cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

February 2008
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Coasting a bit
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:24 am

This upcoming week is gonna be a crusher, so posting and Gallery Updates will probably be a bit light  for the next 10 days or so.  Not even sure if I’ll have time to ride. Oh well.

Took  a little time to clean up the queue, so there are new entries in Current Classics, Singlespeed, Working Bikes and Cross Bike galleries.  As I finished up a couple of entries floated in, so if you don’t see yours up immediately, hang in there.

In the meantime, get rides in if the weather allows, take photos of your bike and send them into the Galleries. Ride safe, play nice and enjoy each new day, with its offering of slightly more daylight. Spring is coming!

Brachypetalium bloom - Feb 2008

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Astana a Tour No-Go
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:49 am

Killing a few moments yesterday waiting for a phone call to be returned, and I bopped over to VeloNews to catch up on my race-junkie interests. This past December, I let my print subscription lapse for the first time since 1993 or thereabouts. The only stuff I was reading was cyclocross reports and tech stuff. The issues had been mocking me as they lay mostly unread before crawling into the recycling bin, so there ya go.

Arriving at VN.com, the lead article pretty much reawakened my current frustration with the sport - ASO (parent company that runs the Tour de France, among many other races) had decided to snub Astana from this year’s Tour. If you follow pro cycling, you know that Astana, which grew out of Liberty Seguros, which grew out of ONCE has had a rough time of things. To start, that is a slightly suspect lineage, if you are concerned about doping in the sport. Indeed, Liberty had started the Tour 5 riders short in 2006 due to Operacion Puerto implicated riders.

More recently, Astana had - shall we say - a little series of run-ins with the cops.

In 2007, Alexander Vinokourov, Matthias Kessler and Andrej
Kashechkin  all tested positive for various transgressions, with Vinokourov being an extremely high-profile example at the Tour itself. He was  also the team leader, which kinda set a bad example for the kids.

So, Astana tried to address it, gutted its team management like a salmon, heaved a ton of riders overboard, dressed its lines, swabbed the decks and showed up in port all glittery for the 2008 season.  At the helm was Johan Bruyneel, who some may remember as the Director of a team that had some recent sucesses…  Riders included a number from the now-folded Team Discovery, such as Alberto Contador, who  won the Tour last year after Michael Rassmussen’s sudden egress, Bay-Area-centric Levi Leipheimer, who also managed a podium spot in Paris and Andreas Kloden, who has just needed a minor shard of luck to end up in the mix.

But, not this year, according to ASO. And they’ve barred the team from the other races they manage.

Lemme say that a slightly different way:

Despite the fact that Astana had reorganized and dumped anyone remotely attached to improprieties during the first two years of its existence, ASO is preventing both last year’s Tour winner and third place finisher from competing in the 2008 Tour de France - despite any specific issues with the new management or riders.

And, I do know it’s even more complicated than that, as the ASO and the UCI are in a big hissing match over the whole Pro Tour Teams issue.  This may be one small negotiating step.  It’s just hilariously petty and convoluted.  And the riders and fans seem to be getting the short end of the stick.

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Filed under: general, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:24 am

or “584? more! More! MORE!”
or “dat 27′ll put you in heaven”

New blog on the horizon - this one focused on the move of 650B/584/27er tires over to the MTB realm - http://sixfiftyb.com/

The assimilation continues…


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2008 NAHBS
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:11 am

All the cool kids are up in Portland, Oregon this week for the 2008 North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show

alex makes it real for those of us who are homebound.  Thanks alex! 

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Sheldon, You Have a Posse
Filed under: people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:50 am

Thanks Sheldon!
Sheldon Brown, you have a posse.

Originally uploaded by Gino

2008 SFR 200K Ride Report pt. deux
Filed under: rides, photos, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:41 am

The first part of this ride report is here

Part 2 - Lighthouse to Marshall to Home

Carlos and I headed off from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Control, the road dipping slightly below the parking lot and blessedly sheltering us from the winds for a moment or two. Within 20 more yards, we came to a stop, the wind halting our momentum with a strong, sudden gust.  There was nothing to do but laugh and try to stay on the bike. We both recovered, dove for even lower gears and pushed on.  As we edged along, we passed JimG, who had elected to walk his bike through this nasty section.  There wasn’t even the thought of trying to fetch a camera out for a photo.  Two hands on the bars was a must. On the most exposed section, I got blown from the right gutter of the road off the left hand side in an instant.  Clicking out, I had to wrench the bike to keep from going over. The blown sand from the roadway stung the right side of my face.

In some places, folks pay good money for dermal abrasion therapy.  Here I was getting it for no extra charge.

Finally, we dropped down the steep and nasty pavement to “A” Ranch, and with the wind more or less at our back and somewhat buffered by the topography we compared notes a bit.  The Beato brothers and Robbins had been leaving the lighthouse as we ascended, looking pretty strong and smooth as always. Though the wind had been pretty sketchy, it was going to push us north for a while, which was a good thing. As we hit the rises going home, Carlos began feeling a bit better, and eased away on the climbs. The protein drink would be of some benefit soon,  but right now it was playing the sloshy dance in my belly.

