Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tour of Napa Valley Century (2011)

(August 21, 2011) Tour of Napa Valley Century, 101 miles, 5200' climbing, 17.4 mph inc slow ride up to registration, w Ward, Jeanne and Jim until lunch spot.

Route profile provided by Garmin and Contadinia, that provides the model for stuffing items in small places that the Napa organziers follow (WI)

The Tour of Napa Valley has great end of ride food, crappy roads, and despite two relative short climbs with some steep pitches its a very fast course with lots of miles to paceline. It also has perfected how to get all riders on different courses into the crowded rest stops at the same time (and later the shoulder of the Silverado Trail)--taking a cue from the tomato paste advertisement--how do they get all those tomato's into the itsy-bitsy can? And Yountville police, the town where the ride starts, get their local budget in line by stopping and citing cyclists. Ink Grade--the seminal climb of the day--only 4 miles but steep in places. (WI)

There are other Century rides that I like more, but this holds special memories; some bad. First time on Ink Grade I had to get off the bike and walk, and when I returned from knee surgery to do the 100 people in my old bike club flaked out the morning of the ride. More recently slamming through the course with a few Clubmates, and getting revenge on Ink Grade while maneuvering through the crowded road is great. Seems that our Club never does this with a large group (Santa Rosa Wine Country much more conducive for keeping a large group together,) and its a signpost that the riding season is almost over. All of a sudden the morning moist air seems to be ushering in the Fall, and if we haven't noticed this in the East Bay we are hit over the head with dampness in foggy Napa.

This is one of the few Sunday century rides so the story of this ride really starts the day before.

Usually on our Satuarday self supported century rides, we go hard and answer attacks before breaking off from the Club after the first 40-50 miles; when the Bonus Mile group forms we then take it easy and ride tempo for the next 50-60 miles. On a Century we'll try to go hard for the full 100--easy to do when I get my dander goes up. I know I'm going to be passed--and if someone comes by smoothly while calling out "on your left," more power to them. But if some goofball shoots by closely with nary a word, looks like they put in 120% effort to pass as they flail away, then slow until they turn around and realize we're easily getting back to them so they again try to kick it into high gear.....game on, especially if the road is going up.

The day before the Napa Century our club is doing a metric century over Morgan Territory, one of the easier climbs on the Devil Mountain Double. No way I want to be tempted to hammer. In fact Ward and I developed a rule before other Sunday century rides that we have to ride in the small ring--so wouldn't be temped to chase/ do intervals etc. This wouldn't help on the climb up Morgan as we'll be in the small ring anyway. To be under control on the Morgan climb we left 15 minutes earlier and 15 minutes closer to the climb after kidnapping Christine. Going up Morgan we took it sooooo easy (until two dogs came out) that I expected our club to roar by any second. Surprisingly no one did, we got to sit out at the top on a windless day (rare) for 30 minutes until Super Joe showed up, and everyone else straggling in for the next 15 minutes. Then on the flat portion of the club ride we wanted folks to pass us, though at one point while pulling on some rollers in the small ring we surprisingly found our group way out in front. (Game going on--passed by the Snotting Tandem +10, unless they snot on you--then no points.) At one regroup Jack, Cisco Dave and Stephen kept asking "ok--bonus miles to..." Ward and I just kept saying "NO NO NO NO NO." Strange seeing my house at 2pm on Saturday.

Next morning I knew parking would be a clusterfuck so Ward and I carpooled--getting near to the Yountville Veterans Home complex where ride begins we already saw riders on the road at 6:45. We wound up in a lower grass field parking lot next to Jim and Jeanne--about a mile away from registration (and end o ride meal.) We rode up to check in with riders coming down, cars looking for parking, and cyclists from the upper parking lots walking going all over the place blocking the road. Why am I doing this ride again? Oh yeah--the great bakery spread at the start and the great food at the finish, and maybe the best Fall ride on the menu. (Fall pickings are slim). Check in easy. Saw our clubs fixed gear/ recumbent contingent doing the 100 mile course minus Mt. Veeder. Saw old clubmate Johnna, a prime Death Ride troublemaker, who had jumped to an all woman's tri club.

Then back down through the crowd and time to go.......um, no, Jeanne has a flat. Later my wife reminded me that when we did the Napa metric course together years ago I had two flats when the valves tore off--maybe that is why I pump up bike tires the night before the ride (+5 lb over what I want.) So we finally left at 7:45. Bakery spread at the start of registration. Is that knife for people who are not wearing a registration wristband thrying to grab food? (PC)

"Damn, the paparazzi found us," Johnna with clubmate (WI, not Steven Sands)
When they figure out how to make a high performance solid tire--cycling will take off. (PC)

Ward had asked the day before if I remember the road conditions--I didn't think they were all that bad. Shows I'm getting old and losing memory. First 8 miles along the service road next to the highway, and its like riding on cobblestones. Crappy patch job after crappy patch job. I speed up here to get warm--actually not that bad but heavily overcast. This is Jim weather. We get a good 4 person paceline going, but not to many riders up the road. We pass one poor lady who yells out "is this the 60 mile course?" We hated to tell her she already missed a turn.

Eventually we make turn and commercial strip/ suburbia ends and quick transition to rustic Mt. Veeder. Real gentle climb at first. I always have to laugh when I was rehabbing knee and could only do 60 miles (which does not include Veeder) and folks from my old club came in and made it sound like Mount Vetoux--so the first time I did the 100 mile course I expected a monster and was pleasantly surprised. At the start of Veeder no riders in sight--then about a quarter of the way up we saw pockets of riders all over the road ahead. Time to do climbing intervals--meaning hard from group to group, and then when get close to the top look for a pocket sans riders so I can start the downhill alone. At one point Ward and I were joined by Drew who sometimes, and we rode hard up Veeder. A few people joined us until the elevation kicked up near the top where I could get away and look to descent with just folks I know.
Going up Mt. Veeder many interesting sights, we were going to stop and "take Jesus for $100, Alex" (WI)
Music at the top--thinks he's playing "its a cold and damp twisty descent down Veeeeederrrrr."(PC)

Large group waiting at top of Veeder, so I wait until no one starts down the twisty road. Shades of Mt Tam, I could hardly see out of my glasses due to the dampness. Finally a pocket opened up--no one coming up or starting down so I took off. "Fun" being surprised after every turn what crap is on the road--chip seal here--cracks and ruts there. We have our usual regroup where the downhill ends after the bridge on Dry Creek Road--Jeanne under dressed and freezing, we now are going inland and eventually to the next valley to the East and all expect it to heat up--eventually.
(1) Jim and Jeanne arrive at regroup at Dry Creek (WI) (2) Jeanne on the rollers on Dry Creek. (WI)

Next 10 miles loads of fun. We start out on a fast section that will eventually become gentle rollers with some short steep roller surprised thrown in. We start out at a nice pace and immediately 3 lime green windbreaker folks shoot by without saying a word. Gets my dander up and I close right behind them--one lime green sees this and shoots out from the group and I get on his wheel.

From then on lime green puts in an attack and I just follow--looking back and seeing our group now passing the other two lime greeners and holding steady at 200' back. Another attack on a downhill where lime puts in some distance but I easily closed on next straightaway or uphill roller and now looks like lime is really straining to get away. Next time I turn around to see if group made progress I am pleasantly surprised as Ward is on my wheel, which is perfect as a steep roller surprise suddenly came up and I put in a dig--lost lime green. Ward came with me and rolling regroup for Jim and Jeanne. Now a couple of miles from rest stop and lime green tries to get by on the flats, Ward and then Jim up the speed of the paceline until lime green is gone for good. Rest stop 1, or the bathroom at an Aerosmith concert...............(WI)

Next part of course is real nice, after a few blocks of riding through suburbia we meander into the wine part of Napa, and eventually get on the Silverado Trail for 10 miles on the main road through the wine country. Coming back it would be exceedingly crowded with bikes and cars but at this early hour it is enjoyable. Mostly flat road past wineries not yet opened, with a few gentle uphills thrown in.

Here we made friends--to many. We had our 4 "man" rotating paceline going when all of a sudden a dozen people were riding in back of us. Two guys asked if we wanted help and volunteered to come to the front. Great. At one point I came off the front and figured I'd drop behind our Club riders, and two guys helping out, and anyone else who looked like they might. Mistake. Oh shit--line had swelled to about 16, no one was letting me in and I should have been insistent but wasn't. All of a sudden I was sitting about 16 back--no one else came through when our Club and two guys rotated, and it was real squirrly where I was sitting.

Approaching long uphill and I planned to get to the front. Ward now pulling and he was a tad pissed that not to much help from others, so he decided to up the pace on the uphill. That worked out well--line stretched out, I got back to 3rd wheel and could ameliorate my speed so Jeanne could get on my wheel and get to the top with our group and other two guys who had pulled. Now our group of 6 rode faster than the acktervulgers off the paceline and nice turn into the 1 1/2 mile gentle uphill to the next rest stop. Jeanne at the front--setting a nice pace, and quickly into mile 47 rest stop. Here it was expected (by me--cold wuzz) to be sunny--unfortunately still Jim weather (foggy and cool.) Eat a few spicy ginger cookies** that I don't re-taste to the next rest stop. (**In honor of Colin and Kitty who just finished P-B-P, and will eat anything on a long ride.) Planet Ultra-esque welcome sign at the Hennessey rest stop. Remember Jesus has answers--more porta-potties would solve this problem. (WI)
Entertainment at rest stop though still not playing The Doors (PC)

We are now heading for one more valley away from the ocean, so the sun is peeking out--yes!! After rest stop there is a fast climb that will lead us down to a long but fast climb into Pope Valley. Nice stretch of road but many cars on it heading to some local water recreation spots. Jim and Jeanne got caught behind a motorcade so Ward and I stop to regroup with them as we make the turn into Pope Valley.

More fun time; we are slowly rolling out when a big club, Monte Vista Velo, roars past. Someone yells out "Diablo Cyclists!" when they past. OK--our two best climbers are not on the ride but I figure its up to me to uphold our soiled reputation. I take off and sit in the back of the group of MVV riders with a few other folks also attached--intent is just to get to the top with them. Climb starts off gentle and will get steep, not super steep but noticeable, at the end. I'm content to ride with the MVV guys when the MVV guy in front looks back, sees me and immediately starts zooming away. I jump to get alongside him, meanwhile someone has blocked Ward off from passing in the rear of the disintegrating pack. MVV guys starts going harder and harder, I just take it easy alongside him, try to talk to him (no dice) while calling out a friendly "on your left" as we go up the Pope Valley Climb. MVV guy ain't saying a word and finally drops off--I then just ride pace toward the top when I hear someone getting closer and closer. 'Oh shit," I think, 'another dig by the MVV guy' and I'm ready to jump. Nice surprise--a woman comes along and I go back to the original plan, just ride pace with her to the top.
Paparazzi still out as we regroup at the top of the Pope Valley climb (WI)

Now downhill rollers and a tree lined fast course along a road filled with crappy pothole fill and cracks--the tree cast shade makes it so hard to pick many of them out. On this fast segment Jim, Ward and Jeanne cook. At the start two guys--one wearing an Orange Christian Hammergel Jersey and one wearing a shoppe jersey in Belgium colors (both color combos I like) shoot by hard, then slow, then look back, then try to dig again, and Jim, Ward and Jeanne are right on them as I stay in the back and take a dig on any uphill roller. We get to a long roller and Ward and I get off the front.

A calmer moment in Pope Valley. Sun is finally out, tee shirt and knee and arm warmers coming off at lunch. (WI)

At the Pope Valley General Store Jim/ Jeanne say goodbye--and cut off 5 miles to the often crowded lunch stop to start up Ink Grade, the signature climb of the day. Here I just want to spin a little so legs wouldn't be so dog assed tight when we leave lunch. Two North Rim Outdoors Sports guys come by and I'm content to ride behind them. Ward goes to the front for a pull but in the no good deed goes unpunished category, one guy quickly repasses and tries to put a dig in the front which we just stay behind.Paparazzi strike again-Jim and Jeanne at the Pope Valley general store.(WI)

So this is how you mix a massive dose of drink mix--1 part drink mix-10000 parts water. But they made up for the weak drink mix with ice nearby. (PC)

Lunch spot crowded but much better when they used to have it across the road squeezed onto the side of a golf course. Spot a lady with the rare "Mr Rossi of Siena" jersey. Ward spots the guy who blocking the road earlier and one of the lime green racers. Good deli meat and cheese sandwiches NOT PRE SMOTHERED with Mayo or Mustard. Yippie.

Go back slightly uphill for a few miles until the sudden right had turn--Ink Grade. Its only 4 miles and not that steep but does have a few 12-15% kicks, one of these spots are where I walked my bike @14 years ago--as some would be doing today. Usually I try to enact revenge on Ink Grade but this time just figured I'd ride pace. This lasted until we came across our Orange Hammer friend who again kicked it in on the beginning uphill when he saw us coming. I took a dig past, Ward told me that Orange Hammer tried to respond but couldn't. Ward came around and plan was to ride up at Ward's pace. Plan lasted for about 500'

Shortly guy from another big club, Tropia, was hauling butt and zoomed past on this first section that isn't that steep. He continued to fly onward and I kicked it in trying to get back to him--but was soon about 15 seconds behind. On the middle sections where it gets steep I started closing a little--down to 10 seconds, but when the climb flattened out a little I wasn't getting any closer to the Tropia guy. Get to the top in seemingly no time--later kinda disappointed when I look at Ink Grade times from 2003-2004 and I'm 30 seconds-1:30 slower thoug I/ bike are 10 lbs lighter.

One more steep pitch before a fast flat into a fast downhill. I set out with Tropia guy-he's regrouped with a buddy while I rode over to group of DMC women to see if Johnna is there. I beat Tropica guy and his buddy up steep climb--then they raced past me when road flattened out--I jumped on their wheel and stayed with them until the descent began. I'm getting better on descents not going to try to stay with anyone fast. For the rest of the downhill only one other rider passed (I expected more.) Guy wearing a brevet type (lots of foreign words with some strange kilometer number) jersey passed on a downhill straight section and nicely said "on your left." How many rides have I been in when some stupidass squeezes by on a hairpin on the right without saying a word. There is a crazy hairpin at the end of descent where in past years riders went crashing as some missed the turn and went into turning bicycles--Ward and I had planned to regroup at the bottom of the hairpin. Wisely Napa folks has a guy directing traffic before the turn--big change from mini directional arrow right on the turn years ago that no one saw until too late.

Ward has great bike handling skills, so support worker trying to get him to turn and ride downhill in the dirt. (PC)

Stark reminder that bicycling is risky--we hit a nice back road that is better paved than the main roads we've been on when cyclist is laying out on theside of the road, already surrounded by other cyclists, and we can hear the ambulance sirens approach. Damn.

Kinda peaceful on this back road (Crystal Springs), which it wouldn't be when we make the turn on the busy Silverado trail for the @15 miles back--now loaded with cars wine tasting on the road and a shoulder usually full of cyclists riding side by side blocking forward progress. Ward and I start a two man and very soon comes across the brevet guy who was so courteous on the downhill, he asks if he can join our paceline and i thank him for his downhill tact. Crosswind through the wine fields but we're still holding 20+ mph, and surprisingly only one rider would not know the meaning of "on your left" on the whole run in.

A few miles later came across Walnut Creek tri guy who was one of the two people who helped pull earlier in the day. Yelled out a "hop on" before we passed, and now we had a nice 4 man for the rest of the way.

Its warm and one rest stop on a side road detour only 12 miles from the finish--stop to refuel and once again find out (I know this but had to retest) that watermelon and I don't agree on cycling rides. Meanwhile a car driver is yelling at a whole group of people for blocking the road--Ward tries to reason with her (spur off Silverado trail where offending act took place is about 500' and riders have to make a left turn into rest area)--for his effort she yelled at him also. We leave and get our paceline back--pass the DMC woman (who run the Cruella Challenge , turn your speakers WAY UP before clicking on this link) would were riding at the pace of their slowest rider so they didn't hop on. Came into a long gentle uphill when I went to the front and determied to keep the pace steady but high until the road went back down--and I was feeling great. Went to the back stoked as we turned toward Youtville--ride organizers stationed at first few blocks stop signs making sure we came to a complete stop on mostly empty streets. Luckily a bike path has been built on the edge of town and we now go on that--thus avoiding a half dozen more full stops.

Suddenly back to the start--well not the start as we're in the lower parking lot a mile+ away. Change into "street clothes" and ride bike to very crowded lunch area. Road is blocked by other people tried driving up to get closer to lunch and disappointed cars coming back who couldn't find anything. Long, long, long line--did I mention long line, but worth it for some good veggie salads and BBQ veggie burgers (first time I had a veggie burger was here years ago), chicken, soda and ice cream. Not that many seats so had to sit in full sun--tri guy who joined our pacelines twice sits with us. At one point he asks Ward "how many century rides have you guys done this year." Ward says "one almost every week." When its been warm out that certainly has been true. Tell tri guy about Plymouth Sierra Century Redux we are going to do in a few weeks, and then pester Johnna who has been a mainstay on our annual Plymouth pilmigrage if she is going to be there. Can't wait.
Recounting with Johnna how she spun away from everyone on the Death Ride Climbs and see these guys unsuccessfully try to chase her down (WI)

The DMC women both admiring Ward's Lion of Flanders socks and giving him leg shaving tips. (PC)

No comments: