We eventually noticed that the rest stop that we should have passed we never saw, then realized that we were on the100 mile course. Doing the 100 mile couse scared us, so we figured out a way to weave back to the metric course--ironically we got to all the rest stops as they opened for the 100 milers.

SUNRISE CENTURY (Lodi)-100 miles-flat- w/ Donna and big group of Delta Pedalers. We stayed together for most of the ride. Donna and the girls mad when I talked to "Anna Nicole Smith" wearing tight Death Ride jersey--as they contended that she couldn't have done the Death Ride.. They got more incenced when we'd leave a rest stop, and "Anna" would be at the next one without ever passing us--"she had to sag to it," was their contention. Towards the end Frank and I went off the front while the girls played in the sprinklers--and got the last helping of salad served.

Below-not on a century but circa 2000 on a bike camping trip with the Delta Pedalers near Bear Valley--a few years later I'd figure out were just a few miles from the Death Ride course.

MANTECA CROSSROADS (Manteca)-100 miles-flat-w/ Frank Advertised as a bunch of scenic water crossings so counted all of them as slugged thru the ride. Remember lots of opulant homes in the middle of nowhere for sale. We came across "Anna" and saw her gasping at the first rest stop.

TOUR OF NAPA VALLEY (Napa)-metric-some hills-w/ Dave and Frank. Memorable as we just bought a new house, and there were wild fires all over California--and Dave had been working all week putting them out. Chased Dave and Frank up the climbs, thought I might have to stand but was only 1-2 minutes behind them on Ink Grade. Dave was incredibly giddy now that his weeklong ordeal was over. Theme at end of ride was Polka Music, which everyone hated except for Dave who was drinking away and singing along--and then rode back to car without a helmet.

HOLSTEIN 100 (West Marin)-metric-lots of short, steep climbs-w/ Donna. Hotter than hell and Mr,. Stupid thought that the "Holstein" nickname was a nod to years gone by. Found the cows, and the 100 tons of cow shit which was odiferous in the 100 degree heat. Swore I'd never do this ride again Too hard.


CROSSROADS OF CA (Manteca)-100 miles-flat (?) Don't recall if I did this solo or with Frank. May have it confused with 1999 edition. Remember coming in fairly spent and seeing Jeff riding out, doing "bonus miles." How can someone do that after finishing a Century? Packed a camera so when I was tired I could stop and take photos of the "scenic water crossings."

Thought about doing the Death Ride--hell, would only have to do one pass to get the jersey. I could (barely) get up Mt. Diablo once. But no one else enthused and I'm to scared to solo it.

Below is photo from an out of town hilly ride Kings Ridge--luckily the group leader waited for me on the climbs.
PEDAL AROUND THE PUDDLE (Lakeport)-@75 miles and quit-hilly, w/Donna, Pat, Frank, Verena-After loving the metric that tightly follows the lake, I talked wife and friends into trying the 100. The 100 mile course moves away from the lake and turned out to be significantly more hilly. Group wasn't ready for it. Donna and Pat got lost (ironically where I'd get lost 2 years later), acrimony ensured-what the fuck, no one was having a good time so we rode in. I'm still pissed about quiting-only ride that I voluntarily did not finish.

2001 Injury-after getting serious all winter and using rollers for indoor training, on a beautiful, sunny day, a f'n family let their border collier run loose off their property. While in a fast moving paceline the dog undercut my wheel, I flipped-separated shoulder and torn knee. Knee surgery in October. Permanent partially torn ACL.


Rehab from knee surgery in Fall 2001. Weeks later went to physical therapy and couldn't turn the cranks one revolution. All winter 2001-02 rehabed on trainer and started dropping weight. Did a bunch of spring metrics, but my knee would tighten up around mile 40--PARTY PARDEE, WILDFLOWER, WINE COUNTRY, SUNRISE CENTURY.

Did the metric SIERRA CENTURY with Mary--towards last rest stop where ride breaks into going back to the finish or continuing on the 100 mile couse, Mike, Joann, Bill, Thako rode in looking dog tired. They started late and rode hard--Bill and Thako were just to pleased to join Mary and me as we rode in. Conversley, I was jealous of Mike and Joann who could do the 100 miler--which I couldn't dream of trying. Same situation at the end of the season at the TOUR OF NAPA VALLEY. I'm lusting after any and all climbing rides.