I could see Carlos a rise or so of the road ahead, and tried to keep him in sight. The thought “find the small efficiencies…” burbled up again  and reminded me to relax, pedal smoothly and make every motion count. The open miles of the Pt. Reyes peninsula continued to pass, and I soon found myself heading inland once more.  Working along the easier incline of the climb towards Inverness, I felt rain, though couldn’t actually see it. It passed once or twice, but never seemed to hit the ground.

It helped to break down the efforts a bit, and some of the techniques from long, fixed, Quickbeam rides helped here - I played the 40/40 trick, standing for 40 pedal revolutions, then sitting for the same number, then repeating.  It got me into a rhythm, distracted enough by the repetition to find a nice balance of focused and detached.  I found myself cresting out again, then dropped quickly down through the turns to the Tomales Bay side of things.  Those gently rolling curves took me back to Inverness, then to Inverness Park, where Carlos’ bike stood propped up against the curb. 

He had just picked up his sandwich, and was setting up a chair under the eve. We thought this would probably be a good place to have lunch, particularly after the efforts out to the Lighthouse. I bought some salty pretzels and dug my sandwich out of the bag.  It took a fair amount of force to eat - I just didn’t feel that hungry, even though there was no question that calories were being burned at a brisk clip.

As I nibbled, I pulled out the phone again, and after pulling the battery, restarting it and poking at it a bit, determined that the keypad was fried - none of the buttons worked. Ah well…something for Monday.  It also seemed that there was a flaw in my Brooks baggie design - I’d carefully sliced slits for the bag loops of the saddle, reinforced with heavy protective tape, but neglected to do anything near the nose of the saddle. As I’d been pushing back on the climbs, the front had begun poking a hole into the heavy bag. Further, I was starting to experience, um, hot spots in the saddle/rider interface - something which is generally never a problem.  I suspected that the heavy plastic was creating a much different environment - a lot less air flow and more humidity. Chamois Butt’r became my friend.

We enjoyed the time to sit and eat, and saw a few riders ease past. Calories thus stowed, we were just starting to get up and stretch when JimG rolled up.  The winds had been pretty tough on him, and he said that he just needed to sit down for a while.  We stayed and talked with him for a few minutes, just to make sure he was OK, and then pressed on.

I’d been jokingly referring to the flood section as a “two-headed” decision. From the beginning, I’d planned on at least rolling out to take a look at the conditions before backtracking.  But, before I did something really, really stupid due to wanting conditions to be safe, it was important to have an agreement between all parties that conditions were actually safe. Hence the “two heads.”  The idea was that both parties needed to be in agreement in order to act. If one said no, it was a “no-go”.  This was sort of a check on the system.

As it turned out, cars were using the stretch despite the “ROAD CLOSED” signage. Water still moved across, but it was only a few inches deep and not moving perceptibly.  Before we reached the area of flooding, we saw a couple vehicles move through, and got a good sense of the depth and strength of the water. (Didn’t snap a photo, but Masayoshi did) Then we moved through.  I managed to dip one pedal into the water before following Carlos’ example of “level ratcheting” to keep dry.  Just as quickly, we were out the other side and rolling into Pt. Reyes Station, then just as quickly grunting up the rise out of town. (Well, here I know I was grunting - Carlos looked pretty comfy…)

Heading north on Hwy 1, we were on the 8 mile stretch up to Marshall and the second control. I will refrain from obvious 8 Mile/Eminem reference.  Not because I’m above that sort of thing, just that things could get too ugly, too quickly…

Tailwinds, tailwinds, tailwinds.  Rolling bits on the way to the Next Control.  Sudden warmth.  My legs were tired, but they’d been that way since the turnaround at the Lighthouse. Carlos, as he tends to do on long rides, was seeming fresher and just a hair quicker with each additional mile. He edged out as the road swung up, I closed down the gap  a little when it went down.

Hwy 1 North to MarshallThen, on about the fifth little rise, I was suddenly covered in sweat - face-drenching, eye-twitching, soggy-headed sweat.  It was as though someone opened a spigot.  Perhaps the calories from our lunch break suddenly kicked in and fired things up again.  All I knew, as I squinted and swapped eyeports against the perspiration, was that I needed to be wearing less, immediately.  I pulled off on a wide spot in the road to regain comfort. Carlos had edged out of voice range, so I figured he’d find out up in Marshall. As I pulled off my jacket, stowed it under the Country Bag cover and remounted, John-from-Cool rolled past.  I caught up with him and we rode together.  He’d eased by us in Inverness Park, and I figured he’d enjoyed some of the Bovine Bakery specialities back in Pt. Reyes Station.  Actually, he’d been riding some over-miles, having not attempted the flood crossing.  I felt a little sheepish admitting that we’d rolled past the “Road Closed” signs.

