Anyway, I finally I got a chance to ride the hills that I've driven past for most of my life. Whenever I head up 680 I'm always impressed with the scenery around Sunol and Livermore, and Justine has been telling me for awhile how nice it is. Well, she was right, it's really nice. The trick of course, is riding there before it gets super hot. Yesterday was borderline.
Here are some highlights: I headed out with a group of about 6 - my friend Loren and a group of riders from Western Wheelers, including Laura, who I rode with last summer at the "Kiss of Death" cycling camp (I like to call it a camp, sounds cooler). Both are strong riders (Laura was second in the Everest Challenge last year), so I could only hope to catch them on the descents. Thank goodness for rest stops where I could hook up with the group.
The climbing on this ride isn't crazy if you're used to riding the Santa Cruz mountains, it's just long, hot and windy. The ascents included the following: "The Wall", up past Ed Levin County Park (one rider called it a "National Park"... uh, not quite). This one came early, and was a nice long grind, broken up by a rest stop. Not too bad; Altamont Pass, which was windy and exposed. We probably hit that one around 10 or 10:30. I unhooked from the group on this one and just stayed in my saddle, climbing slow and steady; and finally Palomares, from the Livermore side back over to Union City. Again, not too too bad, a bit steep at the end, but I felt pretty strong since we were re-integrating with the shorter course riders at this point and I was passing folks going uphill for a change!
The highlights of the day for me were the pacelines and trains on the flats. We had a great 10 person line going through the ugliest section of the day (Stanley Blvd.), which was a blast. Coming down next to 580 I tucked behind another small group and we averaged well over 32 for about 3-4 miles. Descents were also pretty fun, it was nice to hit 43MPH after Altamont and feel no wobbles at all. I think that flipping my stem has given me a little more stability as well as comfort. Nice!
Calaveras was quite nice also, saw a fox out hunting, and then spied the Bald Eagle nest and one of the eagles (I didn't take this picture)
Food was fine, support was great, temperature was hot but not July hot. Just unexpectedly hot.
Riding with the group was a good time. They're all good riders, and you have to focus and pay attention. I have taken to thinking of Laura as the "Matron", the one who keeps order in the Peloton. Pretty funny to hear her scolding riders, etc. I was on the sharp end of it in Markleeville once or twice, glad it isn't just me! She's great to ride with though, damn strong. One guy whose name I never caught just kept taking monster pulls. Probably pulled 4 miles through Livermore in the mid 20s. Riding a steel Lemond from probably the late 80s?? When did 1 inch threaded headsets go from standard to obsolete? Any bike historians care to comment?
Right before Palomares, some kids had set up a lemonade stand. I think I was about the only one who stopped in all day, and they were so darn excited that I got a little adrenaline boost for the climb. I pulled in and said "hope you guys have some change" and they assured me: "No, it's all free!" Lemonade, water, strawberries... total race support was awesome.
Lowlights? Loren ending up in a bush was a little unnerving. I think he was looking back waiting for me to catch up, and when he looked forward again there was a dead raccoon and a sewer grate in his path. He went down in slow motion, his fall broken by some significant shrubbery on the side of the road. I think he's OK, save some ripped shorts. Without the shrubs it would've been bad, it was a steep embankment. The raccoon though... still dead.
Besides that, great day. I felt pretty strong, and though I need to keep working on climbing I felt better overall than my only century last year. Not sure what the next one will be.
The bike was great also. I put on the aero bars to give me a few more positions, and while I wasn't in them a lot they were very handy in the windy sections and when leading the pull. and like I said, the flipped stem is both more comfortable and more stable...
16.5 MPH average
~6,000 feet climbed
~ 168 ounces of fluid consumed