The WCC is Here

Getting ready for my first Wine Country Century. I’m psyched about it despite the problem with my left hand.
Here’s the ride description from the SRCC website:

The WCC is HereHeads west across the valley floor before climbing into the wooded hills around Graton and Occidental. After descending to the Russian River at Monte Rio, the route meanders through rolling terrain along the sides of the river valley.

There are several climbs…some long but gradual, some short but steep. At about mile 44, the forested hills give way to the vineyards of the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys. Aside from the fairly substantial climb on Chalk Hill near the end, the remainder of the route is flat or rolling, and beautiful!
Map here. Interactive map with GPS tracking here. GPS tracks are for informational use only; use them with caution. Ride safely and exercise good judgment. The official route is shown on the printed maps.

Their site says 3300 feet of climbing while the interactive map they link to says 5371. That’s a huge difference. Normally I wouldn’t care, but since I plan to ride another century on Sunday, I would prefer it was the former.
The weather is looking like it’s going to cooperate unlike last year when it rained miserably all weekend. Should be fun.

The Chico Windflower

The Chico Windflower
Chico is small, rural town about 3 hours north of the Bay Area. The town’s sole reason for existence seems to be the California State University of Chico, once a notorious party school:

(from snopes.com) Campus legend has it that Playboy does a yearly ranking of America’s top party schools. Truth is, we haven’t done such a roundup since 1987, when we tagged Cal State-Chico the craziest campus in the nation. Chico has had bragging rights for 15 years,causing students to binge with pride while parents and administrators have dried out fraternities and sororities and canceled Halloween. Some students have sent us e-mails that say “Don’t you dare say Chico State. I’m sick of having to defend it. It’s all because of your article 15 years ago!” Why do another ranking now? The kids demanded it, our public relations department is bombarded with calls from students who wonder where their schools rank. We wanted to hear what goes down on campus — the good, the bad and blurry — in your own words, more than 1500 of you wrote. These are your stories.

Raquel and I drove up on Saturday morning. We walked around. Had burgers at the “World Famous” Madison Bear Garden, took a tour of the Stansbury House and walked around the Bidwell Mansion Park. The town seemed pleasant enough.
We headed down to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds to check in for the Chico Wildflower. It was very well organized. After a short wait in the Go-Hs line, I picked up my bag that included a water bottle, a route map printed on cloth and my wrist band.
That afternoon I did a fast 30 mile warm up ride around town. The start of the ride took in Bidwell Park (it’s all Bidwells all the time in Chico, apparently), a lovely green strip along the Big Chico River that juts out of town to the east. Seemed like an auspicious start to the weekend. But then it all went wrong. Quickly.

Slow Start

That night, I had a rough time getting to sleep at the motel. When I finally managed to drift away, I was woken up by some drunk kids running up and down the corridor at 2:27am and couldn’t for the life of me get back to sleep. So when we got up at 5am, I was less than well rested.
Before sunrise, we packed up, loaded the bike and we went off to Jack’s in downtown Chico to have breakfast. Most of the table were occupied by cyclists, which I took to be a seal of approval, but the food was awful: rubber pancakes and ancient, acidic coffee. Before we left, I filled my bottles with ice water and we headed out to meet up with Stephen from the Yellowjackets.
Ready for the ride
I had never ridden with Stephen before but we had arranged to meet at the start line and ride together. We headed out from the fairgrounds, but before we hit the road, I realized I wasn’t wearing my gloves and had to turn back. Then, with gloves on, I headed out again and got a little further down the road before I realized that I had forgotten to put on my wristband and had to turn back again.
Each time, Stephen waited patiently for me as he had at the start when I was gearing up. So I felt pretty bad when I realized that he was going to maintain a much slower pace than I wanted. We chatted for about 3 miles, but we were only going about 10-12 miles per hour and I knew I needed to take off and go my own pace. So I apologized and stepped on the gas.