Even with the help of the winds, it was a relief to see the boatworks and moorages at Marshall appear.  Very close to where I’d seen him last year, Carlos appeared on the roadway heading south.  He must not have even gotten off his bike to get his brevet card signed! We had talked about turning around quickly, but his execution was flawless. I yelled “jacket” as he went by and he nodded and waved.

A few riders were in evidence at this northernmost point on the route. Leaning the bike and clomping inside, I got my card signed at 1:50 - a little later than hoped for, but within my “slow time” estimate. Food still didn’t sound good, and I decided against the chowder. It’s kind of a tradition at this control, but so far in my life I have not indulged. I may someday, but first will have to try the stuff when the clock isn’t running.  Instead, I found an iced tea and downed that - hoping that the trace amounts of ginseng and caffeine might be of use.

It seemed worth trying to mimic Carlos’ fast turnaround time. But, as I stretched a bit it became clear that it was time to layer down so I could drop the straps of my bib shorts. One of my rules for longer rides is that you take on water and fuel whenever you have the chance. The opposite is certainly true, and there wouldn’t even be the luxury of a blue plastic room for many miles, once leaving Marshall.

JimG and Alex in MarshallAs I huddled behind a tall fence, relayering and beginning once more to think about riding, the red vest of JimG astride his Vent Noir flashed past as he arrived.  I caught up to him as he exited the store, a small cup of chowder in his hand.  Alex who we rode with in December also had arrived, and since we knew we faced a significant headwind for a while, we decided to stick together.  I wish I’d taken a second trip into the store for some hot tea or coffee - any warm liquid probably would have done me some good at that point.

We got rolling fairly quickly, and I took the first lead into the winds. Layered up once more with my jacket, it now didn’t seem like I’d be doffing it anytime soon. Our little troika began the grind southward, now heading well and truly home for the first time that day. It would be work, but because of the topography, the winds did not have quite the force that they did out at the Lighthouse. Still, it was work.

Alex moved past to take the lead after a bit, as the road moved from the flat section to the first risers. He stood on the first incline and immediately pulled up and zigged off the road. A bad cramp had found his leg and he made us leave him while he stretched and recovered.

Mike B againNow down to two, we slogged southward.  It was, as they say, a bit of a grind - pedaling the downhills to retain speed, trying to hold the momentum up the rises and not getting too depressed on the uphill that always seems deceptively flat. A honk and a wave from the opposite lane broke into our conciousness, and we realized Mike B. had made his way back from the Lighthouse Control, probably heading up to Marshall now. Then about two minutes later, he appeared ahead on our side of the road, shouting encouragement and snapping a photo.  It was a little mind-blowing, as we never saw him turn around or pass us again.  JimG and I came to the conclusion that it was either Mike B’s evil twin, or a cloning experiment gone horribly awry…  Nevertheless, he got a frighteningly happy-looking, posed-seeming photo of “The Jims” heading south on Highway 1.

Between the winds and appearance of several Mike B’s, I must have been getting a little loopy. When the big green sign appeared back near Pt. Reyes Station, I wouldn’t really let myself believe it was so - in fact, I remained convinced that we had another climb to go before we could turn left and start heading inland a bit.  But, there it was, large and looming.  We swooped left and worked our way towards Nicasio, passing one or two riders and offering encouragement.

Up to the ReservoirI had to focus on JimG’s wheel for the rise up to the reservoir, then we traded pulls against the winds into Nicasio.  Again with the goal of finding small efficiencies.  It was becoming a helpful mantra, making me aware of useless tension I was holding in my shoulders, and helping me relax my hips. Of course, the pedals seldom turn themselves, and by the time we rolled into Rancho Nicasio, a rest sounded good. It seemed as though Jim hadn’t been eating all that much, and I tried again to force down some food. It wasn’t so much that I felt bad - just not hungry.  Nothing I’d brought sounded all that good, and after a bite, it didn’t have much taste. Still, there were some caloric expenditures between us and the finish, so I tried.

As we sat on the benches and looked out on the empty parking lot, I checked my time sheet. One of the many helpful bits of advice that appeared in Jan Heine’s Intro to Brevet article series in Bicycle Quarterly was  to preprint the route sheet and block in estimated times at certain points.   He had recommended both “expected” times and “slow” times at each point.  In a worst case scenario when you were running slow due to mechanicals or biologicals, you could refer to the slow time to confirm that you had enough  to finish. Might be just the mental lift you need when it was late in the ride and you were feeling as if there was no hope.

Alex Recovers in Rancho NicasioWe weren’t in that neighborhood, but we were both tired, a bit cold,  and  “feeling it” at this point. The ride from Marshall had been slowed by the winds, and for me at least, I hadn’t planned on taking a break at this point.   It was about 3:45 pm.  On my sheet, my “best conditions” time had me making the turn back onto Sir Francis Drake at 3:10, and it we were maybe 20 riding time minutes shy of that. So, with no break, we were running about an hour behind a hoped-for 5 pm finish. And it was, I said aloud, mostly to convince myself, all home-turf riding - we knew the route, we’d done it many times in the past, and we were awfully close to the finish. As we refeuled, Alex rolled up, having pushed the wind solo for the entire distance.  He seemed a little drawn by the experience, but sucked down a Gatorade from the store and pushed off before us. Drawing on his momentum, we hit the restrooms once more, greeted an arriving bunch of randonneurs as we swung back onto the roadway.

