Saturday, September 26, 2009


(September 2009) TUNITAS CREEK Metric Century, 6200' climbing, w/ Ward, Dr. Dave & Chris including bonus loop, w/ Beth & Beth's friend, and Beth's friend's friends at the start.

Ward-o-data graph with fog/ pumpkin alert enhancements and Ward-o-photo really not using fake fog to cover wires/ nuclear plant/ oil derrick

This ride gets posted as one of the great "billy goat" rides where the feet climbing is about the same as the miles x 100.

Real jazzed after the great Knoxville Double ended the doubles season for me too quickly (no, I am not going back to Bishop for White Mountain.) Already psyched (mental illness??) for Alta Alpina 8 in 2010. (Self inducement--If I lose 5 lbs I get to buy new high powered LED lights, want to go into Alta Alpina 8 at - 10 lbs)

We haven't done the great San Mateo Ride, the Tunitas Creek loop all year; it is finally on the Diablo Cyclists ride schedule next week, when I'm out of town. That coupled with predicted 100 degree highs in Contra Costa had me planning to go to cooler San Mateo, out by the ocean, for the Tunitas Creek ride. Luckily Ward, Dr. Dave and Chris joined me. So did Beth and a gaggle of friends knowing other friends, though they'd go right to Pescadero instead of doing the loop out to the Coast.

Was pacelining down the Coast and we had to stop by a driveway (to use the telephoto) for different group shots in front of the lighthouse--here is Ward, Chris and I. (Dr. Dave Photographer/ Mr. Ward Supplies Camera-copyright battle ensues)

Great day. First climb, Old La Honda, usually kills me as foggy and damp in the trees, but today clear and warm from the beginning. Then the super fast (?, a mystery to me as wind usually comes in from the Coast, and we are seemingly hitting a series of uphill rollers) ride through Old La Honda where we were chasing the friend's friend's racing buddies--and up another hill-- Pescadero Road where the DC group dropped all of the friend's friends except for a woman who zoomed up the hills with us--she is doing the (ouch) Climb to Kaiser uphill self supported in a few weeks. The usual clusterfuck by the County Park on the downhill that someone always speeds past while the rest of us are using it as a great rest stop among the giants pines and redwoods.
I'm with Dave and Chris going dopwn Bean Hollow Road--Ward is going downhill in front of us snapping away

We got sorted out down the road and Ward, Dave, Chris and I continued out toward the Coast on the rustic Cloverdale-Gazos Creek Road. Not much traffic on Highway 1 on the Coast--where we had a nice shoulder and good sunshine. Best thing about the Coast--fog was just sitting on top of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse in a strange way.
Even better than Ward-o-photos are the Ward-o-captions that accompany them. After my yelling "my people" and climbing into the Pumpkin Patch, Ward took two similar photos. One not shown captioned "Jay Visits the Nursery." This one "Jay Tells the Kiddies to Run Away if Anyone Invites Them Home for Pie."

Worst thing about the Coast--fog laying over the water chilled the damn air--everyone wanted to pull the paceline to stay warm. Luckily it warmed up just 1/2 mile inland when we went over Bean Hollow Road--where Ward almost became a hood ornament while snapping photos. Then ran into some short relatives before a nice picnic lunch in Pescadero.
"Pescadero-Too Much Pink" photo and caption by Ward.
Next photo shoot was stationary by the "Machine Gun Man." Across the way one lady started giving us the history of this folk art (which can be bought for $50,000), while granny was training a border collie to keep AFLEC models in formation.
Our group by Machine Gun Man (has that timer gone off???,) with Dave and I in our favorite jersey; meanwhile watching Granny train the next AFLEC Commercial star across the way. Ward-o-photo

Two moderate climbs through San Gregorio and back to the Coast for the downhill on Highway 1 to Tunitas Creek. I feared this as it promised to be cold; it was cool but much better than I thought--and once 1/4 mile inland it suddenly was very warm. We kept together for the first half of Tunitas Creek, and when the road kicked up Dave pushed me on the 5% parts and I'd return the favor on the 10% grades. Regroup at the top, when we stop we realize it is very very hot, and the long downhill back to Woodside with Ward and Chris off the front bombing downhill.
Stage Road, it is finally warm. Photo by Ward.