The Humbolt Meat Grinder

The first climb, up Humbolt Road comes at the five mile mark. It would be a lovely climb through the grassy foothills outside of Chico, but the road surface was just hideous. Think Morgan Territory before it was repaved last year and add in hundreds of little pot holes and you’ll get the picture. It was an extremely unpleasant 2.5 miles. I had been sadistically pulverized.
The descent, however, was wicked. Back on a real surface, I rocketed back to sea level taking turns pulling with a woman in a George Hincapie US Champion BMC jersey.
The route continues down a narrow bike path, which made it hard to pass the early starters, before dumping out on Honey Run Road for the ascent to Paradise. I let two riders from the Tri Counties Cycling Team tow me up to the covered bridge, where the something of a rest stop: toilets, but no food or drink. Probably would have been a good idea as it’s at the 20-mile mark and comes just before the big climb of the day.
I got off and took a few pics, but didn’t hang around long.

6 Miles to Paradise

Quickly after the bridge, the road kicks up to the sky for the 6 mile climb to the small mountain town of Paradise. The road twists and turns like a contortionist as it makes it way along the edge of the canyon. There’s nary a car. It’s spectacular.
6 Miles to Paradise
Words of encouragement to participants are painting on the roadway a la the Tour de France. There are some families by the side of the road cheering us on. There was even one kid dressed up a Big Bird.
Typically my strategy for these rides is conserve energy on the climbs and go like crazy on the flats and descents. That’s worked well for me in the past, so I found my tempo, got into a nice groove and just cruised up to the top enjoying the scenery and the scene.
Climbing to Paradise
At the summit, there was a crowd of about 50 folks with cowbells cheering us on. As I rolled though Paradie to the rest stop. I was feeling ok. Tired, but not fatigued. I was thrilled that two of the three climbs were behind me.
Then I got off the bike at the rest stop and I felt a little cramp in my left hammy. Not a bad one. Just like a little tweak that let me know that all was night not right. I grabbed a banana and a couple cans of V8 and did a little stretching. I didn’t want to hang out to long because I was anxious to get to the descent.

Expelled from Paradise

After the rest stop, i was expecting to plunge back down to sea level, but instead there’s a series of massive rollers that rise from about 1650ft (Paradise) to 1870ft (the actual summit). I wasn’t prepared for this at all. Nor was I prepared for the long, flatish initial part of the descent. It doesn’t tkae much of a headwind to turn a 1-2% descent into a grind. I was riding alone and I used up a ton of energy desperately trying to latch onto a large group riding tantalizingly in front of me, but I never did catch them.
Then we passed a sign that read 11% grade and I hit 46 mph as we plunged down along Lake Oroville. I think I could have gone faster. The road was smooth and straight. There was a little headwind, but that didn’t really stopped. I just got a little nervous riding alone and being unfamiliar with the roads.
After the quick descent, the route winds through cow country for several miles before we hit the second rest stop in Oroville right on the lake.
At this point, I’m feeling pretty good. The ride is about halfway done. I had ridden 19.8 miles in the third hour, which was just wickedly fast for me. And it wasn’t even 10am yet. I sat in the grass, stretched my hamstrings, refueled and pondered the miles ahead.