This section had been a real struggle last year.  I ran out of gears, walked, sucked Gel, walked and pushed. This year, the first incline nipped but didn’t bite, and with JimG edging out ahead on the steep bit, had a carrot to follow.  Pencam Duel on Nicasio RoadIn fact, we even engaged in short pencam duel as the roads began to edge upwards.  Soon, I’d crested out near the Cecy Krone Memorial, swooped down the turns to the golf course, and howled up to Jim once again.  Thank goodness for high BMI.  With a double-double-check for cross traffic before a left turn onto Sir Francis Drake, we began finally to retrace our steps from that morning. We saw another non-brevet rider ahead, and Jim pressed the pace for a bit to catch up to him.  I’ll admit that at the time, I wanted to stick a wrench into Jim’s back wheel for increasing the speed, but it worked pretty well to distract us from the distance. In my mind, the last “ride” of the day - Nicasio to SF - was getting broken down into smaller and smaller bites. Right now it was the White’s Hill Crest, which even had its little nibbles of expansion cracks to the top. Jim had crested and descended out of sight, but the high-speed drop revived me a bit.  He waited down at the western edge of Fairfax, I zoomed by and then eased up so we could spin down the blessedly descending roadways to town.

The commute route was automatic, but it was begining to get dark.  Our lights went on and hopefully our awareness was heightened. I certainly was aware I needed to use a restroom, and we made another stop in San Anselmo, at a convenience store that was kind enough to share its facilities with customers. I bought a “Double-shot” coffee drink and some water, then we headed off again. Ross.  Kentfield. Larkspur.  We saw Alex in a bus stop and hollered to see if he needed help - he hooted “NO!” and we kept rolling. By the time we hit the tree-covered climb of Camino Alto, it was pretty danged dark. And for some reason, my specific gravity had increased noticeably over the past few miles. Jim edged upward again on the climb disappearing around one of the turns, and I became an interstellar traveller in my own minor bubble of light for a while.

Momentum was beginning to help by this point.  I wasn’t catching Jim, but the waypoints ticked past quickly - the turn where Steve used to live, the double wiggle, the bump before the right turn, the long sweeping left, the trailhead on the right and finally - summit.  As gravity began its subtle tug, I began to question my lighting choice - basically a “be seen” 1w bar light and my Black Diamond spot headlamp.  There are no overhead lights on this stretch. Luckily, this side of the hill is more open, and as repeated aloud, I knew the road very well. No doubt Jim had turned on his homemade cyclotron illuminator scorchers and blazed down the curves without touching his brakes.

He was waiting for me down at the traffic light, and we made the little left-turn/right-turn jog to pick up the bike path once again. On the path, we started talking about lighting, stopped for our last hydro-refill and pressed on again.  He was talking about the programming of the microprocessor, the lenses he’d chosen and what changes he’d make if he did it again. It was a lot like the easy chatting we have on regular rides, and I was so grateful for the distraction from my own whimpering thoughts, I can’t begin to express it.  I think it may have helped him a bit too.  Concentrating on anything other than our tired condition was a good thing.

At the end of the Path, we set up for a left turn onto Bridgeway.  Unless you get really lucky with light timing, you normally have to hope that some vehicle is leaving the marina so that they can trip the light.  As it turned out, one had just rolled up and we wheeled around quickly behind it. As we waited, another well-appointed bike emerged from the darkness, revealing John-from-Cool once again. We hailed one another and he said that he’d gotten a bit off-course towards the end.  I couldn’t quite remember where we saw him last - possibly the stretch before the painted bridge on Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Rd., or he may have slipped past us when we stopped in Rancho Nicasio.  Regardless, we were on final approach by this point, and JimG and I announced the few tricky bits on the way back to the Bridge. We also walked him through the someone quirky access procedure at the electric gates.  By the time we’d hit the last climb up, we started to stretch out a bit, and he encouraged us to go ahead.

Jim found some climbing legs that I pretty much lacked at this point, and his tail light kept getting further up the road. We edged over to the east side of the bridge again, now looking into the headlights of the traffic heading north. He was kind enough to wait at the top of the hill - pretty much the land of no visibility as my lights were overwhelmed from the glare. His double-barreled plant-wilter visual-cortex-scorcher picked out the path and we rolled up to the gate at the north end of the bridge.  A button push and a buzz later, we were inside the fencing, suddenly racing as we pedaled hard to be directly above a fully-lighted cruise ship which was steaming out the Golden Gate. It was a good excuse as any. Didn’t quite make it, but it brought us to the rise of center span, so our fickle mistress of gravity helped us the final stretch home.

