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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Extemporaneous Double & A Crash

I didn't eat for it. I didn't sleep for it. And, frankly I didn't plan well at all to ride Mt. Diablo twice on Saturday. I was more like an accident. I bumped into the bottom and went back up.

Dinner Friday was woefully short on calories and protein, and breakfast was a banana with peanut butter and half a cup of coffee. I did manage to fill 2 water bottles with an Accelerade mix, and snag a snack bag full of roasted mixed nuts and raisins before I headed out the door at 6:28 am.

Vince was already throwing a leg over his bike in front of Peets in Pleasant Hill as I rode up. He must have been there since 6.

If a day could be more pristine and pleasant for riding, I certainly can't imagine it. A slight breeze kept the slow climbs cool, but the sunshine was a fixture and rapidly banished the morning chill (Below 3,000 feet anyway). Vince and I took a very leisurely pace for the first summitting and managed the top in just under 90 minutes. The windbreaker and arm warmers were back on for the ride down, but working the flat section near the bottom made getting them back off a priority.

I had started considering a double summit on the way up, since I had friends who had mentioned driving to the top later in the morning. I could likely meet them on my second ascent. The guy shedding layers at the bottom to return for his second trip pushed me over the edge, but Vince held his ground and after grabbing a handful of raisins headed home. I rode the first 5.5 miles with Carl - a new stranger training for the Death Ride. Having turned toward the top again, I guess it had become a training ride for me too. We weren't the only ones, as there were herds of cyclists on the mountain, many doing multiple passes, and most of those Death Ride hopefuls.

We heard sirens as we neared the ranger station, and instinctively I knew what had happened, and said as much to Carl. "There's a rider down up there..." About that time a REACH Helicopter crested the ridge and began a slow circuit of the last switchback below the ranger station. Sirens from below began to accompany the whack of helicopter blades, as we reached the switch back and the first of several park vehicles with flashing lights and first aid kits.

Kinda hard to see. That dot in the sky is the REACH guys.

Walnut Creek Fire Department

I'm really not sure how someone takes a dive before the switchback? Oh well - Things happen.

It would make for a great story if the cyclist had been unconscious or still lying in a heap, but fortunately for him, the excitement ended pretty quick. He was sitting up, holding his knee and chatting with his buddy. I rode past a few hundred feet, and dismounted to shoot some pictures of what must have been several thousand dollars worth of emergency response. I would like to think that things would have to be far more exciting than that, for me to agree to calling in the medics. I'm not sure how much of the REACH flight or ambulance ride my insurance would cover, but I'm certainly not willing to find out if I don't have to. I'd much rather pay the $10 entry fee for a friend or my wife to drive in and scrape me off the road.

The balance of the ride went pretty quick with me looking over my shoulder for my friends. They finally passed me near Devil's Elbow, and waited at the top where we chatted before I dove back down the second time - toward home.

For all of North Gate Rd, Walnut Blvd, and most of Bancroft I drafted off a group of 3 riders also heading for home. That masked my decreasing stamina, and gave me enough respite to make it home in decent form. 70.13 miles. Approx. 7,000 feet of climbing.

At home I "hit the wall" hard. I put the bike away, set a plastic lawn chair in the sun, and melted into it. Lunch went down with effort, and I couldn't stop drinking. Within an hour I was sacked out on the recliner.

2 hours later I awoke with my tongue plastered to my soft palate and a list of chores no shorter than when I passed out. Both vehicles needed cleaning - inside and out - so I started drinking water again, picked around in a freezer burned carton of orange sherbert, and stumbled back into a stunningly beautiful spring afternoon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mt. Tamalpai with Ella

San Francisco's West Coast - out in the haze.

Becky needed a few hours of silence, and I had been courting the idea of climbing Mt. Tamalpai in Marin for a few weeks. So, Ella and I loaded up a couple of sandwiches, water bottles, bananas, and what I thought were enough warm clothes - and of course the mountain bike and trailer bike - and trucked it across the bay on a coolish Saturday morning.

