Monday, April 2, 2012

De Ronde van Mines Road-Mt Hamilton Vlaanderen (2012)

Century #8-Longest Self Supported Ride Ever-160 miles

It's good to see cycling going the way of all the overhyped commercial sports.  Soon we'll have the Muur de Poulan Weedeater or the Alpe de'Tostitos.  "Here we are...On Cobblestone Section Farmers Insurance followed by the real bad section-the Cobblestone Section Fed Ex."  

IMO the best race is Paris Roublex when it is wet.  When it is dry the Tour of Flanders, aka de Ronde van Vlaanderen is the best.  Unlike the stage races of multiple days of short lengths interrupted by days of cycling parades like the Tour de France, the one day balls out high intensity races are great.  And the Tour of Flanders, with its repeatedly short but steep climbs (many cobbled) climaxes on the penultimate climb, the feared cobbled Muur van Geraardsbergen/Mur de Grammont.  The Muur is 1075 meters at 9.3%, with a maximum grade of close to 20%, everyone waits for the winning move to be made on it.  The Muur is the place where an old Johan Museeuw tried in desperation to attack the group in 2002--fell off badly-- and had a resurrection ("he never gives UP--EVER!"--Phil Liggett)  and made the podium.  More recently the place where Fabian Cancellara said bye bye to Tom Boonen, both who were involved in their own two man race with everyone a few levels below them.

2009 Tour of Flanders
Announcer Paul Sherwin-"With 20km to go Stijn Devolder has shown that got some strong legs today and he'll start to think of the Mur de Grammont that is coming up in 6km time.

Announcer Paul Sherwin-It's 2.2 km to the start of THE CLIMB and if you have never been there it is a beast of a climb--the Mur de Grammont.

Annoncer Phi Liggett-The chapel at the top seen through the trees.  Its where cyclists go in Belgium-to a mecca to see what the rides go through...Life is about to change as the rides go up the wall of  Geraardsbergen
So in 2012 the sacred place--the Mur de Grammont--The Muur van Geraardsbegen-- has been tossed from the Tour of Flanders.
Diablo Cyclists watch the Tour of Flanders Mt Diablo Route (added for $$$ payment)--Ward Industries
The Ronde's organizers could get more money if they looped the same lesser climbs a few times--better to put up fancy hospitality tents and have patrons with $$$$ plop down and see the race a few times without moving instead of having the hoi polloi see the race for free along the road--then jump in their car and tear off to another spot--with the wildest spectator section being the Muur van Geraardsbergen. 

So on Sunday, while this farce of a Tour of Flanders is going on, we decide to break custom and get a long ride in for Sunday--which is usually what Saturday is for.  But it decided to storm on this Saturday as it did on the last Saturday and the one before that.  In fact--got an early self supported century in at the beginning of March and sat on "1" for the rest of the month.  Now its April 1st--maybe taking the Muur van Geraardsbergen out of the Ronde is an April fools joke, so a few of us decided to do the ride we were supposed to do two weeks ago.  Start from Walnut Creek and ride the 30 mile flatlands out to Mines Road--which is then a 30 mile mostly gentle (OK-forgetting about the beginning few miles and the ending few miles which are steep) climb.  From there if it is warm we can go 20 miles further to the top fo Mt Hamilton, or if cool go down the 25 miles to Patterson.  Of course this will then make it a 180 mile ride--but best get into gear with if I plan to sign up for Devil Mountain Double.  Endless hours in the garage on my ski machine ain't gonna cut it.

FUCK YOU Dr. Earl, the insurance expert, who said I did't need any corrective surgery as "i'm not an athlete."  Insurance attorney (who was actually OK--unlike swarmy insurance adjuster) thought it was amusing that my accident was on April Fools Day.
Lots of trepidation riding on April 1st--for years I never did--superstition I guess.  April Fools day 2001 my front wheel was undercut by a border collie which left me with an uneven shoulder and torn up knee which still has to be wrapped before I ride, and hurts when cool.    So what would be a better way to celebrate the Ronde and celebrate April 1st by doing some insane ride.