Jim G on the Blessed Bridge

The last 30 yards follows the curve of an old roadway, and there’s something perfect about  the way that the finishing scene gets revealed - we were back at the start, now the Final Control.  Our time was 6:37 pm, for an 11:37 day. Rob checked us in and had us sign our cards, and that ended the official part of our ride.

A number of folks had hung out - Mike B. snapped a few photos, the flash etching its way deeply into my retinas. Another person kindly picked up the Rainlegs which had fallen off my bike.  I think I said “thank you”, but if not, it was just the loopiness of suddenly not having to be anywhere.  Jo, who I met back at the Marin Century was assisting at the Final Control.  And, Carlos had been patiently waiting for nearly an hour and a half to see us cross the finish. An act well above the call of duty. Although it was not raining, it was certainly not the warmest evening, as the winds still pushed through this semi-sheltered area.


Jim and I hung out for a while, and not too long after, Alex and John rolled down the last bits. Alex was openly psyched to be finishing his first brevet, while John had that solid smile of knowing he’d done it. (I realized only after his post to SFRandon that it was his first official brevet - he definitely had that long-ride confidence about him…) Some more riders rolled in, and then I realized that Patrick had pulled up on his way home from work.  He’d come along on some mixed-terrain rides, and had made a PBP attempt this last year, before having to pull out due to arm trouble - in his words, he just couldn’t hold the handlebars any longer.

I passed on the pizza dinner - really ready to head back home and steam myself back to existence in a hot shower. Patrick was heading across the bridge again as well, so I said my goodbyes and we rolled northward together. He entertained with some PBP stories as we headed over the span, and then we headed our separate ways once past the gate.  I rolled my bike down the steep undercrossing stairs and plodded my way back up the other side. There my car sat in the dark lot and I fumbled for my key, wrestled the bike into the back, found my warm, dry knit cap and sunk down into the seat.  Then I realized that a police car had been sitting back in the shadows, kinda watching things. As happy as I was to be sitting, it was time to go.

SF Randonneurs Results Page

My full photoset on Flickr - with links to other photo sets

SFRandon Group Photo pool on Flickr

JimG’s Writeup
Carlos’ Writeup

My Brevet Writeups

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Sad Post
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 3:48 pm

Thank you, Sheldon!

Sheldon Brown: 1944 - 2008

Thank you Sheldon.  It was great with you along on the ride!

Smooth roads and tailwinds always!

1 comment
2008 SFR 200K Ride Report
Filed under: rides, photos, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:33 am

Part 1 - Out to the Lighthouse

By midweek before the ride, I was pretty much resigned to staying soaked all day long.

It was sort of freeing, really.  Felt like I was under-miled a bit, as mentioned earlier, and the forecast continued to become more robust through the weekend, until the chance of rain stood firmly at 90% for Saturday.  Thursday evening, a very wet storm parked itself over the greater SF Bay Area, and started dropping rain in serious quantities. By Friday evening, the local alerts started coming over the cable - flood warnings through Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax - which are three of the Marin County towns in the initial/final bits of the SF Randonneurs 200K brevet route.

Still, I didn’t think about not showing up.  My wife (wisely) kept giving me polite, “are you sure?” looks during those worst moments of the storms and forecasts. But, one of the nice things about county-specific local knowledge is that you know those floods are tidally influenced - the Corte Madera Creek gets a lot of water from the SF Bay at high tide, and the SF Bay in turn gets a lot of water from the rivers when it rains. At high tide, the water simply has nowhere to go and spreads wide through the floodplain until the moon’s influence is lessened, and everything gets pushed out to sea through the Golden Gate.

On the other hand, the low spots in our backyard had 6-8″ of water in ‘em, the rain pounded our roof, and the sump pump kept hammering away. It was gonna be wet. As I said, I was resigned to it.

So, I’d become water-imperviousness-obsessed all week - treating everything that had a seam with silicone spray, getting a waterproof cover for the Country Bag, rigging a heavy plastic bag on the Brooks, pulling some obvious bolts and regreasing ‘em,  double-checking the fender and flap coverage, cleaning the drivetrain and breaking out the Phil’s Tenacious Oil.  I bought a bunch of those chemical handwarmers and packed a baggie with an extra pair of socks and shorts - figuring that the mental uplift of dry toes and bits would be helpful at some point. I was convinced it would be a long, wet day.

Woke up with a jolt about three in the morning.  It took a while to figure out what had triggered my awakening. The dogs were asleep and nothing seemed out of order.  Then I realized - it was dead quiet.  No rain. I bumped to the back door and confirmed. Not even a light mist.  This was most unexpected.

Two hours later, when the alarm went off, the same conditions prevailed.  Going outside with the dog made it clear that it had actually even warmed a bit - the air was clearly not as chilly as it had been for the past couple weeks. These were interesting developments. The only immediate change was to ditch the extra shorts and hat.