Below, Photos from 2002 (1) Up in Chico with Donna before the Wildflower, (2) Did "the Bears" over and over trying to rehab knee and start climbing, (3) At flat Lodi Vino metric ride

TUNITAS CREEK FROM HELL RIDE-@65 miles-I missed this ride last year when rehabbing, and heard how beautiful but hard it was. Went with Dave and Joann who linked up with a bunch of people Joann knew who are really strong cyclists. When I showed up Dave said "oh I'm glad you're here, at least I wouldn't be last." Thanks Dave--but it was all so true. Ride starts off climbing-Old La Honda-and I quickly break into a sweat and fall off to the back, Joann talks me up the climb. And unlike the local hammerheads--these guys are WAITING for us at the top of the climb--they'd wait at the end of every climb or turn, which really showed me something. But something was amiss, when we got to PESCADERO it was revealed that an art show was on Tunitas Creek Road, so we'd have to circle around to the south to get back "which wasn't much harder." Oh shit-it was brutal, but my knee behaved and for the first time in my life I got into a climbing rhythm. For the first time I passed Dave on a climb, and when he tried to repass I managed to stay ahead of him. After going on for hours my odomoter only showed 45 miles and I was starting to fall apart. Someone mentioned that we were at mile 60--oh hell, while waiting for Dave my odomoter had shut off and hadn't restarted. Getting a rush I shocked everyone, including me, and sprinted ahead of everyone the last 5 miles back. The notion of my being able to do a full 100 miler is dancing in my head.


Climb Mt Diablo Two and a Half Times--62 miles, 8300' Climbing, Climb Mt Diablo once with Bill and Joann, and then we met some DELTA PEDALER at the base and do it again--and at the end I went back up to the junction. Just 6 months ago climbing MT DIABLO once seemed impossible. Joann throws in a new standard--you have to climb the last 800'-18% twice to get your photo taken.

Climb Over the Berkley Hills to Thai Buddhist Temple with the DELTA PEDALERS, with bonus miles in the Berkeley Hills at the end. 76 miles. Another good climb that I never thought i could do--this time of CLAREMONT, 2 1/2 miles, 1000'. Hearing that SLUG GULCH of the SIERRA CENTURY is 3x as long I had my 12-27 replaced by a 11-34.

Party Pardee-metric-big Delta Pedaler turnout for this mostly flat ride with some climbing at the end and a good Cajan band. I had done this ride before where I ate alot at the lunch stop at mile 50 and then the climbs began--ouch. For once I don't recall anything eventful on this ride.


around this time, by accident, I bought the 2002 Paris Roubaix race. I never followed bike racing. I had heard that Paris Roubaix was tough and had seen "A Sunday in Hell" about P-R 1976 with Merckx and DeVlaeminck, but wasn't impressed watching a bike race over a cloud of dust. I heard that 2002 was wet and muddy and figured I'd check it out. The lyrical commentators (Liggett and Sherwin) were fun to listen to, and the wet, muddy conditions were tough, but still not appreciative or familiar about what I was watching. The announcers kept talking about how DOMO had strength in numbers, and US POSTAL was isolated--and they kept focusing on MUSEEUW --some guy who wasn't rail thin, didn't look cool, didn't spin like crazy, and got out of the saddle on the flats while grimicing. Jeeze--kinda like me. Then another crash which wipes out the DOMO team, with 40km to go MUSEEUW takes off and is chased by two US POSTAL boys. Announcers don't give JOHAN much of a chance--but every time he gets to the wet cobblestone sections he picks up speed-flying around corners, grimicing all the way. He wins solo by over 3 minutes. The rest of the year I'd watch and rewatch the end of 2002 PR for inspiration. When things got tough on a ride I'd picture Johan cranking away in the rain and mud, and try to channel some of his spirit.