(April 1, 2012)  Walnut Creek to Mt Hamilton via Mines Road.  160 miles with Cisco Dave and Jack.  @8,100' climbing.  7:00-7:30, 15.1 mph.

I proposed this and Captain Jack and Cisco Dave were takers.  Our usual 7am start for "opening day" (which had been rained out) where we just go half way toward Mt Hamilton and stop at the Junction.   (Damn-Jack is supposed to be sensible and talk me out of things like this.)   Cisco started politicking for an 8:00 start where Jack responded "toughen up--if you want to do DMD it starts at 5:00"  Truth be told Cisco could have started at 9:00 and eventually caught up with us.

For self supported ride loaded up handlebar bag with container (Hammergel grenade) of Heed and container of Perpetuem--2 Z Bars, 2 Cliff Bars, and a Peanut Butter Sandwich.    Will be great on organized ride--I'll quickly lose 2 pounds.    Figured my bag would gradually empty out and then could put my rain jacket in it.  It had stopped raining 2 hours before and everything was drenched; the day promised to be dry but it was damp and cold outside. Jack rode in at 6:55 and we discovered that all the bathrooms at Heather Farms were locked.  We wondered if Cisco was going to join us en route and off we went.

Cisco Dave met us on the road outside Walnut Creek and we quietly made our way through tony suburbia.  Not many cars out but some early morning runners and cyclists.  In 15 miles of Central County we saw more cyclists than my 150 miles in East County the last few weeks.  First stop--15 miles at gas station outside Blackhawk, 15 miles after Jack and I needed one.   Cisco just turned 50 so he joined in the old person conversation regarding constipation and how Hammar needs to have dried prune fiber bars. 

Jack and I on Collier Canyon Road--part of the gentle 30 mile ride out to Livermore (Cisco Dave I-PHONE XXXVII with Nikon App Photo)

Movie by Cisco Dave--he made me say my lines--otherwise he wasn't going to pull us all he way back

Now getting warm and rain jacket and glove liners could be put away.    After Blackhawk are numerous backroads to Livermore--mostly flat with some baby rollers--all popular with cyclists.  Jack suggested we deviate a little and go Collier Canyon which was perfect as had a tailwind most of the way into Livermore.

30 miles--in Livermore at 9:10.   Sports park--bathrooms LOCKED.  Doen't anything open up on Sunday morning.    We see some guys wearing Bikes 4 Life kits, my local bike shop, start up towards Mines Road.  At least water fountain was working so we could mix sports drink.  Maybe Jack was trying to talk sense into me--he asked a few times "So you really want to go up Mt Hamilton??"  Unfortunately he asked when I felt great and was full of enthusiasm.

(above) One of the traditional Mines Roads scentic water crossing (below) Closeup of Dave and I (Cisco Dave photo)

From here its about 34 miles to the Junction--with each mile marked in huge numbers on the road so helicopters know where to land to medivac people out.   Very rustic, few buildings, no cell phone reception--not much until the Junction Cafe 34 miles away.  After a few miles of flat the road suddenly goes up seriously for a couple of miles--then gently for the 20--with a few sharp rollers and short but serious climbs which lead into a fast downhill and short uphill into the valley where the Junction Cafe (and fire station) are.  I guess the last downhill is "fun" for most people but I get sawed off on it--and then coming back its a bitch to climb when you're tired.  In fact, in 2002 after knee surgery from my April 1st accident i could barely climb out of it. 

Dave and I Jack on the initial climb--but Dave loves fn around with his I-Phone (he thinks its a camera) so we're making movies and taking photos.    After the road flattened off to a 1% uphill at mile 8, we stop and wait for Jack.   Jack joined us and we all pacelined for the next 20 miles.   Well, we pacelined until we had to ride through the two traditional puddles that are on the road--then we gingerly rolled through those washouts one by one.

Sun is out but cool.  Surprisingly not to many cyclists out--nor motorcycles.  This is a big motorcycle route--with many motorcycles usually taking the curves at speed where we can almost reach out and pat them on the helmet as they lean in and come by.  I guess last night rains had motorcyclist starting out later today.