I made some sandwiches, fed the dog and hit the road. Still no rain.

Exiting the car at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, the clouds were high and and pavement had even dried a bit here and there. I decided to forgo the newly-siliconed booties, leaving them in the car, but kept the Rainlegs rolled up around my waist. Locked up and rolled off to the start, headlight stabbing into the dark.

It’s a beautiful time to be up and about.  There is something about rolling silently along while most of the world is asleep that brings a happy tingle to my being. The lists and tasks of the week fell away as gravity pulled me down the subtle arc of the bridge toward the start of the San Francsico Randonneurs 2008 200K brevet. It was time to ride.

A few minutes before the startIn contrast to last year, it was a sparse group gathered near the statue. The 2007 ride, being a PBP year, had drawn a sellout crowd.  This year, I actually was concerned that the ride was starting somewhere else.  I rolled down to an adjacent parking lot, signed in and obtained my brevet card - very carefully stowed it - and returned to the gathering spot. Other riders rolled up and a group seemed to coalesce.  Still, it was not going to be huge bunch. According to the SFRandonneurs site, 89 riders had signed up, but it didn’t look like more than 40 had shown. (Turned out to be 32). 

On brevets, the first thing you learn is that the clock never stops, and as the second hand brought us closer to depart time,  new RBA Rob Hawks welcomed us, gave us some rudimentary warnings about the potential for flooding and similar road hazards, and sent us off onto the ride precisely at 7 am.

Sunrise over the cityA couple riders moved away quickly, but most stayed grouped together as we rolled north on the bridge.  The morning’s sunrise had just started to light up the sky, and it burned with an unfamiliar orange. Even in these first few miles, it felt as if we’d picked up a mild tailwind. Dropping down into Sausailto, there was visible chop on the water - not the thing you really want to see that early in the morning. Though so far, the weather service had been pessimistic on the precipitation, they’d called the wind direction completely right. South-Southeast.

We stayed mostly bunched, hit the traffic lights right and kept on rolling.  I kept opening my jacket, but felt warmer - almost overdressed - with the wind at our backs. As we turned into the Camino Alto climb, I took off my gloves, which were already starting to soak through with sweat. I picked an easy pace on the climb, making sure that I stayed comfortable, that all the joints were articulating correctly and that the bike hadn’t developed any new noises. Carlos and JimG eased away on that first climb, with a few folks connected to them. I could hear other riders behind me.  Things felt right.

One of the points that Rob had mentioned before the start was that the first 2/3rds of the route sheet covered the first 20 miles. He asked if there were any riders familiar with that section - what we call variously “the commute route” or “the southern marin maze” - many of us raised our hand. He then instructed anyone who didn’t know that portion to pay attention to those of us who had raised our arms. Whatever else this brevet tested, it wasn’t my ability to follow a printed cue list.  And in my best John Lovitz voice, it made me “popular, yeah!..that’s it!”

I soon realized that I’d collected my own little flock of riders. Met and chatted a little with John-from-Cool (that’s a geographic reference), who had openly admired my tweed mudflaps. We all stayed together as the route wanderered through a few less travelled zones of southern marin. Rolling through downtown San Anselmo, I kept my eye out for flotsam which might have been left behind by the previous night’s flooding. Little to speak of, and the news camera crew trucks hovered dejectedly around the old downtown bridge, trying to get an interesting angle of muddy water going downstream for their producers.  Most of the businesses had plastic sheeting and sandbags set up against the possibility of seriously rising waters.  Yet, it appeared that the town had avoided a replay of 1982 and 2005/6.

We all continued onward, wiggling through the sidestreets and turns that make up that confusing part of the route. Before long, we’d reached Fairfax and the left turn onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd., leaving stop signs and course aberrations behind for a while. Most of the route had been reasonably sheltered, but you could feel the subtle assist of a tailwind pushing us north-northwest.

Mike B caught on pixelsA whoop and a hoot caught my attention as we left downtown Fairfax. Up ahead on the right stood Mike Biswell, who had volunteered to cover the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Control. He snapped photos of us as we rolled past. It was odd and reassuring to see someone we knew out on the course. After the fact, I fretted briefly that it had been a secret control, but discounted that thought pretty quickly as we continued the mild incline that took us out of town and up to White’s Hill.

White’s Hill is a significant climb. I think it has a lot to do with where it is on the course, and the nature of the location.  It is the climb which leaves the towns of southern marin county behind, so it’s always a landmark for me. It’s really the first time on the course that you have to knuckle down to go up.  I’m sure that on some routes, its pitch and length might barely be noted, but for me, it’s a good test of how I’m feeling on a given day. The previous week, it had fought back pretty well, and I watched other folks ride away without all that much trouble. 

Riders on White's Hill near the crestToday it went pretty well.  I’d actually ridden very little the week prior to the brevet, and felt downright strong as the road went up. Of course, that can be a little misleading and self-congratulatory.  There are countless times when I felt great and powerful on a climb, only to have a small group overtake me as they easily chatted and spun past - me leaking exhaust like a homebuilt steam engine at a distressingly low cadence.   On this morning, the breathing of those around me sounded about the same as my own, and we crested out and head down into the San Geronimo valley.

