Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tour d’Organics 2005

Tour d’Organics 2005, Sonoma County – 108 miles Century Ride Review

Put some new handlebar tape on the Klein. Deda Silver Faux Carbon. Not as cushy as Cinelli cork wrap but pretty nice.

A little background on this ride: this is the first year it’s been held and it’s put on by Organic Athlete, whose name pretty much describes its mission but you can check out their website for more info. Adam is on the Organic Athlete bike racing team but there are also Organic Athletes in many other sports. All the rest stops were going to be at organic farms and have fresh-picked organic produce, and the post-ride meal was going to be a vegan delight. There’s a special place in my heart for Sonoma County and this ride sounded like a fun and different event so I talked Rick into doing it with me, and Nicole decided she’d like to do the 35 mile route as well. Keeping with the theme of the day, we car pooled in their Prius hybrid car.

I’d heard some rumors that Organic Athlete had been having some organizational problems so I resolved to be self-sufficient and packed extra PowerBars and HammerGel than I normally would. Check in at the Sebastopol Community Center was very smooth, but there weren’t that many riders – I can’t remember ever being able to park so close to the check in desk. There was a lot of food still in boxes but it was all for the rest stops; there wasn’t anything to eat before we got started.

The route sheet didn’t have a map, just a list of streets and turns and mileage – that always bugs me because if you miss a turn it’s very hard to figure out where you are. There was also a hand-written sign that pointed out an error on the route sheet and how to correct it.

We rolled at 7:20. Missed our first turn at 7:22… a half dozen riders all grouped up including some locals, we studied the route sheet and figured out where we were supposed to be… our odometer mileage was already off the official count by 1 mile. I usually don’t pay much attention to the route sheets, and count on the painted road arrows to be correct and observable; I started to lose this confidence already today. Anyway pretty soon we were on a multi-use trail out of town. After we hit the open road, Rick and I left Nicole and rode a fast early tempo.

It was cool and really foggy, almost everyone had arm warmers on, and a few people had tights and light jackets. The condensation was dripping off my helmet and onto my sunglasses. Quickly we arrived at the first rest stop down a long gravel driveway.

Rest Stop #1 – 13 miles (14 ridden).
This first rest stop had several different melons and grapes and corn on the cob (raw and cold). The farmer husked the corn while we munched and pulled out an occasional worm to prove he didn’t use any pesticides. Would have been nice to get a muffin or a bagel. I ate half my first PowerBar and then we left.

The next leg had a few rolling hills and some gentle slopes. It was still chilly but fun to push ourselves a bit. We tooled along, following the painted arrows in the road and passed some other riders feeling great and full of enthusiasm. Suddenly we noticed people stopped on the road, and some turning around and riding the other way. Rick studied the route sheet and couldn’t figure out where we were but decided we weren’t on course. We turned around too but other people were telling us we shouldn’t be… it was very confusing. While we were re-tracing our path, we came upon Nicole who had also been led astray and just turned around. We rode with her until we found the source of the problem – a painted arrow that should have pointed straight across the road, instead pointed for a left turn. A couple on a tandem then covered up the erroneous direction with some rags they found, hoping to spare following riders from our long detour. Rick and I now had 9 miles more than our route sheet directions so that made things all the more confusing.

Leaving Nicole again, we cooked along a rural highway with a wide shoulder. At the bottom of a gradual descent there was a red light with a couple cars and a lot of cyclists waiting to cross the intersection. I anticipated having to weave my way through the pack of riders up the hill on the other side, and not having much room to pass, but just as the light turned green, a pick-up towing a tall trailer full of junk passed us slowly and I slipped into the slipstream. As the truck accelerated, I stayed with him and passed the whole peloton at 30mph up hill! That was cool. When Rick caught up to me finally we’d both burned up too many matches for this early in the ride.

Rest Stop #2 – 20 miles (29 ridden). This was at a non-descript organic farm down some long flat country roads. More melons and strawberries. Wish I had an organic bagel and some cream cheese.

The third leg of our century brought us back to the Sebastopol area and onto the trails again. Several miles of trails actually, even the third rest stop was on the trail behind some guy’s farm.

Rest Stop #3 – 38 miles (47 ridden). This was basically a fruit stand. Lots of berries, more grapes and melons. My stomach was gnawing at me now. I did see an interesting site here though – a local rider, tall guy maybe 60 years old, rode up to see what was going on… the funny thing was he had one of those old Giro helmets (the ones that look like they’re made out of rubber) and the buckles of the straps that are supposed to be below your ear were right over the top of his ear. It looked dumb and uncomfortable, but I decided not to say anything to him.