Great route and great ride with no one pushing the pace for long stretches. It will be interesting to see how Ward's speed compares with the attack after attack on next weeks ride.

As one of the usual club leaders in Getting Lost--I think this was an award I was supposed to get the following week on the club ride (photo b y Ward)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


(September 19, 2009) KNOXVILLE DOUBLE, 203 miles, 14,000' climbing w, Jack, @5:40-8:30, 15.4 average (*342 ride rating*) 6th double for the year, 24th done since 2004

Was really looking forward to the Knoxville Double this year as never had been healthy going in to it; bitten by a dog a week before the ride the first time I did it, the next year I had limped through with thigh contusions a week after hitting a car, and sprained ankle on a time trial the next year. Knoxville has a moderate amount of climbing (12,600’) but is an UNTIMED event—and after the four mass start difficult doubles this year (and the other untimed one, Davis, in 100 degree weather) looking forward to a concluding ride where could slack off and bs. After being revved up and wound tight for Mt. Tam Double it would be great to act goofy on this one, which I do well.

The Course
The easy description is that Knoxville is the Davis Double run backwards, as you climb Cobb Mountain and Cardiac from the other side and go down Pope Valley in the opposite direction, but that leaves out a lot. Much more climbing at Knoxville—50% more. Apart from the similar climbs Knoxville has the 7 mile Howell Mountain climb getting out of the Napa Valley to Pope Valley and the long one, Knoxville Road, which goes uphill (albeit mostly gently) for 25 miles, could use a few more shade trees and better pavement, and deposits you in Lower Lake.

Warm Up Ride
Vacaville, where ride starts from, is strip shopping mall outlets run amuck (they do have a nice small downtown hidden away) with lots of cars aimlessly circling around looking for the latest clearance on yellow Nikes or white Rockports. Instead of riding through this nightmare I decided to drive over to the park where the ride originated from and do the final 14 miles, which I never see as I come in after sundown.

Pleasant Valley Road is only 1 mile from Vacaville but light years away in terms of atmosphere. Small farms, semi rural houses dot the well paved road with minimal traffic. Pass Mix Canyon Road—supposedly the hardest climb in the Bay Area, but common sense won out and only rode the first ½ mile before it kicked up. Then down to Lake Solano. On the way back saw Putah Creek Road leading to Winters, another well maintained, lightly traveled road so took a detour.
Maybe tomorrow Jack and I would see the end in the light, after all I finish the much harder Mt. Tam Double in the light. But as we’d start later (5:30 though 5:00 start is recommended) and the sun sets earlier, and not a timed event so not going “balls out,” who the heck knows.

Scenes from Pleasant Valley Road that we wouldn't see after dark the next day--IMO riding in the dark is just a necessary evil--absolutly no fun just following your headlight

Bad Planning
We are going to be riding ¾ hr in the dark, and probably come in riding another ¾ hour in the dark. I don’t want to keep my lights on my bike all day, so I drop my good LED lights off the night before, figuring I can ride with my mini helmet and mini flashlight micro lights in the morning. MISTAKE.
1- Could have started with my older halogen lights and had them drop bagged to the finish.
2—Could have started with LED lights and drop bagged them to later rest stop to pick them up before twilight.

Riding with mini lights in the absence of street lights was NO fun. Luckily the badly paved roads out of Vacaville (2006 double flatted) had been paved nicely. Dr. Dave is spot on, its such a great feeling when riding in the dark and the sun finally peaks through.

Jack Loses It
Jack is our doubles director sportif—usually well organized and rides sensibly—on the Davis Double he seems to have a knack for picking out the perfect tandem to draft behind. Meanwhile, for once I’m happy that no mass start, where everyone tries to get ahead of everyone else for 30 miles, and then after beating yourself up realizing that you have 170 more miles to go.

So first we meet at 5:30 and Jack realizes he doesn’t have a route sheet (riding with me it’s usually a good idea to have a few) so he goes back to registration to get one. We don’t set out until 5:40-5:45. Then a tandem passes. Both people are wearing Alta Alpina 8 jerseys. Jack throws his elbows out and digs to catch them—the air is damp which disagrees with my EIA and I struggle to keep up as we go around the lake. Once around the lake there is a freeway overpass and another short climb before the road goes downhill into a suburban housing tract, and then the country. Good, I figure, tandems always have to slow on climbs, but this one shoots up over the overpass, the next climb, and then motors away on the downhill. Mile 1-2 into the ride, we could have taken off easily, and already winded.