Table Mountain Bonk

After the rest stop, the route meanders through suburban Oroville. At the 48 mile mark, there was a confluence of three events. (1) The road kicks up between 7-8% for about 5 miles. (2) The mercury started rising as fast as the road. (3) I started suffering immensely.
I had seen Table Mountain, a large and impressive looking mesa. It was looming to the left of us as we rode south towards Oroville. It looked big. It was hard for my to believe mentally that we’d be climbing up there, but I had seen the route profile and I wasn’t that concerned, but I should have been. I really should have been.
I don’t know the exact reason, but some combination of sleep deprivation, dehydration, extreme exertion, and poor fitness just made me bonk early on the climbing. I was chugging along at about 4 miles per getting passed by anything and everything on two wheels on Cherokee Road.
If I were in better shape, I think I would have appreciated the scenery. The road hugs the side of the Table Mountain cliff with on of the fingers of Lake Oroville on the opposite side of the road. This is the area where the Wildflower gets its name. I don’t think this was the most impressive year, but there flowers here and there. To be honest, we have better wildflowers in Hercules.
Someone, probably with intentions had painted mile markers in orange on the road. 3 mile to the top, 2.5 miles to the top and so on. When you’re strong, this is encouraging, but when you’re creeping along at 4 mph and you do the math in your scrambled brain and figure that at this rate 2 miles is going to take you half an hour, it’s demoralizing.
Granted, I wasn’t going 4 mph the entire climb. The road pitched up and down like a dinghy in high surf and I was able to quicken my pace in sections, but it was still a long and miserable haul. I was so thrilled to finally reach the summit, that I skipped the little hydration station up there and continued on.
As you’d expect from Table Mountain, there a long, flat stretch at the top. I tucked in behind some stronger riders and let them drag me across the mesa. I could see snow covered peaks in the distance and the top of volcanic Mt. Lassen peaked out from behind the Cascades.

The descent off the ridge was hampered by a pick up that was stuck behind a slow rider, but I wasn’t too concerned because the hills were behind me and all that remained was 40 miles of flat riding. No problem, right?

The Mighty F*ing Wind

In aerodynamics, a headwind is a wind that blows against the direction of travel of an object. A headwind reduces the object’s speed and increases the time required to reach its destination[*].”
We doubled back down Durham Pentz Road to the lunch break. I grabbed more V8, some delicious pate sandwiches and sat my weary ass under a shady tree. I was rested refueled and ready. I just sent a few tweets before I hit the road:

Sitting under a tree in the shade. Cool breeze blowing. Eating pate sandwiches while I rest my weary legs. Hard to beat this. 11:19 AM Apr 25th

Made it to the lunch stop. Damn good thing. I was dying up the Table Mtn. climb. #cycling #wildflower http://myloc.me/6p7vF 11:20 AM Apr 25th
I only managed 10 miles in the 4th hour after clocking 19.8 in the third. All blame goes to the insufferable table mountain #cycling #wi … 11:21 AM Apr 25th
Only 40 miles to go and it’s all downhill or flat. WOOT!! #cycling #wildflower #chico http://myloc.me/6p7Ew 11:22 AM Apr 25th