Leg #4 would bring us to the lunch stop. I started sucking my HammerGel and I had already eaten both my PowerBars. We headed north to Geyserville and we finally had some fun roads to ride. We crossed some neat old bridges and had a couple good descents, but the road surfaces were pretty crappy – chip seal with pot holes and wrinkles. By the time we got to lunch I was feeling pretty tired and beat-up.

Rest Stop #4 – 61 miles (70 ridden). Finally some substantial food, but not substantial quantities. There were some tasty raw veggie wrap things but there was also a wrap Nazi and a warning sign to take ONLY ONE. I also got the last half banana that they had (how do you run out of bananas on a century with hundreds of riders yet to come?) They had some interesting looking Asian pears, but they had the consistency of a raw potato – I took a bite and spit it out. I ate some more watermelon, Rick sneaked a second wrap. Jeez, I wished they had something salty and some kind of bread. I downed some more HammerGel and we sat on the grass for a long time. It was hot now and I took off my arm warmers finally. Rick got a call from Nicole who had just finished her ride and she said they didn’t have any lunch ready for her – she was the first short loop rider to finish and they weren’t ready.

16 miles to the next rest stop. We passed a small general store and there were quite a few riders stopped there for Twinkies and Coke. I thought about it but Rick slapped me to my senses. The WinnerPhoto guy took this photo of us (they’re too smart to allow me to cut and paste the thumbnail here.
uh-oh, first twinge of a cramp in my right hamstring. Usually that happens when I’m not getting enough salt and spinning too low of a gear. I put it in the big ring and dropped my cadence to about 50. It was now a game to climb the gradual hills in a huge gear out of the saddle and keeping the cramps away. DZZZZTT – a cattle prod to the hamstrings again, I had to be careful. Then there was a short but steep hill right before the next rest stop. Rick had soloed his way over already and there was no chance I could tackle this bugger in a big gear, so I downshifted and twiddled. DZZZTT. DZZZZZZZZT. Electroshock therapy to both hams at the same time and they both seized up BAD. I reactively unclicked both cleats just as I crested the top and my legs curled up. CRAP, now I was coasting at 2mph with no propulsion possible and I couldn’t get a foot down. I was going to fall on my face and look ridiculous in front of a whole swarm of riders I’d just passed – NO WAY! I forced myself to straighten out both legs (whoa, ouch!) and braked hard to come off the saddle and straddle the top tube. It was painful and not pretty but it was a lot better than falling over. After a couple minutes I was able to continue on to the next stop.

Rest Stop #5 – 86 miles (95 ridden). OK, me and Rick were both wasted now. He has foot pain and I have neck pain and leg cramps and we’re eating more freaking fruit. I go to mix up some Cytomax and THERE’S NO WATER. Are you kidding me? The rest stop is in this farmer’s back yard and there’s a nice fountain and some chairs. Finally someone discovers a garden hose and I have a taste – OK, that’s drinkable. Rick’s also getting intestinal problems from eating all this raw food (he’s carnivorous generally) and spends a curiously long time in the portapotty. We decide to finish off this ride ASAP.

The last leg of the route was again mostly on trails. More views of dairy farms, vineyards, and sewage treatment plants. At least it was shady. Suddenly it was all over and we were back at the Community Center. Nicole had already eaten but Rick and I were famished. There was some tasty stuff like Thai salad, mashed potatoes with mushrooms, curried garbanzo beans (I got the last scoop, they ran out of these too) and some disgusting apple crisp that wasn’t very crispy. No soft drinks, no breads, and nothing salty or crunchy. The Nazis were here too, making sure no one got any seconds. We decided what we needed was a bag of chips and a Coke so we packed up and left, but not before leaving some useful criticisms on the comment cards they provided. On the way out we heard quite a few other riders talking about what restaurant they were going to for some more food. We wound up at El Torito and made a lot of jokes about salt and carbs. Rick said this ride was harder than the Seattle to Portland in one day ride that he did last month.

The guys at wouldn't let me copy a thumbnail so here's the link with my photo: MeAndRick

Tour d’Organics, 108 miles
Ride Time: 6 hrs
Total Time: 8 hrs

Scorecard (10 = perfect):
Course: 5
Difficulty: 4
Organization: 3
Food: 2

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