PRIMAVERA CENTURY (Union City)-Metric-some Hills-with Pat. Signed up for the 100 miler, with Pat, tough senior who was planning to ride across the country in the summer to celebrate her 65th birthday. It was storming the day before-and weather forecast called for it to get worse the next day. Pat called me up early Sat. to tell me "we ARE doing the ride-I don''t care what the weather." Apart from avoiding hills, I was also a "sunny day" only rider. I grabbed my fashion plate daughter and ran to get a rain jacket and shoe covers. Came home later and another call from Pat to remind me we "WE'RE riding."Next morning I mistakenly drink a cup of caffinated coffee--then wonder why the rain is making me so nervous. Rain lets up when we start the ride--which spends too much time in the suburbs and stopping at red lights.. Then to a climb known as "The Wall" but it isn't bad at all. Get to CALAVARES ROAD--long rolling downhill which is sweet. Then to the flats to rest stop that is on the 40-60 and 100 mile course, and it starts raining hard again. We get to the rest stop and Pat wants to know if I want to go directly in (40 mile option), ride a little more (60) or still do the 100 miler. I tell her I'll decide when I get out of the outhouse--and inside the rain is banging away and I'm ready to stop at 40. But when I leave there is a patch of blue, and it is letting up, so we decide to do the 60--and even Pat isn't holding out to do the 100. More surburbia-more rain-tights and shoe covers waterlogged. Rain lets out when we get to a beautiful climb on PALMARAS ROAD--while waiting for Pat at the top I get sick of having to ride with so much on--so I strip down to my base layer. Maybe a mistake as cool downhill starts with my jersey pocket stuffed, but I hate being bundled up. At the end they keep pushing more and more lasanga on us as trunout was much less than expected. Still don't enjoy riding in the rain but showed me that I shouldn't worry about it.

CHICO WILDFLOWER (Chico) 99 miles-4500' climbing. Finished at 6:18-1:10 inc back 2 1/2 miles after forgot water bottles and one flat, 16.3 mph, 48 min rest stops

Below-when solo'ing rides I'd start timing myself as motivation to keep riding hard. Now I'm almostg enjoying climbing Honey Run in Chico.Solo, so rode this against the clock, and didn't know what to expect as a few years back metric was tough enough. Rain forecasted never developed but some headwind. Kept on getting into short lived pacelines; at beginning of ride I jumped on the wheel of a two man--some guy with yellow spokes--but he didn't look like he wanted me in the paceline.Most of route is interesting, small warm up climb at begining of ride on road that hasn't been resurfaced in ages (did anyone say Paris Roubaix?) then out to longer climb on HONEY RUN, with a screaming downhill.. Then flats mixed with some rollers out to TABLE TOP MOUNTAIN--a longer climb still. . Mostly open but rural, not much traffic. After lunch stop (where years ago I had too many pate sandwiches waiting for John to recover) long straightf segment through a windswept valley and then a turn into more wind and flat farm country. So, unfortunately, end of course doesn't live up the first 2/3rds. Rest stops are stocked with lots of local goodies. I flatted at mile 87 and just when I figured I'd take it easy, Mr. Yellow Spokes and friend flew past. I chased them in a crosswind to mile 95 and finally caught them, then 3 people flew by and I had nothing left to chase. Later-it turned out that the 3 people who passed were locals who were on a short time trial training ride. I has apologize to Mr. Yellow Spokes that I couldn't jump on the locals wheels and he said "you did great, you caught up to us.--which had me stoked.

WINE COUNTRY CENTURY (Santa Rosa) 120 miles-4500' climbing. With Joann. Heavy showers predicted for all over Northern California--but at 3:30am weather report showed clearing over one place in NorCal--Santa Rosa. When we started we saw a few DELTA PEDALERS doing the 100 mile loop--as it turned out rain clouds would chase them around all day. Our route went further out to the coast, where it was actually sunny--though huge rainclouds a few miles offshore. We were very warm during climb to coast as bundled up in rain jackets and other water repellant garments. Saw skeleton at the start of sharp downhill to the Coast, warning us to be careful going over the cattle guards.Some headwind going north on the coast, Highway 1--an Aussie joined us and did lots of pulling. We head inland and it is getting balmy--at @mile 60 a rest stop collects any clothes you don't want--we give away all our rain gear. Now beautiful rollers through wine country--and of course it starts raining hard. But rain is warm, so kinda feel like a little kid, and we keep leapfogging a guy who is pissed he is getting passed by Joann. Luckily stops raining, hardest climb, CHALK HILL, is thrown in at the end --then suddenly back in civilization. Another tough ride in the rain that was easier than expected and made enjoyable by my upbeat cycling tag team partner.