The breeze of the descent dries things fairly quickly, and my temperature drops from mildly overheating to just about right.  The tailwind nudges us along and I find myself in front of the bunch again.  It is mildly distressing, as it’s oftentimes easier to just follow a wheel than set the pace. But, I take the opportunity to smooth myself out and follow some of Jan Heine’s advice - rolling on the fog stripe.

On most of the roads in these parts, there’s a solid painted line which defines the right hand side of the lane.  By positioning your tires on this, the ride is  noticeably smoother than regular asphalt.  It generally helps to keep your tires out of roadside debris as well. Since the roads were a bit wet still, tire adhesion was not optimum, but with the 33 1/3 mm meat of the Jack Brown tires, it was well within the comfort zone. Pedaling along, a phrase surfaced in my brain, “What small efficiency can you find?”  It seemed like a helpful mantra, so I tried to put it into action - hands on the top, fingers relaxed, shoulders calm, sure the legs were spinning, but no reason everything else couldn’t be placid. By the end of the open/straight part of the valley, things seemed pretty good.  It was a helpful thought to hold onto.

The turns began at the Lagunitas end of the valley, and the road was downright wet here under the tree cover. I’d figured on skipping the unpaved portion of the cross-marin path, but still wanted to use the section at Samuel P. Taylor State Park to bypass the narrow, bumpy section of the roadway.  We passed the Inkwells Bridge cutoff and continued on the road.  It was my plan to let someone else set the pace and then politely drop off the back at the old rail overpass. However, the gang seemed pretty content with the pace I was setting, and by the time we were easing down toward that point, they were politely behind me. I tried to sit up in an obvious way and pull to the right, then said, “I’m going to take the path here..” and peeled right to the trail entrance.

With the added perspective of a few days after the ride, this may not have been the smartest move of the day.  We had whittled down to a group of four, and were moving along pretty well together. One rider seemed to pause more than the others, and I could see her contemplating following my move, before standing on the pedals and hightailing it after the other two. I felt a little bad about wrecking the momentum of the gang.

There was still a half mile connector to the paved part, and I immediately encountered a tree which had fallen across the roadway.  Luckily, the top lay just off the road on the right, and a walkable path was easily found. I remounted, slid a little here and there on my way through the saturated muddy ground. Soon I was on the paved bits, paralleling the “historic” section of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Before I knew it, the path ended and the climb up from Tocaloma appeared.  This incline jumps over the low point of the Bolinas Ridge to Olema. Up in the distance, I could see some riders’ taillights and the bright orange swatch of what I took to be Carlos’ jacket. About midway up, a non-brevet rider passed with some degree of authority. The climb began warming me up, so I pulled my jacket up to keep comfy, soon cresting out and dropping down the other side.

As I rolled towards the Pt. Reyes Seashore visitor center in Bear Valley, I slipped my phone out of my pocket to check the time. The readout said 9:08, and I tried to snap a “timestamp” photo to upload to Flickr. However, the camera button didn’t seem to work, so I flipped it shut without wasting too much time. The previous year, I’d been here at about 9:15, so everything felt right on schedule.

Car, Carlos and JimGThat feeling slipped quickly away about a mile later. As the roadway curved slightly, it was obvious that autos had been stopped, with warning flares deposited on the road shoulder. Accidents on a brevet route are always a bit nervous-making, and I rolled around the stopped cars to the head of the line. Luckily, it turned out to be a single car which had slid off the roadway, with no physical injury to driver. A tow truck was winching the car out of the ditch, and had a cable stretched across the both lanes. Other riders had been held up here, and people were using the time to rehydrate, snap photos and balance loads. We chatted with the ranger who was wrangling traffic.  He seemed interested in our ride and pointed out that the section of Sir Francis Drake between Hwy 1 and the Inverness Park curve (locally known as White House Pool) was closed due to flooding. 

This was not great news.  That was part of the route on the way back from the Lighthouse. If conditions didn’t get better, we’d have to backtrack a couple miles on Bear Valley Road before heading north again on Hwy 1 to Pt. Reyes Station. But, it wasn’t worth worrying about too much - that part was a couple hours away, and conditions could certainly change.

Riding once moreThe muddy and bent up “sports car” got dragged unceremoniously over the shoulder, onto the road and down the opposing lane. At that point, the ranger let us through ahead of the waiting cars, and we all pressed forward, anxious to be moving once again.  As with all things randonneuring, the clock didn’t stop while we had been waiting.

As we hit the end of Bear Valley Road, I took a quick glance down the SFD section.  Under water indeed, right at the bridge. “Could be tidal,” I thought, before putting it out of my mind.  There were other issues to deal with first. Like donuts.