Dave riding great--he was fn around with the camera and still setting a great pace.  We went over the first sharp climb--he waited for me on the downhill--then we went over the next sharp climb together. But far down the road you could see the Bikes 4 Life guys so he started to chase.  I would have also but I can't add speed on a downhill. 

I saw Dave catch them at the end of the downhill where the road suddenly straightens out and leads into a short steep climb--and I saw the Bike 4 Life guys try to get on his wheel but they couldn't.  I then put in a dig to try to catch Dave if he slacked which had me whip around these guys also.

At the Junction Dave tried to make friends (I think)
Dave-You guys going up Mt. Hamilton?
Bike 4 Life Guys-No
Dave-You should go up to Mt Hamilton, we are
Bike 4 Life Guys-No
Dave-Where did you start from?
Bike 4 Life Guys-Livermore
Dave-We started in Walnut Creek
Bike 4 Life Guys-Good for You

Cisco Dave at the Junction--20 Miles to the top of Mt Hamilton on the way to San Jose.   Other option is to go down into Patterson in the Central Valley  (Pumpkincycle photo)
At least they weren't so pissed that they did tell me the Tour of Flanders results.  Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Butter Sandwich was perfect.  A little concern as we didn't see Jack for a long time, and cyclists coming up couldn't tell us if they had seen him.  Its such a long time that we think Jack pulled an April 1st prank and went back down to Livermore--but he's the serious one in our group so probably not.  When we were ready to circle back to look for him Jack pulled in. 
I had told Jack/ Dave that the determining factor going up to Mt. Hamilton should be the weather at the Junction--if cold--no.  'Problem' was that it wasn't cold--just cool.   Jack gave me the option again and I said lets go.   Besides reasons already stated next week is Club ride up here and if a group of friends rather go down to Patterson in the Central Valley (25 miles downhill) instead of Mt. Hamilton (20 miles uphill) we'll probably do that.

Now a careful reader will ask "who cares if uphill or downhill--if you are doing an out and back you have to eventually climb.  The difference is that the road slope to Patterson is generally modest--Mt Hamilton is a bitch.

I'm on one of the rollers before the serious climbing starts up Mt. Hamilton (Cisco Dave Photo)
Actually the first few miles from the Junction sucker you in..  It is relatively flat through the San Antonio Valley with wide up acres on each side.  Then gradually there are small rollers.  Then the road transforms into significant rollers.  Then you suddenly drop down to a bridge on the valley floor guarding a creek and Mt. Hamilton is only 5 miles away.  Straight up.

In five miles you go up 2,100 feet.  (By way of comparison, the Ranger Station half way up Mt Diablo-- is a 1850' climb for  six and a half miles.)  Dave climbing great--he circled back for me a few times or stopped to take photos.  We then both started comparing his I-Phone XXXX with my antique cellular phone--Dave definitely a phone snob and insisted that we only take photos with his I-Phone XXXXX.  Jack joined us and we continued up.

(above) Jay & Jack riding up Mt Hamilton; Dave riding up Mt Hamilton.
(below) Snow and Grizzly Peak Cyclists Mark on the top of Mt. Hamilton
Two surprises at the top.  Snow and Grizzly Mark.  Snow packing the shoulder though one section of Northern Exposure trees were covered with dripping ice.  Then almost to the observatory Grizzly Mark and his band of Grizzly Peak Cyclists were leaving--they were doing a circular self supported century and would be returning the same way we'd be going.

Cisco Dave, Captain Jack and The Pumpkin of Flanders at the top of Mt Hamilton--80 milex from where we started
Shoes off to go into the observatory, water and bathroom.  Dave eats his 3rd of 4th Hammar Almond Joy of the day.  Now close to 2pm--we'd have to leave fast to get back before nightfall.  In any event the sunny Courtyard--sheltered from the cold winds-- is usually a great place to spend time at 4,200' but today it was even cool in the sun.  The 5 mile descent sucked--it always sucks as too fn steep and curvy and though the road surface looks smooth there are some surprise bumps/ dips.  Today there was a layer of silt on the surface that made the downhill worse than usual. 

