Saturday, June 28 in Santa Rosa, California:
See also my photo album from this ride.
I started (along with 250+ of my closest cycling buddies – the largest mass-start I’ve participated in by far!) at 5:30 after we received a safety lecture from the ride organizer. He reminded us that our field was larger than the TdF, and not to sling mud on us, but we aren’t nearly as skilled as the pros, so be careful! We started at a fast clip, with a pace car trying to trip all of the stoplights as we travelled through Santa Rosa. Some drunken maniac ran out into the road and just stood there as the peleton swerved around him – what was he thinking?! (he probably wasn’t) A few lights turned before everyone got through, and by the time we got out of town, things were pretty well strung out. It wasn’t too cold, which was worrysome, as it would only get warmer from here out! It was a lovely ride along Bennett Valley as the sun fully rose and I found myself leading a line of 10 or so people as we boogied towards the first climb of the day – Trinity Grade.
I was surprised to find that the climb was actually pretty difficult (for some reason I had it in my head that Trinity wasn’t very steep – not true!). Fortunately only the bottom mile or two is really steep and the rest is just generally uphill. I saw my first walker here and wondered how he was going to do if he was walking on the first climb of the day! Finally I got to the top and started down the backside into Napa Valley. There were course officials here and there emphatically warning us to be careful on this descent, and I could definitely see why – it was steep and extremely curvy, chock full of 10-15mph hairpins. No wonder a few folks crash here every year! My front tire went squishy on a relatively flat and straight section, so I pulled off to fix the flat (my first since I switched to Avocet tires).
A SAG vehicle went by just as I was unmounting the tire and told me to just relax – they changed the tube, found the wire that caused the flat, and pumped it up to my specified pressure for me – now that’s service! We merged onto Oakville Grade, a stark contrast to Trinity in that it was nearly straight with great visibility, yet like Trinity, quite steep. I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as I could have since I don’t know the road, but I hit 52.3mph anyways – yeehaw!
Another 20 miles or so through beautiful Napa Valley (I again got to see the balloons rise – one of my favorite sights on any ride (also a feature of the Knoxville Double)) and north on the Silverado Trail brought me to rest stop #1 in Calistoga at about 50 miles. I rode with a couple from Palo Alto for part of the final stretch on Silverado Trail – the guy was good company, but the woman was pretty silent.
I only stayed 8 minutes at the rest stop, wanting to conserve time, as I had arrived only 40 minutes before the stop closed. It was more pleasant riding for 20’ish miles through another wine valley (Antelope, I think?) north of Calistoga, but my right knee started really bothering me nearly as soon as I left Calistoga.
This was worrysome, as it felt fine on Trinity, but bugged me after not even doing any hard riding for the previous hour+. I’d made sure to stretch and take aspirin and endurolytes, but that doesn’t seem to have helped. As I arrived at the foot of the second (and by many accounts, hardest) climb of the day, the Geysers, I stopped to stretch a bunch, have some caffeine, and take an Alleve in the hopes that it would shut my knee up.
Geysers is a very steep climb with very little shade and few letups in grade – after half a mile or so my knee was being unbearable (stabbing pain with every pedal stroke), so I pulled off and pondered. The usual pain remedies weren’t working, and there was no way I was going to be able to ride another 130+ miles of extremely hilly terrain with my knee feeling as it was. I stretched a bunch more, enjoing a nice view down into the valley, then tried again to ride up the hill.
No dice. My ride was over – I wasn’t about to jeapordize the rest of the season (including the Death Ride in two weeks and the Climb to Kaiser in four, both already paid for (and expensive!)) in a vain attempt to finish this ride. I flagged down the next SAG that came by and got a ride to the top of the Geysers (which, by the way, looks like a HARD climb!), and from there got a lift back to the start. At least my lights hadn’t yet been taken to the last stop, so I just picked them up at the start and went back to my hotel. I enjoyed the part of the ride I did do, the support was phenominal (and they had sustained energy and hammer gel – yay!) and the course beautiful. I’ll definitely be back next year. It was pretty disappointing that my knee prevented me from finishing, as my legs and the rest of my body felt up for a good deal more abuse (who knows if I’d have made it or not, but that’s moot), but so it goes.
|Total Time:||5h 1m|
|On-bike Time:||4h 44m|
|Average Speed (including stops):||14.3mph|
|Total Climbing:||~3,000 ft|
|Rating (out of 10):|
|Difficulty:||7, at least for the portion I completed. I’m certain the remainder is much harder!|
|Support:||10 – lots of helpful people everywhere|
|Food:||10 – all the correct endurance fuels|
|Route:||8 – very pretty|
|Overall:||8, but I sure wish I could have ridden further|