Clearly my optimism was misplaced. But I was reasonably please with myself as I started down the long flat ride back bast west towards Chico.
The problem was that there was a massive wind heading east. I don’t really know how to estimate it, but if I had to guess, I’d say 25-30 mph. The temp on the road was now close to 90 degrees. I was exhausted.
Another problem was that it was just so boring. The long stretch of road offered nothing but pain. The scenery was just so unmemorable. I just had to put my head down and fight through it.
I tagged along with various groups at various speeds until I ran out of energy and then the wind pushed me back. I would continue along solo and then another group would pass me and I’d get a hitch for a while. This went on for mile after bloody mile until the final rest stop at some nondescript school in Durham.
Suffering at the last rest stop
I really wanted to quit at this point. I had been beat down by this ride. I was alone. A little bored. My knees were starting to hurt from the effort. I was dirty. I wasn’t having fun anymore. The wind had just sucked all the pleasure out of the ride.
The thing about climbing is that there’s a payoff at the end: the descent. With the wind there’s nothing. And it didn’t seem to matter which way we turned, although there was precious little turning, but the wind was always anyplace but behind us. The few times where we turned north and suffered a cross wind were the worst. I couldn’t find any shelter. It just sucked.
It was taking a toll on everyone. For a long time I hitched a ride behind a guy with big 6 on his jersey. He was much stronger than me and seemed to have no problem taking the lead. But after about 5 miles of wheel sucking, he started to tie and I started to feel guilty so I went around and him and took a 20 minute pull. It killed whatever energy I had left and when he eventually came around me, I couldn’t hang on to the 16 mph pace and sucked out the back to continue on my own at 13-14 mph. But later I saw number 6 leaning on his bike in a small patch of shade by the side of the road. He hit the wall.
Later I latched onto a woman wearing a Triple Crown jersey. She had finished three double centuries in a one year. Certainly she’d have no problem towing me along and she didn’t. Seemed happy to do it. I could only hang for so long before crumbling again.
Eventually I got my second wind. And when I did, I started passing slower riders. When I was passing this one woman, I felt something hit me on the hip and when I looked to my left, I saw this red with the side view mirror bent backwards. I thought, fuck, he just hit me. The fucking bastard just hit me!
So when traffic slowed and I was able to pull up to the car, I knocked on the window. When he lowered it, I told me just hit me. I must have been a little delirious since I expected him to say, dude, I’m sorry, are you ok?. The last thing I expect was for him to say, “how much do you pay to ride on these roads? I pay my DMV fees. Get off the fucking road ass hole.”
I was stunned speechless. I should have taken note of his license plate or even better, taken a picture of his car with the mirror bent backwards, but I wasn’t thinking straight.
When we rolled into downtown Chico past the Stansbury House I knew the end was near. The temps were cooler in town. The breeze was finally behind us as we finished the short section between town and the finish.
As I pulled into the fairgrounds, my odometer read only 95 miles. Normally I would have felt cheated—five miles short of a century, but not today. The ride was a sun-stroke inducing sufferfest, but it was over.

Continue reading “The Chico Windflower”

Northbound to Chico

chicoVelo.jpg
I’ve always wanted to go to Chico, but for some reason or another, I haven’t made it up there yet. But this weekend, I’m headed north to ride Chico Velo’s Wildflower Century.
It’s my first century of the season and I’m 100% sure I’m ready for it. I haven’t done a ride over 70 miles yet this year, so this is really pushing it. There are three fairly substantial climbs on the route that add up to 5000 feet of climbing, which isn’t too bad spread out across 100 miles.
The weather is supposed to be spectacular—the forecast high temp is 83° on Sunday. The scenery should be impressive—Chico is located at the base of the mountains, where the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade ranges seamlessly join. I’m really looking forward to it.
The organizers, Chico Velo, are very “green” bunch. They provide all participants with a water bottle (so they don’t have to use paper cups at the rest stops) and the route map is printed on a cloth bandanna. All uberprogressive.
There’s meant to be more than 4000 participants which I’m certain is the largest group ride I’ve ever participated in. It’s going to be something of cycling circus.
Here’s the route map.

OYJ Alameda/Bay Farm

OYJ on Lakeshore
It was a perfect day for the 24th Annual Oakland Yellowjackets kick-off ride. Mid 70s. Blue skies. Little wind. It was just what you wanted for a nice 20 mile cruise out to Alameda and back. The turnout was impressive. I’d guess there were at least 200 riders there. And I’ve never seen more club members actually wearing their jerseys. It was really impressive. I took lots of photos of both the ride and the picnic afterwards.
OYJ Group Photo

Continue reading “OYJ Alameda/Bay Farm”

2010 Preseason

Even though I’ve only been able to ride weekends, the cycling season has gotten off to a fast start for me, compared to last year anyway. The rides have been more frequent, longer, faster and more challenging. I’ve spent more than twice the amount of the time in the saddle at a rate about 1 mph faster while climbing about 3.5x as much. Not bad.
Stats through April 10th:

2010

Rides: 14
Distance: 549.33 mi
Time: 40:22:46 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 38,472 ft
Avg Speed: 13.7 mph

