Basically just another day of riding.
I really wanted to ride up Mt. Diablo last Saturday. Well, actually I really wanted to ride MTB at Hole in the Ground, but that fell through about as fast as it was suggested. Vince and I were disappointed at the missed opportunity, but decided to meet and ride road bikes instead.
Vince was meeting some friends at 7:30am, but I wanted an earlier start. A short Tour de Martinez started around 6:45, and finished with me at the Park and Ride to meet Vince and a new rider named Steve. We ventured out steadily on our way around the Crocket Loop.
We took it easy for most of the loop, but, typical for Vince and I, rode the loop opposite of convention. Most riders make a right at McEwen Rd. and descend the steep winding serpentine down to the Carquinez Scenic Hwy. Ever since I've been riding with Vince, we have passed by that turn, and ridden the loop in "reverse" choosing rather to climb McEwen Rd. I've descended that stretch in the past, and arrived at the base with very hot brakes. The opposite direction, a descent on Crocket Blvd. into Crocket from Cummings Skyway, however, is a long sweeping arc of a couple miles, where you can recover from the slow climb, which you've been nibbling away at from the minute you left the parking lot.
All of that being said, our ride actually didn't take us down Crocket Blvd. either, but rather we passed by and crossed I80 turned right on San Pablo Ave. and came into Crocket from the West. We then made a left hand turn on the bike / walk path and crossed the Carquinez strait via the new Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge (See www.ketchum.org/carquinez.html for some more information about this bridge. I take no credit for it. I just found it while surfing.) and rested on the far side, in a small park overlooking the frigid water. The morning was relatively clear when we started in Martinez, but at the strait emptying the Sacramento River delta into San Pablo and San Francisco bays ,the sky was overcast and the air chilled. We watched as 3 sailboats motored out into the bay for what was destined to be a stellar day of sailing.
Several minutes later we re-crossed the bridge leaving Vallejo for Crocket and the notorious climb up McEwen Rd. The climb was the same as always. And that’s the thing about hills. They’re pretty constant. The weather changes and your own preparation for the hill varies, but the hill just sits there and waits. It waits and others like me come back time and again for more of its punishment.
The top of McEwen is basically the beginning of the end of the loop. The final 4.5 miles is all downhill to one extent or the other, and much of it is long, straight, wide road where a pace line can aid a relatively strong group of riders along at around 30 mph.
The day’s group of 3 then split up; Vince and Steve heading home, and myself pursuing my need for some quality time with a nearby mountain. The air was still cool, though slowly warming, and my energy level was still quite high, considering the nearly 35 miles behind me. Still holding a grudge from 2 weeks back, my sights were set on Mt. Diablo. The psychological cruise control activated, and I followed the west side of the Diablo valley through Pleasant hill, and then crossed the valley through Walnut Creek. 30 minute’s ride put me at the base of Mt. D. and 45 miles in. I was ready. The low level pain had already begun in my quadriceps and lower back, but my entire cardiovascular system was thriving in the cool clear mid morning air.
Slowly but surely was the goal. Another goal to be missed. There’s something about being on the road with other cyclists that drives me. 2 bikes on a rack passed by shortly before reaching the base of the mountain. They were just beginning to remove the bikes from the car as I passed them. Nice bikes. Good riders ride nice bikes. No way. Not today. Not getting passed today. Surely, without slowly started to happen. The Ranger Station at mile 8 came faster than typical, but with a price. There was enough left to make the top, but that nagging doubt began. Are they catching up? I didn’t stop at the ranger station, but pushed for the summit.
The initial pull away from the ranger station can be invigorating. The other cyclists sitting there resting are forced to watch as you pass by with obvious disregard. That alone is enough to force a good performance – at least around the first corner. After that it’s back to work – psychologically more than physically. It was several minutes into that workout that I was passed by a slow moving motorcycle with a man and woman riding. I noted the woman filming their progress up the mountain on a digital camera, and was mildly humored by the fact that much of my progress was being captured. Duly noted also was their return trip several minutes later with the same camera and similar attention to my progress. Humor turned to annoyance as this same couple again approached me from the rear with unnecessary interest. Only then did I realize I recognized the girl on board as Rachel – Vince’s Rachel. Logic then registered the driver as Vince and everything began to shake out in my fatigue numbed cranium. They were the redeemers of my ride. The motivation to pursue a strong finish had just been driven upward.
I did finish well – all things considered. 1 hour 16 minutes to the top from North Gate. My goal is to finish in under 1 hour some day, but after 55 miles of riding, I was not disappointed. I also didn’t get passed by anything without a motor.
They filmed several more minutes and caught a number of still images of my ascent, and then awaited my arrival at the top. I’ve included the final minutes of my climb at the beginning of this post. Vince was particularly interested in filming my descent, which he did at no small risk to him and his bike. I fear Rachel may have been in harm’s way also. The footage of the descent is not included, lest my mother fly out here and burn my bike; however, the film is available for local viewing. Vince collated much of his video and stills into a superb DVD. Who’s that skinny guy on a bike? Thanks again Vince.
The ride ended back at home with 81 miles.