Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kudos to the SF Giants

This post brought to you by ME FOR GOVERNOR-A NEW CALIFORNIA-2010

Kudos to Brian Sabian, Bruce Botchy and the SF Giants.

Last season I ripped GM Brian Sabian for being asleep at the wheel while the Giants had a terrible offense while players like Vic Martinez or Alex Rios were moving past them. Then the offseason was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!--except for signing a guy who was reported to be slow and couldn't field and hit OK a few years ago (Aubrey Huff.) Going into this season we could count on one guy in the lineup hitting, ONE, --Pablo Sandoval.

So while Pablo had a bad sophomore year, GM Sabian made the most during season changes I've ever seen for a good team. He got Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen from the scrap heap, and they made everyone wonder why they were on the scrap heap in the first place. Sabian had a good bullpen but he picked up a couple of specialists around the trade deadline that make this bullpen the deepest I ever recall. Of course the move of the year was bringing up Buster Posey, who should be rookie of the year, and Madison Bumgarner who gives the Giants one of the best 1-5 rotations of all time. (That's 1-5, find a better staff with a #4 Bumgarner and #5 Zito; I didn't say the most cost effective #5 starter.)

Meanwhile, everyone is wondering what drunk wrote the scouting report on Aubrey Huff, who has fielded well, run the bases with abandon, and gotten clutch hit after clutch hit. In the things balance out department, Sandoval may have had crushed panda fan hopes, but Andres Torres came out of nowhere to electrify the crowd.

So since the season began the #5 starter, catcher, first baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder have changed. Bruce Botchy infuriated sports call in folks by flipping the lineup every day, but for half the season he had the 1962 Mets lineup (or 2010 A's lineup), and even with its makeover it still has significant flaws at the end of the season (little speed, so so batting averages--though now they'll take a walk.) Manager Botchy's experimenting showed good results.

Though they haven't clinched yet-I expect the celebration in the next couple of days. How will they do in the playoffs? On one hand they can't manufacture runs with little team speed and many .260 hitters in the lineup with mediocre power. Likewise, their defense (albeit c, 2b and cf) has very limited range until Bochy can run the defensive team out there. On the other hand they have a real deep starting staff, a really deep piching staff, and get opportunistic home runs--all important things in the playoffs. The Phillies, the best team in the NL, doesn't have a good relief staff. So who knows. The Giants look alot like the Tigers of the late 1960's--and we know what happened there--Tim McCarver is still whining about how they beat his super team Cards in the WS.

Finally--after listening to TBS when the Cubs were playing the Padres (good god)--THANKS THANKS Krukow & Kuiper for being interesting and irreverent broadcasters, and telling the story of the whole season.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knoxville 3/4 of a Double-2010

(Septmeber 25, 2010) Knoxville Double, Start w/ Jack. DNF. 151 Miles

This is a hard ride report to write. 1) After missing every planned double this year--I was looking forward to this one; after all, last year when I did 6--this ride was soooooo easy. 2) Four years ago I DNF'd on Central Coast when it suddenly became hit, my stomach shut down, and I shut down after not eating/ nausea for 50 miles. In retrospect I thought that this was cause by both wearing a dark colored jersey and I should have immediately gone to a liquid diet (eg. Perpetuem and hammergel.) Since then I did a few hot rides--including two 100+ degree Davis Doubles, and a Terrible Two and though energy was zapped I never felt close to shutting down.

Climbing Mt. Diablo I love hot weather and hate when it is cool and damp. But that is only 12 miles. In retrospect my highest energy double is the Mt. Tam Double "time trial" which is always cool.

So after feeling good for half of Knoxville- the tough half with most of the climbing, albeit the unseasonable hot weather (Vacaville, 96 degrees at 4pm, Lower Lake 92 degrees at 3pm), I stopped eating at mile 113 and was totally out of it 2 hours later--by mile @150. I tried going on a liquid diet but was going to upchuck Perpetuem & Heed. One Gatoraid stayed down but didn't help much. On top of Cobb Mountain, when I felt this coming on, I was hoping the local store would have a frozen fruit bar which would have carbs--but all they had were popsicles.

So after finishing 13 doubles in a row, through snow/ hail to 100 degree weather--it will be a long winter trying to figure out what went wrong.

The first 112 miles were alot of fun. Knoxville is a "fun", untimed event, which runs backwards over part of the Davis course. But it is MUCH DIFFERENT. As no mass start but with limited riders like the mass start doubles, Knoxville breaks up like no other double, you can go miles before you see anyone. And with the signature climb desolate Knoxville Road (climbing gently for 30 miles), there is much more climbing on Knoxville than on Davis.

And though the Knoxville course is easier than Mt. Tam, due to the time of year, while I've always finished Mt. Tam in the daylight, I've always had to ride the last segment of Knoxville in the dark--though near a suburb the course stays rustic until the end so there is no ambient light. This would be in the back of my mind as we were lagging our usual time for most of the course and probably didn't rest as long as need be in order to limit nighttime riding.

The support is 1st rate--the Quackcyclists (tied with the Santa Rosa Cycling Club's Terrible Two) do the best job supporting the riders. Though a desolate course sag wagons constantly drive by, emergency water stops kept appearing. Pena Adobe--first house of Vacaville.The lagoon that we circle but never see at 5:30am.The first part of the ride goes through suburban housing tracks--by the time the sun comes up we are out of the neighborhoods. So never saw the turkeys running around the houses.
The rest of the ride is rustic to the end--and just a few miles away there is a desolate road populated by garden centers and small farms.

The ride starts between suburban Fairfield and Vacaville at Pena Adobe Park. The ride starts in the dark, and for me always ends in the dark. The day before I took at 15 mile preride of the start and 15 mile ride of the finish. Timed my return to coincide with the opening of registration, then it was back to nice sized room (and cheep (sic)) motel in suburban outlet hell half way between San Francisco and Sacramento.

Quackcyclist check in at the park--unfortunately their supply of ride shorts matched Bike Nashbar's clearance outlet choice, XS or XXL.

I really like doubles, riding the whole day--as Uncle Steve used to say "at one point on every double you are suffering and wondering why you are doing it, then at the end you can't wait for the next one." But one thing I HATE are the pre sunrise starts which necessitate going to sleep at 9:00 the day before, waking up during an ungodly hour, and then riding in the cold and dark. As I didn't start any doubles this year (the Davis 300k brevet started at 7:00), though I had gotten used to this insanity last year, it was suddenly very strange again.

The start at 5:15am.
Jack and I started at 5:30--I think most people start at 5:00 with the speedsters starting at 6:15, so for 20 miles Jack and I might have seen one rider. Though a high of 96 was promised, at certain lowland parts (especially around the starting lagoon) it was very cold--but inversion layers would suddenly crop up on the top of rollers. When going up Mt. George that gets us in the Napa Valley I was "overdressed" with a tee shirt and vest, back in the Napa Valley it was again very cool. My game plan was to go moderately hard up the climbs as Jack is a much better descender, and this was we wouldn't have to wait much for each other.
Not much traffic until I pulled out the camera to get Jack when he got near the top of Mt. George.

First rest stop in Napa Valley at mile 35. Backdrop apropos as my ride would go down the toilet.

Going down the Silvarado Trail joined by another rider--though dressed in 'Mellow Johnny' & "Hincapie' gear he was a nice guy, and funny that he was number 113, while Jack and I were 114 & 115.

We started seeing riders leaving the Napa Valley going over Howell Mountain Road--a 6 mile "serious climb." Now the chill was gone from the air. Coming off of Howell Mountain would be a real twisty descent--something I'd easily lag far behind Jack, so I pushed up the climb and passed loads of riders. I was going to stay with our "113" buddy who helped pull down the Silvarado Trail, but stopped a few times for photos. One of the great views on Howell Mountain Road.
At Pope Valley I waited a few minutes for Jack to come down. The course is a figure 8 is this is basically where it all intersects. Ironically--next time we'd see this part, Jack would be waiting for me. But here we had loads of rollers out to Lake Berryessa, mile 62, and it had been a real easy 62 miles. Grizzly Mark and tandem companion at Lake Berryessa. We'd later regroup with him, but only becuase he had a tire blowout.

It seemed that we were at the Lake Berryessa rest stop for an eternity--Jack kept getting food and had to use the one outhouse (the do need more outhouses at the rest stops) which necessiated waiting on a long line. In reality we were only there for @13 minutes but with Jack that's an eternity--he usually wants to leave after 5. He confirmed he was a little tired and he started falling apart on Knoxville Road--the 30 mile climb in the middle of nowhere. Other features--it is devoid of trees/ shade--at least the road, it is pothole strewen, and in the middle section you see lots of people with BIG rifles--a very popular hunting area and this year there were more hunters out than usual. (Maybe I'll join their club with the orange outfits.)