2009

Rides: 9
Distance: 236.30 mi
Time: 18:22:45 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 11,258 ft
Avg Speed: 12.9 mph
I spent the first 90% of the rides suffering with a body that was out of shape and a machine that needed an overhaul. But I plowed through the pain, got my bike fixed up like new and now I feel a cheetah, ready for the cycling the season and the 5 centuries (at least) that I have planned.
At the end of April I’m headed up to Chico for the first time to ride the Wildflower. Then the following weekend, I have the Wine Country Century on Saturday followed by the Tour de Cure on Sunday (still looking for donations to meet my goal on that ride). Then I don’t have another century planned until the Oakland Yellowjackets Pacifica- Monterey ride (120 miles) in September followed closely by the Waves to Wine.
In between there are a couple of dozen Yellowjacket rides and maybe some rides with the Grizzly Peak or Mission Cyclists. Should be a great, great year on the road.

OYJ Mt. Tamalpais (preseason 2010)

Waiting for BART
I was eager to get started this morning. I really love this ride. But the weather was conspiring to make this a potentially very ugly day. So it was with some trepidation that I clipped in and headed out to BART. Immediately I was hit by a wave of cold wind that made me want to change to my mind about riding in Marin.
I sucked it up and carried on, but I did change my plan of riding to the West Oakland BART. Instead I rode up the street to the much closer Ashby BART. That decision cost me a lot of time and resulted in me being late for the start. I hate being late for the start because the roll out is one of the unique aspects of club cycling that I enjoy.
The train pulled into Embarcadero at exactly 9:20, the time I was supposed to be a Red’s Java House. Another tough decision. Should I go to the starting point where someone might be waiting for me or just get my ass on the road and hope I can catch up before we hit the bridge?

Continue reading “OYJ Mt. Tamalpais (preseason 2010)”

Climbing Mt. Tam

I’m really looking forward to today’s ride, Mt. Tamalpais. It’s one of my favorites on the calendar.
First we BART over the city where the ride starts under the shadow of the Oakland Bay Bridge. We ride along the Embarcadero past all the foodies at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, through Fisherman’s Wharf bereft of tourists in the morning, up and over the short but pleasantly steep hill at Fort Mason, through the Marina, alongside Crissy Field and up amongst the old edifices of the Presido before crossing into Marin on the Golden Gate Bridge.
After the bridge, we descend into Sausalito and pass through a serious a quaint Marin towns, Larkspur, San Anselmo, and Ross before taking a break at the hamlet of Farifax. Time for coffee, sandwiches or some other kind of refreshment before the main event starts.
We take a 90 degree southward turn on Fairfax-Bolinas Road which bisects the town and head up into the hills. This section of the road is a gradual ascent, windy through the Marin hills past large homes and a secluded golf course before plunging down to the Alpine Dam. Time for another rest.
After a break at the dam, the real climbing begins. Continuing on Fairfax-Bolinas, the head takes a sharp turn upwards through the redwoods to the ridge line. We continue up on a series of rolling hills called the “Seven Sisters” before plummeting back down to sea level from the heights of Mt. Tamalpais. Then it’s back to SF and BART and finally Oakland 63+ miles and 6000 feet of climbing later. All in day’s work.
It’s a little nasty outside. Overcast and cold with a chance of rain (it’s actually raining now in Fairfax), but it should still be an amazing ride.

New Drive Train

New Drive Train
After suffering for a long time with slipping gears and inconsistent shifting, I finally plunked down the money to replace my drive train and it’s a beautiful thing. The shifting is silky. The gears stay where they’re supposed to be.
The new cogs are still the same: 50/34 compact double. The new chain is the same: Ultegra. The big difference is the cassette. I swapped out my old, grimy 12-27 for a shinny new 11-28. What does that mean exactly? Well now the highest gear is higher and lowest gear is lower so I will not only be able to climb with more comfort but also speed down descents faster. If I don’t hit 50 mph on Dublin Grade, I’ll be really pissed.
Is it the answer to all my problems? Probably not, but it’s helped tremendously. Now I just to need to take care of it to keep in good working shape for several thousand miles.