Now You Know the Rest of the Story
Coming off Cobb Mountain I’m waiting for Jack and the only other rider on the tandems wheel pulls into the shade, also waiting for a friend. We talk about losing the tandem in the AM (he stayed with them for awhile longer) and he tells me who was on the tandem. I was introduced to the first guy years ago by Uncle Steve as someone who would finish the Terrible Two in the top 10, which he did (this year he finished 11th, 3 hours ahead of me.) Then the kicker, the guy I’m talking to says “and the other guy is STRONGER”—he shattered the fixed gear record on the Terrible Two this year. When Jack comes in I tell him who he was chasing in the morning, and he got “oh no” wide eyed and said “well, it was dark.”

(below) (1) Quackcyclist Doug and Jessie at the checkin at Pena Adobe Park (apologies to Jessie when I started singing James Brown when I saw him on Cobb Mountain.) (2) Jack looking for the Hammergel at rest stop 1 in Napa @mile 36

Howell Mountain Climb and rider who was going to pass closely without calling out "on your left; " totally the fault of the Quackcyclists who bury on p.4 of instructions "this is an endurance event, not a race, not a competative event, or even a timed event." Ez for some people to miss.

Scenes from rest stop 2-Lake Berryessa, (1) I'm in front of the food court (2) Grizzly Mark is in front of something they could use more of

No “oh wow” scenery on this ride, but lots of really nice areas. When we hit Wooden Valley Road the sun was first coming up and we were going through lots of rolling vineyards. When we descended into Napa Valley and wound up on the Silverado Trail passed lots of interesting wineries, one resembled the (Goodyear) Egyptian Temple. The grapes are near harvest time and the thick smell of fermenting grapes is hanging in the moist air. I didn’t remember these buildings—which were strange as came through here on the Terrible Two and Tour of Napa Valley—maybe didn’t notice the surroundings as hanging onto a paceline during those rides. With our late start, Jack and I were just two manning.

Suddenly we get to a town and I figure it is Calastoga. Turns out to be Yountville. We had been on part of the Silvarado Trail south of what I had been on in the recent past.

Knoxville Road gets an honorable mention. Starts off with some nice views of Lake Berryessa. It could use some tall trees shading the road, but different rolling for 25 miles with nary a building in sight. Only guys with rifles (first half of Knoxville Road is hunting ground.)

When we left we saw more sag vehicles pass in the first hour than we’ll see on the typical century. Due to our late start, Jack and I were behind the ride until Knoxville Road—where we kept running into rest stops short of supplies. The first one in Napa had no Hammergel left, the second at Lake Berryessa was out of Heed, ditto the mini water stop on Knoxville Road. I cracked that this was like being on a Planet Ultra ride, which angered the Quackcyclist Gods, and the Lower Lake lunch stop and remaining rest stops were all well stocked with anything you could ask for. Most of the rest stop workers also long distance cyclists so they really went out of their way to get you anything you needed. Water in jugs was being poured in from BOTTLES! With a floating ice block put in each one (with more cubed ice nearby)
Nice spread at lunch in Lower Lake. We pulled in at 1:10 (108 miles), only time I looked at the clock all day. Ish had the massage table going but for once I didn't need one, and though Jack was patient at rest stops he's not THAT patient.

Unconfirmed rumor that Jack kicked it into high gear when we saw Kitty at the last rest stop, and he wanted to make sure we got back to the food line at the finish before her (this after she was giving Sacto Doug II specific instructions how to make gourmet noodle soup in a cup for her.)

I was downing a carbonated fruit juice at each stop, and downed 2-3 bottles between each rest stop (7 in total), and I still felt dehydrated after the event. Late in the day I should have downed a bottle of Perpetuem at each stop.

I thought I had taken a good photo of Jack early in the day when we were riding through the Wooden Valley vineyards at sunup, but my lousy photo skills produced a blurry photo. I actually like this one more, where Jack is riding up desolate Knoxville Road.
Friendly Riders
On the double rides you see the same 250 nuts over and over (more at Davis.) So it was nice running into people we knew. Actually, Jack and I were virtually alone until mile 63, we saw Grizzly Mark (who actually started later) at rest stop #2, and later ran into lots of other people we had done some of these epic rides with. One of the last guys we rode with is the Campy Only guy who amazed me on the first Terrible Two I did by pulling out a camera and snapping photos as he rode (he didn’t get any of me but a half dozen of my bike at the rest stops, no doubt because of my beautify Campy seat post.) Most of the doubles riders are a real friendly group and it was good seeing so many people that brought back past memories.
Knoxville climb went by fast as Jack and I rode together bs'ing most of the way about our bike club, a little history, and propects of more doubles riders for the future.

Surly Riders
Then there are the few bike riders who might as well be riding around in a Hummer with their windows rolled up and the a/c on. On the Howell Mountain climb a “508 rider” (nicest ones are like the guy in Eastern Sierra I rode with who actually owns another jersey) shot past without saying a word***—I stayed on his wheel for awhile but didn’t want to get to far ahead of Jack (and was an opportune time for a Sierra Club dedication.) Jack and I regroup when another guy passes without saying anything, I put in a dig, got ahead of him, and the tree line opened up so I pulled my camera to take a photo. While doing so this guy comes around and passes on the RIGHT without saying anything. From then on in I pulled ahead of him on the climbs and would lag until the next steep section appeared. Near the end of the ride the Colnago guy who had blocked the downhill on Devil Mountain (who I rode off my wheel when the rollers started), and had passed and got me off his wheel on the crosswind flats of Mt. Tam, came roaring by Jack and me without saying anything. Oh what the F, let him go and finish this ride sanely--but we could see him struggle up Cardiac. Unbelievably, when we got back to the downhill roller section he as just down the road, I put in a dig to get back onto his wheel where he starts hammering, where I play Bettini (“an annoying little rider”) and stay on his wheel until the rest stop. I just get po’d, the doubles crowded are very friendly folks which makes these epic rides enjoyable but some people seem to have gotten lost from the Cat. 5 course.
***common sense and rules from numerous posted riders inc RAGBRAI & COPPER TRIANGLE ride: sound off, “ON YOUR LEFT”. This lets them know you are approaching and intend to pass them. If you rapidly pass them without signaling, the cyclists could be startled and steer into you causing a collision that could have been avoided. Make sure you signal enough in advance that you do not startle them with your signal.

The Weather
After last week’s thundershowers and fog I was expecting the worst, but it warmed up during the week. Not universally hot as on Davis, but warm on the climbs. Someone said it touched 100 on Knoxville and Cobb Mountain, I may have been the happiest person on the climbs.
Ride number was 123, motel room number was 124. Going in this was my 23rd double, finishing it I now had 24. Jack was number 122 and when we pulled in to rest stops together calling out 122 & 123 some workers would say "you must be related," I'd answer back, "yeah, he's my MUCH older brother." (On DMD when that happened I said he was my dad)

Really good day riding with Jack (at least after mile 2), beautiful weather, roads with very very light traffic and one? controlled intersection, very good support (except for the tardy folks), and mostly good folks on the course. What’s not to like.

Assorted photos of folks on the course (1) Veronica working the mini water stop (2) Jack and I at the same stop (3) Sacto Doug II working the lunch stop-later he'd make a PBJ sandwich ALMOST as good as Joanie's (4) Jack at Lower Lake lunch stop (5) Guy on Cobb Mountain climb going back and forth on both sides of the road (6) Favorite rest stop at Detert Reservoir at it was warm back in the flatlands (7) Campy Guy Eric in Pope Valley

Saturday, September 12, 2009


At the beginning of the year I postulated that short steep climbs were much harder than long gradual climbs. It is for me and everyone I ride with. But one reader retorted that this wasn't the case, and gave me a few climbing formulas I'll look at once the cycling season has faded away into the Buy Buy Buy Xmas Season and after I figure out Bill James' Win Share formula.

When Chairman Ward is not going on crazy rides or practicing the Chicken Hawk Dance, he graciously supplies elevation charts that unfortunately are never flat.

On Labor Day weekend didn't put in alot of miles, around 100, but got over 11,000' climbing in 2 days.

First day was up Mt. Hamilton from the easy side, (aka the San Jose side.) Full disclaimer--we didn't start from Alum Rock Park, but from a club member's family ranch 3 miles uphill--so the climb was about 13 miles. The San Jose side is a winding, gentle grade, as it used to be the way horse drawn carts got to the top of Hammy. When we were driving to the ranch we saw an organized ride start up with quite a few novice riders--another indication that this is the easy side. (Novice in speed but at least they knew the rules of the road.)

Turns out we went up pretty hard. As it is predetermined that local cyclocross champ Mark is going to zoom up whenever he decided to--so I played around with sitting in until the last mile waiting for Mark to turn on the afterburners, or be a shit disturber a little early. With Mark alone I would have waited to see him zoom off, but rounding out our group was Paul and Brother Joe who will attack and attack (Brother Vic had started the festivities) and Dr. Dave who has turned into a real consistant/ fast climber. So not waiting for the inevitable, I attacked early and counterattacked early in the cool morning air (not the best for me), fell off the group, and didn't see Mark coast to victory nor see Dave zip by Paul/ Joe on the last climb--but I kept riding hard as not to get caught up to by the dozen clumbmembers (and troublemaker Vic) still behind.
When I got a couple of miles from the summit I passed two folks on the Arthritis Ride I knew from rides long ago--Bob is a tremendous rider who years ago showed me that fast folks could help slower ones when he and his clummates helped drag my ass around Tunitas Creek on a really hot day. Anyway, when I got to the top I circled back and did the last mile again bsing with Bob/ Leticia. This climb, piece of cake.

When Jack arrived he suggested that we do some fun bonus miles--go down the steep side of Mt. Hamilton (The Mines Road side) to the bridge and reclimb. This sounded like such a WONDERFUL idea that no one from the lead group who just flew up the easy side, albeit Dave, was game--and the steep side is only 6 miles long. But the climb back to the top features many sections with DOUBLE DIGIT grades.
Styling bonus mile group doing both sides of Mt. Hamilton (top-1) Dr. Dave, resplendant in his golden Grand Tour Double Jersey leads me in Devil Mountain Double Jersey, and Christine in generic jersey (she either has to do a double or take over as The Club's Jersey coordinator) (top-2) Joined by Jack in his throwback Diablo Cyclist jersey. (Photo taken by Ward who is off the hook on doubles as he was last Diablo Cyclist jersey coordinator--fond memories abound)

Ward, Chris, & Ron joined Jack and I for the lousy downhill to the bridge (fast & twisty with many small ruts in a light surfaced road that is hard to pick out.) The good news is that the climb back was much better than at the beginning of the year--first time my back didn't go out and it was relatively cool on the treeless climb. On the other hand, it was still a bear that took a lot of effort and we were certainly going slower though Dave and I kept pacing each other (he'd spin up consistantly faster when the road wasn't super steep, I'd go by when the grade kicked up.) No question in my mind, I rather have gone up the easy side again.

I had hoped to do Tunitas Creek or go to Marin the next day, but I had also hoped for 90 degree weather--it looked like the high for the holiday weekend might be 70, and it would be a fog banked 70. From the ranch you looked down at San Mateo and saw the west side of the hills just covered in fog. F'ing wonderful. On the way back I came up with an idea to go to the Gold Country--but not the Gold Country I am familiar with but higher North to Auburn where there is even more steep climbing.

Ward was game.

Figure it is a 2 hour drive so we have to do at least a metric once there. The easiest course to follow would be an out and back on the last leg of the super steep Auburn Century--from Auburn over the tallest bridge in America, the Foresthill Bridge, up Foresthilll Road, past Foresthill, which was the only place I knew we could get water, and then continue on Foresthill Road for at least 30 miles and maybe do the whole 45 if weather, food and our legs cooperated. Even I could remember that Forestsomething name and not get lost.

Going "outbound" on the 30+ mile climb, it soon became apparent that maybe doing a climbing ride the day after you do a climbing ride is not the greatest idea in the world if your not one of the Schleck Brothers. We had a slight headwind working against us. There was also a slight chill in the air, though the air was very dry which made it pleasant and the dense pine stands we eventually rode next to mixed with the mountain air and smelled great. Also Ward & I didn't have to go balls out, and just rode at a bs'ing pace. Light traffic on Foresthill Road but a nice shoulder. Strangely very few cyclists on this great road.

We got to Foresthill, @ 15 miles away, and we head over to the small park for water/ bathrooms. The park is jammed--the town is out for their holiday bbq. A huge BBQ at least 10 feet long is all fired up, bellowing out smoke on the hunks of meat laying 4' above the fire. We're 5-6 picnic tables away and are covered with the smoke and BBQ smell. As we are eating our sawdust tasting powerbars an old guy on oxygen sits down at our table and happily says "today is tri-tip--YESTERDAY WAS CHICKEN!"
(above) Close to "Chicken Hawk Rd" we came across this super patriotic house-fence extended 200'+ in each direction and each post had an American flag. Wonder if they take the flags in at night/ bad weather like you are supposed to. (Photo by Ward, enhancements by Ward Industries and Pumpkincycle)

(below) Two action photos of Ward--last climb from the Foresthill Bridge back to Auburn, and doing the Chicken Hawk Dance at the China Wall Turnaround (The 'No Mushroom Sign' was hanging en route)
North of Foresthill the road narrows, traffic lessens, and the pine trees get closer and even smell better. Gradewise its a climb reminiscent of the easy side of Hamilton. After another 15 miles we get to the China Wall Staging Area--good view, bathrooms, but NO water. We're not out but the prospects of climbing another 15 miles (and then returning) with less than one bottle of water isn't appealing. But if we had been able to "liquor up" then another 15 miles of climbing a gentle grade was very doable. As we hit the 30 mile mark, a return will give us a 60 mile ride.

On the uphill we were putting an effort to keep at 11 mph, now we were coasting back to Foresthill at 30 mph. At Foresthill we took a back road detour than effectively ended the unencumbered downhill--in fact we hit one 1/2 mile downhill of 15-20% that immediately went into a 1/2 mile uphill of 15-20%--THIS WAS MORE DIFFICULT than either of the 15 mile uphill sections of the main road. As a last kick in the pants--the short piece between the Foresthill Bridge and Auburn again kicks up to attention getting levels.

Good ride--something different, and good to keep up the difficult rides with the Knoxville Double coming up. But turned out that I was a "slacker," Jack did the 100 mile Mines Road-Mt. Hamilton-Sierra Raod loop the next day.

This was next weekend near Tomalas on another great Stephen produced out of town metric. Once again I'm accused of riding in a fog. (Ward Photo)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Team Needs Training

The Wonderful Century, 100 miles, 4,000' climbing. Ride around the lake and over beautiful forested hills. Support includes 4 rest stops with great food. Enjoy riding four across the road while yapping with your friends, oblivious to anyone calling out "on your left," and then wobble into anyone who has the temerity to pass your riding klatch. SNELL approved Giro Atmos helmet and a LIVESTRONG bracelet on each wrist required.

A frequent reference in my ride reports is Team in Training sightings, usually blocking the road while bsing riding three to four across--oblivious to anyone else, kind of like the Volvo or Prius going 5 miles under the speed limit in the left lane. Well there was a possibility that I may just be "grumpy," though many in our bike club have the same observation. I thought about this on a recent training ride-BBQ up the easy side of Mt. Hammy--the road was covered with some organization in a light green jersey when we first started driving to the starting point. My first thought--"Oh shit, Team in Training is everywhere blocking the road." Luckily the group was on an Arthritis Ride, who apparently were taught very well how to stay to the far right when a car or bicycle approaches & how to pass safely on the straightaways and not a blind curve. Why can't Team in Training ride like this? (to be fair the ones clad in purple from the Redwood Empire seem to be more aware than their green clad Bay Area cousins.)

As you know by now I'm a crappy writer, and I love when I come across a good writer who expresses the same idea/ has the same opinion I do, but says it so much more eloquently. Also helps when the author has a "good guy" reputation so no axe to grind. So I was dazzled when I came across this column by long time bike culture author Maynard Hershon, where one of his underlying themes of his excellent books is that cyclists should "be friendly." It sounds like I consulted on the column. Anyway, as written by Maynard:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Disease Riders
Written a few years ago just after the annual November El Tour de Tucson, this piece made the good folks who train Team in Training uncomfortable and defensive. In theory, those riders are taught exhaustively about road safety and pack etiquette. In practice...

Don't get me wrong. I admire the thousands of cyclists who collect pledges and attempt long, hard charity rides. I think it's great that people use cycling and other athletic events to raise awareness and money to combat disease.

Many of these people do 100-mile rides after decades of smoking, drinking and TV-watching - and five non-consecutive weekends of training. They're examples to us all.

Not only do they get out and get themselves into shape, they help countless others. They support medical research. They keep many annual charity rides alive. They support the bicycle industry. They are the salt of the cycling earth.

They scare the s--t outta me.

No Sigourney Weaver film frightened me the way a "pack" of disease riders can. In the theater, no matter how afraid I am, I know it's just a movie. On the road, stuck in or behind a gaggle of disease riders, I know the danger is real.

Let's say I'm 65 miles into a 100-mile charity ride. I'm sharing the road with hundreds of bicyclists. It's a narrow road, or merely a single lane set off by a row of orange cones.

In the coned-off lane, I'm rolling at a conversational pace, a typical pace for a fit cyclist who’s not on a mission. I'm catching a cluster of people in disease rider jerseys going somewhat slower - not quite two-thirds my speed.

You can read their home states on their jerseys. They’ve come from all over. You're aware that they've raised money for a worthy cause and conquered their personal fears of tough physical challenges. They're here to celebrate those victories. They deserve our congratulations.I admire these people. I'm petrified of them.

I have to pass them; Jeez, they're going 11 mph. Spread completely across our narrow path, they're laughing and chatting, unaware I'm behind them. They’re oblivious. I have to ask them to move over so I can pass.

I wait for the right moment to request passing clearance on the left side of the group. Surprising them is not a good idea. Anything might happen.

Eventually I ask. Though I speak in an unthreatening tone, I watch the group wobble and weave in the road. I pray no one locks bars with his buddy; no one brakes suddenly; no one screams and freaks and takes down Western Civilization.

I pass that group safely. I feel relieved, but my relief is short-lived. There's another group just like it up the road, as sure as patch glue dries in the tube.

Danger pedals with the disease riders, I think. A chill runs through me. There's no hospital for miles, but I smell antiseptic. Smells like Urgent Care out here.

Don't get me wrong. I'd never want to discourage even one of those fine people from collecting pledges, attending training sessions and coming to Tucson for the big ride, the big finishing medal and the big feeling of accomplishment.But I wonder: Has anyone mentioned to them that there will be OTHER people on the ride? Has someone suggested that some of the other people will be faster and some slower? Has anyone told them that the road will not be exclusively theirs, and that they should devote a tiny bit of attention to safety?

Evidently, no one has so much as whispered the word safety to the hundreds of disease riders we welcome here every November.

Their trainers teach them about eating and drinking. They learn about pedaling cadence. Surely someone on their training staff could introduce the idea of safety. It's a foreign concept for sure, startling, but worthwhile, huh?

Someone should mention that it's good to be aware of what's going on around you. Someone should mention that it's good to look behind you once in a while, good to practice looking back over your shoulder without veering across the lane. Someone could be gaining on you.

Someone should mention that if you aren't (honestly) going very fast, you might want to stay to the right so people can pass you without watching their lives flash before their eyes.

Someone should mention that creating a lane-wide rolling roadblock is not all that courteous or safe. And that while your group is having fun bonding, doing the brave, hard thing together, others are cycling that narrow road too.

If you (in your joy, fraternity and disregard for safety) contribute somehow to one or more of them crashing, those real people may sit rocking slightly on the road, hugging themselves around their knees and bleeding.

It's great to raise all that money. It's great to come to Tucson or wherever and do the long, challenging ride. It's great to hang with new and old friends, good folks from everywhere America who've done the same unselfish good things.

Those are great things, but they're not the ONLY things.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


These are two GREAT funny cycling music videos. Heck with MTV--this is better--there should be Cycling Music TeleVision. Johan Museeuw, bezongen door Helmut Lotti, best foreign music cycling video, Performance, best rap music cycling video (is he making more fun of wannabe racers or fixed gear folks?) Save time--watch both at once (nah, the lyrics are great).