And can it get worse department--I hear something fall of my bike on the bumpy descent but don't notice anything missing.  Then when I go to take a drink from my bottle I thing I'm chug a lugging a Porter--my bottle cap is gone.

Get back to the valley bridge, take off the extra layer and we start out when someone with a Sharp Bike jersey passes red faced.  What's it with guys with bike shoppe jerseys and seems like Sharp Bike Jersey riders are the worse.  Dave easily passes and goes on--I get shelled on the downhill roller but get back on the next uphill and pass the guy and his friend.    Up ahead Dave has stopped--kicking rocks off the road--while Sharp guys rolls on ahead..   When Dave finishes housecleaning we start two manning--with Dave doing all of the work.  Suddenly we get to a crowd of the Grizzly Peak Cyclists looking down--oh shit an accident.   Its not a cyclists but a motorcyclist who has crashed.  We briefly stop--there is no cell phone reception, someone has ridden back to call the medics from the Junction Cafe.   We continue our two man and catch up to lead Sharp Guy who who then tries to jump ahead--Dave shoots by him, but when Dave slows after getting into the Junction Cafe Parking lot the Sharp guy still is trying to fly by him--almost through the front door.  Stupidass--the road ended 100' ago. 

Jack comes in--quick break at mile 100.  I'm suddenly very thirsty--not good.  This usually leads to nausea on the doubles.  And I've been drinking a lot all day.  Get a Gatorade bottle to take the place of the capless water bottle--but a few miles out of the Junction I will have downed the rest of my Perpetuem and would have to stop to transfer the Gatorade to my other water bottle.

And what a few fn miles it is.  The screeming downhill that first got us into the Junction now has to get reclimbed--and I'm thirsty and a little nauseous so trying to keep a gentle pace up but I'm struggling.  Plus we now have a headwind--which we'd have for the rest of the ride down Mines Road.  I just keep telling myself soon we'll get to the gentle downhill rollers and then the big downhill--so just have to battle though this.    Luckily when I stop to transfer the Gatorade Dave waits for me and he paces me back up to Jack. 

Dave later "complained" that he didn't take many photos on the ride back.  I'm glad he didn't--I musta looked like a zombie.  The whole ride down Mines Road I just focused on Dave or Jack's wheel in front of me--making sure to get as much draft protection as possible while guarding my front wheel.  Vest was pulled off when I felt like I was overheating, then on when I was chilled.  On vest, off vest, repeat, repeat...

Luckily library in Livermore was open on Sunday at 5:30.  The rest and now riding the flats did a world of good.   We went back the same was we came and had a tailwind again.  Got out of my stupor fully at Blackhawk when a racer came by and I quickly got on her wheel for a few lights then took a turn when motioned forward to pull.  She turned off and my compatriots joined me and Dave resumed setting the pace.

Sun now disappearing quickly.  Luckily we all had small lights with us.  Final sprint--I was happy to go 24--Dave was unhappy he couldn't hit 30.  Dave and Jack pulled off sideroads to go home and while I rode back to the car in the semi-darkness.  Tired but LONGEST SELF SUPPORTED RIDE EVER DONE on the anniversary  of my big accident.   Disappointed that I faded from mile 100-130.  This was supposed to be a signpost for the DMD but inconclusive.   Not for Cisco Dave--if he signs up for DMD and rides like he did today he'll finish in the top 20. 

Heard Fabian Cancellara had a bad accident in today's race--hope a border collie didn't come off their front yard and undercut his wheel, like one did to me in 2001.


Curtis Corlew said...

Nice ride! So, you're doing DMD? I will see you at the start, and then you'll be gone. Save some dinner for me.

That's a great doctor note. What's the hard-to-read word?

Love your long entry.

Pumpkincycle said...

Hey Curtis
I don't want to do DMD but have to for Alta Alpina training. Mailing in appy tonight. Don't worry about food--if I finish I usually can't eat for an hour. Great that you are signed up for it. (From your good blog posts looks like you go for your training rides on Sunday--I try to do them on Saturday)

Don't know which is the hard to read word you refer to? (from drs report or deposition.) I read both last week for the first time in 8 years--brought back many bad memories.