Quack Motorcycle sag on Knoxville Road.

George, who I've casually known for about 15 years--I remember starting out when this crazy man enthusiastically talked about 200 mile rides and I could barely ride 20. Today he yelled out "nice bike" as if he had seen it for the first time, jeeze, when he owned a bike shop a few years ago he was the guy who took care of my bike and built my rear wheel.

There is a great water stop 7/8 up Knoxville Road--last year Jack blew it off, today he needed to stop. I overheard someone say only 60 riders behind us, so with 240 riders we were in the last quarter of the ride, and our time would mean much more night riding than usual. This got me real anise. Though I rode most of Knoxville at Jack's pace, I picked it up at the water stop to get to the lunch at mile 107 before Jack and be ready to leave when he wanted to--he never hangs around for a long time at lunch, and we had to pick up some time.

Sacramento Doug my man of the ride--after getting ice for everyone at the Lower Lake Lunch Stop.
Jack was in no hurry at lunch, and thought he might retire after Cobb Mountain. Last year I went up Cobb ahead of him and then just waited a little at the bottom of the long descent. I was going to ride his pace up but we soon got into a big group setting a slow pace, with Mr. Blackwell annoying me directly behind:
Mr. Blackwell to friend-"well (sniff) I think he's overdoing it with the pumpkin on the saddlebag. It is soooooo orange."
I responded to Mr. Blackwell "yes it is" and then took off. Cobb I kinda shaded but steeper than Knoxville Road and now the heat of the day setting in. Up the climb passed a woman from Montreal who called out "love your bike"--she had an orange one in the shop. Much rather hear her than Mr. Blackwell whine.
At lunch I just has some bread and ham, not real hungry, but made a real cold mix of Perpetuem and Hammergel for the climb. But up the climb it tasted worse and worse and was finally undrinkable. The Heed was no better. I figured I'd pull into one of the general stores near the top and try to hydrate and eat, hopefully a fruit bar, and wait for Jack there.
No fruit bars, just a popsicle--which has no carbs. Diet Coke which had me burping like crazy--helping with slight nasaua that had set in. Cold Gatorade was a nice relief from Heed--the remnants of the hammergel in the Perpetuem bottle mixed with the cold Gatorade and it was the only thing that tasted good.
(STUPID ME!! -- Cliff shotblocks are real easy to digest when it is warm. I had my "Pumpkin" small handlebar bag and should have taken 3-4 in the bag along with the 2 I started with in my jersey pocket and one I sent to drop bag rest stop. But I didn't and didn't even realize I had 1/4 still in my pocket.)
Jack came along while I had my banquet, and I figured the way he was riding I'd catch up to him so I took my time finishing. In Middletown Jack was waiting for me, and he looked like he had recovered and I felt much better than when at the top of Cobb. The long cool descent helped, but it was again warm in the valley. A pace line came by and we jumped in--felt good pulling into rest stop at mile 132.
Tried eating but couldn't???? Oh crap--I need to and took 10 minutes to down a kids granola bar. I figured I'd go on a Hammergel diet--but in the next segment when I went to it I got nauseous quickly. Meanwhile Grizzly Mark came by on the tandem, and figured we could draft off of him once the road turned flat if we could get over the climbs ahead of him as there was no way could jump behind a speeding tandem on the downhills. Anything to make up some time as we'd be riding for more than 45 minutes in the dark.