We cycled around Mill Valley for 20 minutes trying to find a way out of town. We nearly got out once, but we were heading in the wrong direction. I finally gave up on the map and started asking joggers and cyclists. We worked our way from one local to the next till they finally had us heading up the steepest narrowest avenue in the general direction of the mountain.

Soon we were following state park signs, and gaining on a suffering road cyclist. I stepped it up a notch and nearly caught him as we reached Panoramic Dr., but he dropped off the other side toward the coast just as we caught up to him. Ella and I turned right and pressed on toward the top - paved roads only, today.

The wind whipping in off the ocean at 45 - 50 degrees met us at that same intersection. It was refreshing to me and nice to have the sweat finally stop running in my eyes, but Ella discovered a new complaint. I began unloading our warm gear, adding a layer every few miles, till she had my arm warmers on her legs, both windbreakers on, and her hood stuffed up under her helmet. I realized my descent was going to be cold.

Warming up with the first windbreaker and my "arm warmers" on her legs.
The cookies may have helped too.

We made the top, cheered on by countless other cyclists, where I was thrilled to discover a gift shop stocked with overpriced t-shirts and sweatshirts. They also had a Dry-Fit version, so I took out a 2nd loan on the house, sold a car, and picked up an XL black one - with a nice logo of Mt Tamalpai on front.

1 coffee, 1 hot chocolate, 1 snickers bar, and 20 minutes later we were barreling back down. Ella loves the descents, and forgets to check in for the minute by minute status updates (Are we almost there yet?) when we're flying. We were making great time getting back, when I realized a new stress crack in my frame. We stopped passing other cyclists, and took it easy the rest of the way down.

I'm meeting up with a welder who handles Aluminum in a few hours...

Great ride.

We stopped at "Blackies Pasture" in Tiburon on the way home, where she got to "ride" Blackie.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stage 4 - As viewed from Calaveras and Felter Rds.

I actually managed to put in about 8 or 9 hours of work Wednesday, strategically woven around a late morning ride to the race in San Jose, and a late afternoon pause, to watch the race finish on my laptop.

Cavendish got beat at the line. Doesn't happen often...
Guess that's what happens when your lead out train can't keep up.
Congratulations Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo)

My little glimpse of 120 some odd professional cyclists is frankly nothing special. There were thousands of others out there just like me.
However, it was one of the best days on the bike for me - ever - and I only rode 18 miles.

9:30 AM (Yes that's late morning to me), I hammered up to the KOM at the top of Sierra from the base of Calaveras Rd., took in the festivities for a few minutes, and then descended back on the race route (More solidarity - I feel I've practically bonded with the teams by now) to meet up with the lately arriving Chris.

We stationed ourselves at the right hand turn off Felter, onto Calaveras armed with a camera and camera phone. The riders arrived just before noon.

The rest is in the pictures.
I deferred the better camera to Chris, since he was talking about adjusting things like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO - or maybe those are all the same thing? He did a fine job. I did just fine myself with my faithful Treo Pro camera phone.

In approx. correct chronological order...

Looking down on San Jose from the top of Sierra Rd.

KOM Festivities

The line.

Calaveras Rd. - the pros will cover this ground within minutes.

Don't see this CHP vehicle much. Check out those wheels...

It's parade week for the CHP

They actually have done a great job keeping the ride safe and efficient.

The first guys over the top of Sierra, and the first to be awakened by this abrupt right turn. Later to be absorbed back into the Peloton

Same group...

...Nearly runs over Chris' toes.

The balance of the Peloton, with Garmin-Transition at the front.

The best shot of the day - Chris caught Lance and Levi leading their team and tailing the Garmin guys. This is Lance's last full day in the Tour of California though, as he ends up crashing and riding about 6 miles with a gash under his left eye and nearly broken arm before being pulled by the team doctor in stage 5.

Team Radio Shack, following Garmin after turning up Calaveras.


This fella seemed truly amused by us spectators.