JimG and Andrew at Inverness ParkInverness Park is a wide spot on road, with chubby little pygmy goats on one side, a market/deli and bakery on the other. While I like the diminutive bovids, food and water weighed more heavily on my mind. A number of us pulled off the course and attacked the market like, well, randonneurs. I made sure that my bottles were topped off, and heard a maple old fashioned donut call to me from the case. Others made more aggressive choices, and Carlos negotiated a sandwich to be made in time for his return leg. We moved outside and refilled bottles, ate and psyched ourselves up for the next bits.  I’d taken the time to peel off my jacket during the road delay and as my temperature cooled, felt the need to hit the road sooner than most. I also knew we’d eventually be pushing back into the winds and figured that any time benefit would be helpful. John-from -Cool rolled out at about the same time, and we chatted a bit more as we skirted the water of Tomales Bay.

The Inverness climb lay ahead, and I found that with a geared/coastable setup, it was indeed a bit easier than last year.  Near the top, I heard breathing, and Carlos caught me - within 50 meters of where he passed me last year. Since I was still on my bike this time, I snuck back up to him on the downhill side and we pedaled west together, with John joining us at the low point at Drakes Bay.  The little risers began and my legs felt chunky for a few hundred yards.  John and Carlos edged away and I could see a strong crosswind begin catching Carlos’ hair.  There are few trees in this section, and as such little to use to judge wind speed. But, climbing up to the first mesa area, the buffeting from the south felt pretty strong.

Carlos leads into the windsAbout a 1/2 mile later, the road turned south toward the Lighthouse, and the crosswind became a quartering headwind. It wasn’t actually that big a problem - as road started climbing, it felt more of annoyance than an effect. Still, I caught up with Carlos, John faded back a bit and then Carlos fell slightly behind. 

This should probably have been a key bit of evidence.  I rarely leave Carlos behind.  Now, he wasn’t dropped or anything, and we slinkied and traded positions a few times, but the winds seemed to catch him a bit more than me. It was probably a combination of my gravitational enhancement and low road bars.  I spent most of the time deep in the drops, positoned like I was in a criterium. Carlos was riding his Miyata, with flat bars and barends. While it was not easy, the miles went pretty well - my plan for the day had been to push when I felt good and hope that averaged out with the frayed bits when under-mileage reared its ugly head later in the day.

The winds picked up and became more challenging as we got closer to the Lighthouse. I watched the heavy wooden sign at “E” Ranch pushed towards horizontal, had to remind myself not to over-correct against it more than a few times, and got jumped around the road by it pretty well a couple more times. We had stopped commenting on the winds when we caught up to one another, and began gritting our way through it in a purposeful way. A couple other riders began showing on their return leg - it was heartening in the sense that there weren’t a lot of them.  Luckily, it didn’t dawn on me the reduction in rider numbers which had taken place this year. On the last section following the steep pitch to the Lighthouse, there were serious crosswinds, and it felt like someone was shaking my front wheel while sand blasted my exposed skin. We passed at least one rider who was walking this section.  It was pretty hairy.

Mike B snaps a shot o' meCarlos and I rolled into the parking lot at 11 am.  I had the distinct impression of it being difficult to lie my bike down against the winds. Another rider later reported that the rangers had recorded steady winds at 35-40 mph.  Mike Biswell snapped photos and exuded happy confidence. Bruce Berg sat in the truck of the car, signing brevet cards and confirming riders’ signatures. I dug my card out and we swapped autographs.  Then I carefully returned it to my bag.  I’d had a dream earlier in the week about getting all the way back to Inverness and realizing I’d either lost my card or not had  it signed.  Fun as it had been, I didn’t want to have to backtrack today. 

We didn’t want to dally in the blustery cold winds - water in/water out and we hit the road again.  I had chugged a protein drink from my bag, happy to shift the dead weight into calories. Right then, it just made sense to get off that point as quickly as possible.

continued…Pt. 2 is here

Tour de Ed - Chico, CA - Feb 23
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:02 pm

This came off the mojo wire from Gino -

 Hi NorCal/southern OR Riv folks,
 My friend, and the leader of Chico Velo for nearly as long as I’ve
 been alive, Ed McLaughlin sustained a severe spinal cord injury a
 little over a month ago during a regular group ride. He currently has
 no use of his legs, and a little use of one arm. If you’ve ever heard
 of the Chico Wildflower, or ridden it, Ed is the guts and brains
 behind that spectacular ride.
 The cycling community here in Chico is putting on a ride, called Tour
 De Ed (February 23rd), to raise money to help with his recovery.  So,
 if you’re in the area, you might consider coming to Chico for this
 The Tour De Ed is a laid back and flat 20 miler, and follows the same
 course as the old Almond Blossom ride.  It takes you on an easy 20 or
 so mile ride on quiet country roads through the almond orchards when
 the trees are in full bloom (spring comes early in Chico!).
 The farmer’s market is rocking the same morning, and the ride starts
 late (10am) so you can chow down at one of the local eateries before
 the ride. 

Here are the links:

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