But going into Pope Valley the Hammergel didn't work, the Heed (they had my favorite flavor) made me sick and I pulled into the Pope Valley Store to get a fruit bar and more gatorade. I was hoping for a good recovery but after 10 minutes I was just slumping in the seat. I had NO energy. I told Jack to go on ahead--he did but circled back for me. We hit some small rollers--Jack wasn't going fast and I just kept lagging further and further behind. It seems like I hit every bump and rut on the road, and Napa has alot. I finally told Jack that I'd sag in at the next rest stop--sure enough two sags promptly passed and one said I might as well get in now--which was a good move, I was dead. In the crowded sags I asked for the a/c to be turned on high (Dr. Dave must be laughing over this), partially as I was burning up, partially as the stuffed sag wagon smelled like an old gym locker. A few miles down the road was the rest stop and I stumbled out and barely was able to retrieve my drop bag.
Maybe should have just downed a bottle of cold Perpetuem/ Hammergel while sitting at Lower Lake lunch instead of while riding. Maybe should have stopped at air conditioned Middletown Store for a fruit pop and too cool off--but with "running behind" I didn't. To this end probably should have started 1/2 hour earlier than usual, not to beat the heat but as the ride would be slower. (Heck, saw people leaving at 4:15 when I pulled in the parking lot and caught a last nap) Definately should have had some Cliff Shot Blocks with me, instead I had finished them off in the cool morning.
Jack did a great job finishing the ride but confirmed he was running well behind usual. The sun was setting when he left this (Hennessey) rest stop, usually we are @25 miles up the road when this happens entering the next (Pleasant Valley Road) rest stop. He said "(he) did not see the climb up Cardiac except for the blinking red lights ahead of us." I woulda 'loved' going down Cardiac in the dark at half power and I had less than that when I sagged in. Further confirmed that I was out of it when we got back to the finish, an hour+ later, and they have a real nice spread. After packing up the bike and changing clothes I slowly walked over, had a cold drink, and ate 3 pastas--no not three bowls of pasta but 3 nibbled on noodles. No appetite still
So for me a crappy year, no doubles completed, and I have to figure out what's the scoop. But award for "poor luck" rider was guy next to me in the crowded broom wagon--going for his triple crown. But he had cramped on Cobb Mountain, then fell over, and jammed his derailleur. But earlier, on Knoxville Road, some stupidass hunter discharged his gun near the road and a pellet ricocheted off a tree and hit the cyclist in the arm.
A week later-I still feel like crap--no energy and low grade fever. Tuesday (heat wave continued), 3 days later, was my slowest time to the Mt. Diablo Junction all year, and I bailed in the Wednesday ride as I could barely drive home from work.
I'm telling myself that there were 101 little things I should have done to starve off heat exhaustion. I may be bsing myself, but for once I didn't pay attention to the little details as I hadn't started a double this year and I figured I'd breeze through this one. But the top 5 items on my list:
1) Take 2 Cliff Shot Blocks and 2 Sports Beans for the Knoxville/ Cobb climbs as they are the easiest thing to digest.
2) Drink a full bottle ice cold Hammergel/ Perpetuem mix while sitting my butt down (or laying in the shade) at lunch instead of while riding (though ice didn't arrive until we were almost ready to leave the lunch stop--but this had worked great on a 100 degree Terrible Two before the big climb)
3) Leave a half hour earlier, at 5am. Not that we'd "beat the heat" but we'll be riding slower on a hot course.
4) Wear a sleveeless jersey--the white Diablo cyclist Jersey was cool--but a light sleeveless jersey is even cooler.
5) Get a haricut. Usually my first real short haircut ie right before a hot Davis Double, this unusualy weather forecast sprang up out of nowhere--a cool summer--but shoulda paid attention to detail.
and I'd also thrown in 6) double up on the Endurolights-I was taking the same amount, 2 per rest stop, I take on a cool day, and 7) Don't be stubborn and take the fn ice sock they were handing out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Plymouth-Sutter Creek-Slug Gulch-the REAL Sierra Century-2010