Garmin Connect Embed


Garmin Connect has changed it’s display interface for activities, which is nice. One of the new features is the ability to embed the activity directly to a web site through an iframe. Works well enough as you can see above. It’s certainly much easier than the way I handle it now, which involves exported the GPX file, importing it into Bikemap.net, embedding that map and then manually adding the activity details. It’s time consuming, but I like the end result.
If the Garmin Connect embed is going to become something I use, it’s going to have to do the following:
1) Allow Terrain to be set as the deault map type
2) Allow me to customize the embed dimensions (it’s too narrow now)
3) Allow me to customize the event details
4) Show the entire event description
Until they add these things, it’s just not good enough to use.

OYJ Morgan Territory (preseason 2010)

Entering Morgan Territory
The day got off to a really bad start. Delays on BART. They’ve jacked up their prices, reduced there service and they still have delays. It’s really a sad state of affairs for public transportation in the Bay Area.
Then it was cold. Below 50 when we departed from Concord BART around 9:25—late start because of the delay. There were about 25 cyclists assembled there. Only a handful from the Advanced group: Richard, Joe, Randy, Joan and Donelle. The rest were Humanes with some non-members thrown in for good measure. No intermediates.
So I had a tough decision. Hang with the big boys and have a tough quick ride or hang back with the Humanes and take it easy. I chose the former because I felt pretty and I wanted to test out my new drive train. It was a smart decision.
While I couldn’t keep up with the hammerheads the entire way up the climb, I did manage to hang in there from the Morgan Territory decent, which made for a fast, fun ride.
The new drive train (cogs, cassette and chain) worked like a dream. Shifting was smooth as silk. Gears were not slipping at all. And I didn’t have any of the power issues that have been plaguing me all year.
Morgan Territory is a beautiful long climb out east of Mt. Diablo. Home of massive houses, horse ranches and very cars. The narrow tree-lined road snakes up to 2000 feet over about 8 miles. It starts out gradual for the first half and then slowly builds with a serious of small terraces. There are a couple of 9% grinders, but nothing too bad. Now that the road has been re-paved, it’s really a dream climb. It felt fantastic when I arrived at the summit. I was behind Richard, Joe, Joan and Randy, but ahead of Donelle who usually leaves me in his wake.
At the top there was a large group of people out training search a rescue dogs. Maybe a dozen German Shepherds. I thought it was all very cool until I stepped in a pile of steaming soft dog shit that was hidden by the tall grass. The group waited somewhat impatiently while I used the spigot and a stick to remove the fecal matter from my cleats. Fucking nasty.
There’s a brief climb up to the real summit before the descending starts in earnest. For me it’s one of the scariest descents we do. The road is decent, but it’s so narrow and if a car is coming up the other way, there’s precious little room to pass. Plus there’s a 15% section that is downright frightening. On top of that, it was bitter cold. By the time I got to the bottom, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes and my entire face was numb. it was miserable.
We waited for Richard was severely underdressed even with the newspaper he stuffed in his jersey back at Concord BART, he was still a popsicle on the descent.
Then we were in for a treat. Highland Road from Manning to Camino Tassajara is one of the prettiest we ride. Rolling hills wind through horse and ranch country. This time of year, everything is green. It’s just so idllyic. There’s a small shallow climb to the saddle and then a fun turny descent.
The rest of the ride is just about getting back to BART and getting home. Balckhawk, Danville, Alamo all go by in a blur as we pacelined up to Walnut Creek. We cranked out almost 19 miles in the third hour alone. It was nice to get done early, but the pace took a huge toll on my still fragile body.
Miles 47.72
Ride Time 3:07:49
MPH 15.2
Max Speed 38.5
Elevation Gain 3,058 ft
Flats 0
More detailed ride stats here:

Here’s the route map: