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 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
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.”
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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