SUNRISE CENTURY, Lodi (100 miles, elevation gain-freeway overpasses) with Pat.

below with Pat and racer Larry who came by and pulled us on a windy section.
Pat in training to do her cross country trek to celebrate her 65th birthday, and told her just to stay on my wheel. Pat incredibly game, any time a paceline came by we'd intergrate with it, I'd tell them about Pat and paceline would be real receptive-Pat would hang in for 5 miles until having to drop out, and then we'd wait for another one. Luckily, on portion with big headwind Larry the racer showed up, and he pulled for a long while--then we sprinted to the next rest stop. He continued and I double backed for Pat. Fun paceline at end of day with three youngin', boy and girlfriend were duking it out aggressively for who would ride 1st wheel so I was content to stay in 3rd while their other friend pulled Pat along. All of a sudden they stopped--"time for stretching." At the end of ride thin girl with huge muscles told me she was a powerlifter (very noticable) and boyfriend guy went off to do yoga. Larry told me his theory about how you have to check out guys legs to see if they are shaved so you'll know if they are "serious,"-he didn't notice the girl Larry has gotten way to serious about racing. (104 miles, 16.7 mph)

***Planning for the SIERRA CENTURY DOUBLE METRIC--the journey is just as much fun as reaching the destination

below-on one of the many prerides as I wanted to see as much of the course as possible, and with well paved roads w/ little traffic--some of the greatest cycling anywhere (1) I'm coming out of the El Dorado National Forest--that monster cattlegrate is now gone (2) On training ride rode up to Cooks Station--gas everywhere else is about $1.50, trying to recreate a Museeuw moment as we both share knee injuries we came back from

The SIERRA CENTURY is the best century ride--hands down. The support is THE BEST, the course is challenging (lots of rollers with 2 big climbs) but interesting, and with little traffic. The ending segment is good--which usually "ruins" many century rides (ie Napa) that bring you back to civilization along busy roads. Not the SIERRA--you stay "in the sticks all day. And while no "OH WOW" scenery like on THE GRIZZLY or the DEATH RIDE (ok, jumping to another catagory of ride), the whole time you are riding among the trees as in the EL DORADO NATIONAL FOREST, or going through quaint towns like SUTTER CREEK and VOLCANO, making it a very scenic ride--probably best balance between nature and man made spots.

Actually I've never done the century course. Prior to 2003 I did the metric (63 miles) course a couple of times. In those days I hated climbing and the metric was plenty challenging with a BIG climb of RAMS HORN GRADE--which I thought must have been the hardest climb in the world; even though I'd hear the better cyclists talk in hushed, reverent tone about SLUG GULCH--which is found around mile 75 of the 100 mile course. They even had a bypass for SLUG GULCH-jeeze. When I finished the metric in 2000 I still had energy and legs and promised myself that I'd do the 100 miler in 2001. 2001 never came--a border collie whose owner let run loose has other ideas. 2001 was spend largely off the bike while rehabbing my shoulder and trying to put off eventual knee surgery--2002 was spent trying to do metrics with my knee tightening up around mile 40.

The beginning of the full century is run over the metric course, and damn, I was jealous in 2002 when some "friends" doing the 100 mile course caught up to me and then went on to do the century. Some in their group were so beat up from the first 60 miles that they abandon and came in with me. (Irony abound here, but would take to long to recount.) Winter 2002-03 I trained as hard as I could but needed a goal that would make me a little bit nervous for motivation. The goal was the SIERRA CENTURY, but to skip over the 100 miler and go right to the 120 mile-double metric option. In this way, for the next two years the SIERRA CENTURY would become the focus of my cycling season. continued....

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