(September 18, 2010) Diablo Cyclist throwback Sierra Century--Plymouth-Slug Gulch-Sutter Creek, 106 miles, 9380' climbing, 15.5mph.

w/ Ward, Todd*, Christine, Johnna, Carole*, Sacto Cyclocross Racer*, Dr. Dave*, Sacto Doug, Laurie & Doug2 (aka Mr. Laurie), Sacto Patti Smith Fan, Sacto Achtervolger (*first timers on 105 mile route, 95 miles, 80 miles, 60 miles)

Ward-ographThe official Sierra Century (black route) started off going southwest down to the flatlands around Ione, and then went counterclockwise to Volcano and Fiddletown. Then a clockwise loop to Mt. Aukem and Slug Gulch--the feared climb of the day. If not timed out you could continue on the 120 mile course, clockwise, to Highway 88, and then back downhill to Fiddletown. We (orange route) cut out all the flatlands, and begin going north to Mt. Aukem and Slug Gulch. Then we go clockwise to Cook Station for lunch and then back downhill to Sutter Creek via Shake Ridge Road, go back up to Volcano, then down to Fiddletown. This blog report sponsored by Ward Industries Sundry Vending Division (Ward Industries Advertisement)

I'm rereading a book that got me through high school english every semester--Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Back then I really just remember the expose parts like Mantle hitting home runs with a hangover; now I'm picking up more nuisances. He writes how being scared is a great motivator:

"I love to pitch when I'm scared. Of all the big games I had to pitch in my life-I always did my best work when scared stiff." (35-36)

Maybe this is why the Sierra Century is so important to me. After a few times barely getting through the metric, and then recovering from injury, I signed up in 2003 for the 120 miler, and we scared shitless for months--which is a great training motivator. Some of the training included meeting Slug Gulch on a shorter version of the "backwards Sierra Century" we now do each year. I quickly found out that albeit no oh wow view, the Gold Country is GREAT for cycling.
1) The roads are well paved.
2) There is not much traffic.
3) There are not many traffic controls, maybe 3 stop signs for our 100 mile ride.
4) Loads of oak and pine forests in between small interesting towns.
5) Very little flat, usually roller after roller with some hard climbs thrown in.
6) Very few turns--our 100 mile ride has about two dozen.
7) Air is usually warmer and dryer than in the Bay Area.

I overcame my fear and loved the 2003 120 miler (10,000' climbing.) In 2004 my dad died a week before and I faded on the course but barely finished. Essentially riding solo was motivation to join a new bike club--the Diablo Cyclists, a great move. In 2005 probably had my greatest ride ever as we had a large Diablo Cyclist contingent that slammed through the course, synergistically getting energy from each other.

Alas this ended in 2006 when El Dorado County wouldn't give the Sacramento Wheelmen a permit so the course was rerouted along some crappy side roads, kept in Amador County low country, disaster struck when a cyclist was killed, and locals were up in arms as the route change has what little traffic exists all tied up. After that the Sierra Century was moved a few times with no similarities to the Gold Country route.

In 2007 & 2008 we ran a Diablo Cyclist metric century and a few people were real disappointed when the ride ended after 60 miles. So last year we made it a full century (with a metric turn off option at mile 50) and it worked out great, so after my broken shoulder fucking up this ride in May we rescheduled. Strange--must be first time since 2003 I was never in the Gold Country all year; in the past usually up here a half dozen times. But we got ride in and it turned out GREAT.

Prelude-drive up was a disaster, I was real anise--kept changing the CD's. Heavily overcast. Been semi-depressed anyway, the camp I worked at for three years during college is having a reunion so they have a site on Facebook where loads of photos are published. Great seeing the loads of photos from the mid 1970's--some people I thought were "ancient" were maybe close to 30. Conversely, see photos of some of the campers and counterculture counselors I worked with--lots are a bunch of OLD people, that look like my grandfather. I'm delusional--I think I'm 39 and so is everyone else I know (the age when "old" baseball players skills tarted to decline.") Looking at these present day photos of the high school/ college kids I worked with is a real kick in the pants. Coupled with this year going down the toilet, and the overhead fog just a general sense of foreboding.

Anyway we parked right outside the Amador Fairgrounds that has a bluegrass fest going on--Dr. Dave, Christine, Ward and I tried our best to wake up the sleeping campers in the other side of the chain link fence. Sacto Doug had sent out an email to his new club, and a half dozen folks showed up, including Laurie and Doug2 (aka Mr. Laurie), who are long distance tandem riders we met in the Davis 300k brevet. Poor Jack couldn't do the ride, he showed up different cycling shoes and his sense of fashion prevented him from wearing two different shoes--that and they both were for the left foot.

Plymouth to Pioneer Park via Shenandoah Wine Valley, Mt. Aukem (20 miles, 1879' climbing, 15.1 mph)

The public jailhouse/ restroom was still locked in Plymouth so a few of us sprinted across town to the gas station for a 3 mile prelude. It was still overcast and cold and we were riding into a real thick fog, on the only segment that has frequent vehicle traffic. On the rollers in the Shenandoah Wine Valley you couldn't see 20' in front of you. My M.O. for the first half of the ride would be to speed up to make sure the person in front knew where the next turn was, (and later set up for photos) then go to the back and ride with the achtervolgers. Ward would stay near the front and he knows the course well, so even though we had groups get unhooked here there was no problem.

We then hit the short Steiner Loop that at the top of the Shenandoah Valley--its an add on that Erma's Diner Bike Club once showed me. Like magic the fog lifted as soon as we hit the start of the loop (@mile 7) and it would be sunny for the rest of the day. Much better when we rode out on the assortment of baby and Italian (can't power over) rollers to Mt. Aukem. I knew where we were going but I had been away too long and couldn't estimate how long we had on a specific road before a turn--I should have taped the rest stop miles to the bike' stem. Diablo Cyclists were near the front along with a Sacto Team Revolution Cyclocross Racer, the rest of the Sacto Contingency was near the back, and I bs'd with Sacto Doug somewhere in the middle.

The rest stop is usually at a corner store in Fairplay, but people seem to enjoy Pioneer Park more, and unless someone needed something, most people bypassed the store and went right to the park. I give Doug a rash of shit as this is the place where he, Big Mike and Jack pushed on ahead in 2005 when I stopped for water--and I had to catch and pass their butts on Slug Gulch; I may not remember names of people I just met but I remember events.

We park right outside the Amador County Fairgrounds, next to the bluegrass fest campers (sorry.) (Pumpkinpoto)

Christine returns from the sprint across MODERN Plymouth complete with fine dining, as the bathroom in OLD TOWN Plymouth is still locked up. (Ward-o-photo)

Carole rides through the gloom in the Shenandoah Valley vineyards. Much better ride if you can actually see the vineyards. (Ward-o-photo)

Christine in a good mood though surrounded by fog. (Ward-o-photo)

Like magic the fog starts to lift where the lead group waits for the achtervolgers before starting the Steiner Loop (Ward-o-photo)

Ward Industries is fully diversified, and if you don't get a vending machine from them, you can probably call their animal control division. (Ward Industries Advertisement)

Chairman Ward at a now fully sunny Fairplay before our first rest stop. (Pumpkinpoto)

Our gruppo at Pioneer Park-Fairplay. Everyone is happy as no hard climbs.......yet. (Pumpkinpoto)

Pioneer Park-Omo Ranch via Slug Gulch (9 miles, 1,837' climbing, 10.3 mph)

At the first rest stop tried to describe the torture that was no waiting called Slug Gulch, but everyone looked stoked. Especially great riding with so many first timers who are now experiencing good roads with virtually no traffic and are jazzed. Dr. Dave finally gets to do this and has been listening to me as he is on his regular bike--this is not a recumbent friendly ride. Christine and Johnna stoked even though they don't need this ride to train for the Death Ride.

We immediately plunge into a heavily wooded area-Perry Creek Road, where after a few miles we'd make a sudden left turn--GEAR DOWN, and start the 4 mile Slug Gulch Climb. In reality most of the hard climbing is in the first 1/2 of the road, 4 tiers that start off as hard as the Mt. Diablo ramp, but each tier gets easier and easier. Its out in the open so best that we are doing it in the morning than in the afternoon as on the old Sierra Century. On this climb I go hard to get ahead of the group--I got so much crap in my pockets it will take me at least 2 minutes to dig out my camera.

The pelaton on Perry Creek Road. (Ward-o-photo)

Johnna and Laurie on Perry Creek Road. (Pumpkinpoto)

Sudden left turn--and SLUG GULCH immediately begins. The shade will end soon. (Ward-o-photo)

Ward Industries new logo for their non-kosher division. (Ward Industries Advertisement.)

I'm enjoying Slug Gulch and Carole--maybe not. (Ward-o-Photo)

Doug & Doug2 & Christine & Sacto Patti Smith fan on Slug Gulch. (Pumpkinpoto)

Todd & the Climbing Doctor, Dr. Dave, on Slug Gulch (Pumpkinpoto)

My training buddy, Ward, on Slug Gulch--I think he's humming "Horses, Horses." (Pumpkinpoto) The end of the Slug Gulch torture is near when the school signs appear. Well done. (Pumpkinpoto)

Omo Ranch to Cook Station (5'000' ele) via El Dorado National Forest (11 1/2 miles, 1664 climbing, 12.3 mph)
Omo Ranch Indian Diggins School is one of the great rest stops of all time--nice big shaded lawn among the pines. On the old Sierra Century this is where they had wasing pools (none today) waiting for riders, and you either committed to more climbing/ the 120 mile route, or you went (or were sent if timed out) downhill on the 100 mile route.
After a nice long break we immediately started the 12 mile climb through the El Dorado National Forest--not nearly as steep as Slug Gulch. Usually this is a great 12 miles to race through (eg. 2005)--if Slug Gulch hasn't fully beaten you up (eg. 2004). Today, the pelaton rode together for the first third, I pushed the pace with cyclocross racer for the middle third, and then went back to account for everyone and rode in the back. When Ward got the pelaton to the next turn-Highway 88-he came back also.
Tremendous ride through the forest today. Sometimes there are deer hunters scurrying about, sometimes many ATV vehicles roling around the forest--today it was dead quiet. The slow pace at the end allowed for some peaks through the trees--found that many of the "oh wow" pine valley views are stuck behind the stands of trees and only allow a glimpse, even at slow speed.
At Highway 88 we do a bonus 1/2 mile uphill that the Sierra Century never did--we climb up past the 5,000' elevation sign (I'm really losing it, I thought it was 3,000' elevation) and go to Cooks Station--a cafe with a huge deck off to the side. This was lunch, which to me means a frozen fruit bar--Cliff Bar, and a soda. Most people ordered huge sandwiches and soon were trying to pawn half off or indicating that lunch was laying in their stomach during the next segment.
As we had been climbing all day, it was afternoon and we were only at the 40 mile mark. But not to worry--the nature of the course would drastically change and the course would be much faster.

Even the Omo Ranch rest stop has Dr. Dave smiling--that and Slug Gulch is over. (Ward-o-photo)

Sacto Doug explaining to his Sacto friends that Rice Krispie Treats would go good right now with cold water. ( Ward-o-photo)

Tough group of women on this ride--Christine, Johnna, Carole and Laurie. Probably a dozen Death Rides between them. (Ward-o-photo)

The pelaton starts up the El Dorado National Forest. (Ward-o-photo)

Johnna enjoying the quiet of the El Dorado National Forest-(Ward-o-photo)

Dr. Dave and Christine in the forest (Ward-o-photo with Pumpkincycle post production)

Lunchtime at Cooks Station. (Pumpkinpoto)

The chip girl cuter than any of those kids handing out ice cream bars on Carson Pass. (Pumpkinpoto)

Cooks Station to Sutter Creek via Shake Ridge Road. (25 miles, 906' climbing, 22.9 mph)
After a long lunch stop we gathered around Highway 88, pointed our bikes downhill, and zoomed down a few miles. Usually there is a large traffic break on Highway 88, a camper must be holding traffic back somewhere, and we can reach the portion with the shoulder soon enough. Then is a sudden right turn on Shake Ridge Road, which is a continual downhill puncuated by a few Italian (serious) rollers.
At mile 50 we pass the intersection of the Fiddletown Expressway, and here is where we say goodbye to the metric riders who have a straight shot back to Plymouth. We continue on--and though we stay on Shake Ridge all the way down to Sutter Creek it awkardly turns twice whereas you think you're on another road.
Up and over Daffodil Hill--we've missed the daffodils by 6 months. Past the Charleston Road intersection, the hardest climb I know of. Past Hale (aka Hell) Road, the ill fated potholed strewn road with a stream involved in the 2006 edition. Fast downhill with some more Italian rollers right before Sutter Creek. We kept pretty well together on this stretch, and I noticed that it was getting warm which meant for most folks it was probably hot. Ride had gone from being a very slow affair where you could easily go 20mph. All of a sudden in Sutter Creek, one of the best looking Gold Rush towns--right out of the old west.
The heat and gotten to Doug2, and he, Lori, and Doug decided to take the backwater route back to Plymouth. I have to find out the directions from them, as one wrong turn usually puts one on a gravel road. Meanwhile we took a break at the secret bathrooms (great uncrowded extra stop on the old Sierra Century,) and tried to scare Carole, telling her about the wicked climb coming up--which was the 50' hill out of the parking lot.

At the Fiddletown/ Shake Ridge intersection we say goodbye to the 60 milers. I'm ready to get going. I'd love a summer cabin up here. (Ward-o-photo)

I'm with Doug on Shake Ridge Road -- at least in the photo (Ward-o-photo with Pumpkinpoto post production editing)

Regroup at the secret bathrooms in Sutter Creek. (Pumpkinpoto)

Sutter Creek to Volcano (12 1/2 miles, 1035' elevation gain, 14.4 mph)
This is one of the great climbs of all time. Usually shaded (at least in the morning), usually a tailwind. Today we had neither. But it is a gradual grade for the first 9 miles whereas it feels like magnet is pulling you to Volcano--with a stream running alongside.
Ward, Dr. Dave, Christine, Johnna, Carole, Todd and Sacto Cyclocross Racer start up together and then I start a hard effort. Soon Sacto Cyclocross racer and I are off the front--and I figure if we can fly to Volcano I can set up for photos of the arriving pelaton. Sacto Cyclocross Racer was riding with an earbud, which bugged Ward a little, but it was only one and he turned out to be a good guy. I had plenty of time to get in the shade of the Greek Theatre!! in this mini-town before the pelaton arrived.
Ward and Dr. Dave found the town library--a box of books left on the picnic table next to the general store. Only two ways out of town--Rams Horn Grade--an annoying climb, or Charleston Grade--the hardest climb I know of with three 1/8-1/4 sections as steep or steeper than the Mt. Diablo ramp. No takers for Charleston which was good as I'm tapering for next weeks Knoxville Double. So Ram's Horn it would be.

The pelaton arrived in Volcano (Pumpkinpoto)

Ward and Dr. Dave have some time for culture in front of the Greek Theater. (Pumpkinpoto)What a doimestique Christine is. She will be carrying extra water bottles up the next climb for all of us. (Ward-o-photo)Ward and Johnna getting some shade by the Volcano General Store. (Pumpkinpoto)
Volcano to Plymouth, Up Rams Horn Grade and Down the Fiddletown Expressway (16 1/2 miles, 1518' climbing--mostly during first 5 miles, 16.2 mph)
This segment starts off climbing Rams Horn Grade, a 3 mile climb which used to strike fear in the metric riders but is MUCH easier than Slug Gulch. MUCH. It's annoying as when you think the climb ends the grade keeps a slow uphill for about another 2 miles.
Finally we are at the Fiddletown Intersection and I get everyones "E-Ticket" for my favorite downhill. Cyclocross Racer goes first, I wait to make sure everyone is OK from the Rams Horn climb and then follow down in the back and stay in the back during the first steep downhill part. All of a sudden rollers and I start cranking. I hear Dr. Dave say "I thought this was all downhill"--but I love the short uphills puncuating the descent. I go to the front of Christine follows--though going 30 mph there is no way we'll catch Sacramento Cyclocross Racer. Near the end the rollers lessen and the descending sun is blinding through the trees--Christine goes to the front. Ward gets back to us and he'd easily take a sprint into Fiddletown but--SURPRISE--Fiddletown which usually is a ghost town has a special event going on complete with a street band and the road is blocked.
Dancin' fools Sara and Beth missed a great ride--especially when some lady asked Ward and I if we wanted to dance as we passed by.
Barn leaving Volcano towards Rams Horn. (Pumpkinpoto)

Christine up Rams Horn Grade (Pumpkinpoto)

Todd, Ward, Carole and Christine before starting the Fiddletown Expressway. (Pumpkinpoto)
(above) Ward and Todd & (below) Johnna arrive in Fiddletown--looking at the Rivendell Cycling Clothes hanging off to the side (Pumpkinpoto)Lady in Rivendell Cycling Cap who wanted to know if we wanted to dance (Pumpkinpoto) Todd in Fiddletown (Pumpkinpoto)

Fiddletown to Plymouth via the Ostrum Climb and Shenendoah Valley (11 miles, 558' climbing, 16.3 mph)
There is a flat shortcut back to Plymouth and Dave was worried that he'd miss the Tiny Tim Tribute Band at the bluegrass fest, so he took the shortcut. The other folks followed me to the LAST CLIMB on Ostrum Road, which is a series of short but steep climbs among the vineyards. OK, it's not ONE last climb but its all on ONE road. I felt great so I hammered on ahead to get some ending photos with the vineyards in the back--unfortunately the road and hence the riders were fully shade.
We were then back in the Shenendoah Valley, we could now see the vineyards and plant nurseries that were fogged in when we started the ride. We all stayed together on the downhill rollers. SUDDENLY--this great ride was over.

I need practice taking photos while riding like Ward does. I think I'm yelling "hold still." (Ward-o-photo)

Johnna on Ostrom Road (Pumpkinpoto)

(above) Todd and (below) Ward and Christine at the end of Ostrum Road--NO MORE CLIMBING (Pumpkinpoto)

Yep--above unedited-I gotta pack for Knoxville.