Well then, that is a bit amusing.

Thanks to Chris for the great photography.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tour of California Day 2

Congratulations Brett Lancaster (Cervelo)
Winner of Stage 2 in Santa Rosa.

What the Finish looked like.

No I didn't make it there personally - but I did see the mob roll through Oakville...

...I sit here in my truck at the base of Oakville Grade waiting for the race to get here.
I pulled up stakes from my office around noon and decided the Tour Tracker wasn't going to be good enough for me with the riders coming as close as 30 miles from where I was sitting.

I knew where I wanted to park - and here I am at the corner of Oakville Rd. and St. Helena Highway waiting for them to make the right turn across the tracks of the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Fortunately he came by a few minutes ahead of the race.

Yesterday, Bec, Pastor Brent, and I watched the final few minutes of stage 1 from the comfort of 3 office chairs lined up behind his desk in the church office. Half of my guys are off work today for the rain, so the pull was irresistible.
I'm not alone, as there are many others out here with the same idea.

Just down the road is one of the Bay Areas most demanding climbs - Oakville Grade.

Fellow Cyclists that traveled from Portland to follow the ToC for a few days.

Salesman for CLIF nearly takes away my front row seat.
Nice marketing though.

I actually thought I might get some work done while I was waiting. It was a thought...

I'm following the race on the AmgenToC website, with a cell phone modem on my laptop, and see that they are just about to the top of Howell Mt. - the last climb before they bomb down and across the valley toward me. It's nice sitting here in the truck, knowing I don't have to be standing in the rain yet. (Yes it's raining) I'm looking through the water streaming down the windows at about a dozen rather wet enthusiasts all with cameras at the ready. They wait in eager expectation of Lance rounding the corner at any moment. They will keep waiting. It'll be at least 20 more minutes, and the 5 man breakaway will be rounding long before Lance, Levi, or the current leader, Mark Cavendish.

There is a touch of solidarity here - small touch though it may be - having the pro's riding the same roads that I consider to be "my" routes. I wonder if they feel the solidarity as they fly by?


Pace Car? Not sure what that's for.

Now for the guys on bikes...

I didn't recognize the names of any of these 5 in the breakaway group.
They came through about 5-6 minutes ahead of the Peloton.

Yeah, they went by that fast.
Levi, Lance, and the balance of Team Radio Shack were right up front. Go ahead and watch it again. Maybe you can tell me who was who.
If the video link to the Tour Tracker had been working right, it would have almost been better to stay in the office and watch it from there.


The grande white mocha I picked up in American Canyon tipped the scale.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

More on the Pros - Boring to all but cyclists - And even then...

I found this on CyclingNews.com. It's the specs on George Hincapie's Paris-Roubaix specific bike.
For most, this will mean nothing, but reading the article that went with it, reinforced how different it must be to have sponsors.

George had a bike set up perfectly for him, on each of the 5 team cars, "including a full blown 'cross bike in the event of muddy conditions." And, those bikes changed from day to day depending on the course conditions.

Frame: BMC TeamMachine SLR01 Paris-Roubaix, size 57cm
Fork: BMC TeamMachine SLR01 Paris-Roubaix
Headset: FSA Orbit C-33
Stem: Easton EA70, 13cm x -6°
Handlebars: Easton EA70, 44cm (c-c)
Tape/grips: Easton cork
Front brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Rear brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Brake levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Shift levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
Cassette: Campagnolo Record 11s, 11-25T
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11s
Crankset: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque ST 11s, 175mm, 53/44T
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque OS-Fit
Pedals: Speedplay Zero Stainless Paris-Roubaix
Rims: Ambrosio Nemesis tubular, 32h
Front hub: Campagnolo Record
Rear hub: Campagnolo Record
Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray (front), Sapim Race (rear); 3x, with brass nipples
Front tire: FMB Paris-Roubaix Pro tubular, 27mm
Rear tire: FMB Paris-Roubaix Pro tubular, 27mm
Saddle: Selle Italia Flite custom
Seat post: BMC TeamMachine SLR01
Bottle cages: Elite Ciussi Gel (2)
Computer: Cateye Strada Wireless
Other accessories: Gore Ride-On sealed deraileur cable set

By the way - George doesn't install bottle cages or seat posts. Suffice to say, the team mechanics are an under appreciated lot.

I have but one road bike (not counting the 20 year old one I'm still trying to pull together after my New Years Day crash) and one mountain bike. I'm blessed to have those. Maybe some day I can find a sponsor and make the tough choices regarding what wheel set to use on which frame, to most appropriately match the course and weather conditions!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Was Not My Idea

I came outside the other day to see my 6 year old applying her simple understanding of physics and the underlying laws of motion.

This was not my idea. She came up with this stunt herself.
But I must admit I was pretty proud of her advanced motor skills.

Makes riding a bike seem downright safe...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

WCC 2010 - A Tail-Wind Home

I actually didn't intend to take this picture, but realized it is a perfect parenthesis to my day.
The day started with hot coffee and ended with ice cold Coke.
(Neither of them Decaf - Both of them good friends)

I'm not sure that a legitimate comparison is possible between the 2009 and 2010 Wine Country Centuries. Last year's ride and more specifically, weather, was in a word - Disaster.
The weather for the 2010 ride was stellar. 45 degrees rose to 75 by lunch time, and the skies were never more than streaked with wisps of cirrus artistry.

125 miles in just under 8 hours on the bike. 15+ mph average speed.

However, the weather word for the day was WIND.
We fought it all the way to lunch, and then threw up a sail and blistered the pavement on the way back. I raised my average speed by about 1 mph in the last 25 miles, and we had sustained stretches of nearly 30 mph on relatively flat pavement.

It was wonderfully uneventful regarding equipment too. No flats, and not even so much as a slipped chain, except for the one I tatoo'd my fingers with while helping a lady get her ride back on the road.

A special thanks to a temporary friend named Bruce, who "towed" me into the wind for the last 15 miles to lunch. He must have been resting his legs, because I managed to gain on him, and then drop in behind him on a particularly windy stretch. When he saw me back there, he lit out like a rabbit, but I wasn't about to let him get away and lose the great draft. In a calm stretch I pulled up beside him and thanked him for the pull, and informed him that I would be remaining in the rear, lest our little train lose momentum. We passed dozens of riders, often doubling their speed with me holding his slip-stream with tenacity and thinking "if only they knew." At lunch he thanked me for the company, and I thanked him for the help.

Driving home I passed Six Flags in Vallejo, and saw the roller coasters twisting and spinning loaded with Red Bull dinged adolescents. Though I have a modicum of appreciation for those rides - they don't compare to the thrill of a great bike ride. Descending the twisties with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, or dropping in behind a pace line going nearly 30 mph far surpasses anything an amusement park has to offer. You see, that descent and the ability to hang onto a pace line are a reward. A reward we earned at great cost over months and years, not $22.95 charged for admission.
Earned joys far outstrip cheap thrills.
This was a great ride.

For any who may be concerned about the quality of my pictures, bear in mind that most of them are taken at between 10 and 30 mph with just a passing glance at what's in the shot. But then, anyone that regularly sees my pictures knows I have no likelihood nor aspirations of winning prizes for them.

1 mile into the ride. 7:30 am
Milt, Kevin, Vince, and Steve over my right shoulder

One of several gentle climbs

Nearing the coast.

Rest stop #1

Dropping down the other side toward Hwy 1 and the vast Pacific.

Somehow I didn't notice that 10mph sign till just now. This was an insane descent.

A beautiful day for a ride.

HWY 1 - into a 15mph head wind. But you can't beat the scenery.


The finish.
I saw a few other Death Ride Finisher jerseys on the course today.
Only a few months till the D.R. 2010.

I shot this video at the end of the ride.
That's what my bike felt like a few times out on the course.