Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Diablo Junction 16 miles

Warm and breezy this afternoon. I missed my ride last Saturday so I wasn’t sure if I could maintain my streak of good showings. A good group from work was coming so I waited at the Gate for them. No one was there yet though when the Diablo Cyclist peloton rolled by so I started up.

Cadex guy was there, and the Giant guy, a rider named Jack, and an MTB rider with a Trek Y-Foil going curiously fast, and one regular guy I hadn’t seen in a while but who does the Death Ride and Climb to Kaiser. Cadex guy had some borrowed HED carbon wheels on and he started to have shifting problems so he fell back and Climb to Kaiser guy dropped back to help him. That left Jack, Giant guy, Y-foil guy and me. Unlike the previous couple of Wednesdays, things splintered up pretty quickly tonight. We were all pretty close to each other but gaps of 50 to 100 meters opened up and started to grow by the Upper Washout; we were all single and there were no little gruppettos but we were all riding pretty much the same pace. Kaiser guy soon caught back up and came by all of us, taking his position in first place. Nineteen minutes flat at three miles to go… excellent: sub 40 for sure.

The last three miles didn’t see any shakeup in the order. The gaps got a little bigger, I got well clear of the Y-foil guy, finally. We passed a couple guys who started while I was waiting at the Gate. I had some encouraging split times and rolled across the line at 38m05s. That’s an excellent time but I’ve got this hunch I could knock a couple minutes off if I work at it. A sub 35 would be a real diamond in my palmares.

Here’s a list of my best Junction rides of all time:

1 37m05s May 2004
2 38m05s June 2004
3 38m30s June 2004
4 38m32s August 2001
5 38m52s April 2003

Six hundred times up North Gate Road in the last thirteen years and my best three rides ever have been in the last two months. Exciting!

The rest of the Diablo Cyclists rolled in gradually including Brian on his new single-speed Quickbeam. Then the rest of my group from work including JB on the Atlantis, Jeff, Robin on some borrowed ‘70’s vintage 10-speed; “it’s way faster than my mountain bike!”, Nicole (who’s trying to stay out of her granny gear), and finally Amanda on her MTB who timed herself with the clock on her cell phone – 69 minutes, probably a PB.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Diablo Juniper 22 miles

It looked like it was going to be windy today but it wasn’t bad at all on the Mountain. I have sunburned shoulders and back from spending Father’s Day at the beach and my bib straps were stinging my skin – not pleasant at all.

JB and I, Tiffany, Nicole, Amanda, Peter, and Lois all started together just a little bit early while a big group of Diablo Cyclists were mustering up at the church. Jeff was coming too but he was a little late and missed the early social part of the ride.

About a mile up the road Mark and another guy flew by us like a couple of Lear Jets taking off – I can’t even imagine what it must be to ride like that. Then a few minutes later the lead group of Diablo Cyclists caught up with us so JB, Peter, and I joined up with them and we left the women to ride together at their own pace. By the time we got to the top of the Bump we were down to a gruppetto of seven and then Peter rode away from all of us, proving that he is on another level when it comes to climbing. That left me and the Cadex guy (three weeks in a row now!), a guy named Dave on a classic Paramount with downtube shifters, a Rivendell guy in a Euskaltel jersey, JB, and one other dude. The Cadex guy was riding hard and we soon shed JB and the Euskaltel jersey, then Dave fell back, then I lost contact with Cadex guy and the other dude but kept them in sight. I sensed that Cadex guy was overextending himself just a hair.

With about two miles to go Dave caught up to me and said that if we worked together we could probably catch the Cadex guy - we seemed to be at about the same level of suffering at this point so it sounded like a good idea. With about a mile to go we had Cadex guy and other dude within reach, and they had caught up to a woman rider that both of them seemed to know. Dave looked at me and asked, “You ready?” and I said, “You bet” so we punched it up and caught them with about 1,000 meters to the line. Suddenly another rider with Oakland Yellowjackets shorts came out of nowhere and judging from his speed he could easily have shown us his heels but he apparently knew the other three riders so he joined them and we were a group of six with 800 meters to go. We were all watching each other and then as if this wasn’t exciting enough JB wheels up and passes us all 300 meters from the line, saying something silly like “woo-hoo”.

For a moment I thought about letting him go and I didn’t immediately respond. I could have grabbed his wheel and hung on and out sprinted him at the line. But something deep inside me… some hitherto untapped source of raw power came fomenting to the surface and I rocketed out of the bunch well clear of everyone. It was not a conscious choice, it was instinctive and reactive and it worked… except Yellow Jacket launched his counter attack immediately and opened up a decisive gap in front of me. I didn’t care though, my goal was to beat JB in a long sprint and also to finish ahead of Cadex guy for the first time and I was doing it. Fifty meters from the line I knew I had them. Twenty meters from the line, the Yellow Jacket inexplicably sat up; he must have thought I was no threat but my momentum carried me up even to him just in time for a perfectly executed bike throw and I nipped him with panache.

Then I unclipped at the edge of the parking lot and tried to get some blood back into my head and some air back into my lungs – took more than a minute to regain my senses. That was the most glorious sprint I have ever done. Elapsed time to Junction: 38m52s.

Over the next few minutes the rest of the riders rolled in and there were at least twenty at the Ranger Station. I went back down to sweep up Nicole and Tiffany. Later Jeff, Nicole, Tiffany, and I went up Summit Road to Juniper where Nicole and I turned around. Tiffany wanted to Summit so Jeff went with her.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Diablo Summit 34 miles

When I got to the Gate at 8, I saw a rock on the post – the signal that JB had already started up. I figured he was just getting some extra warm-up climbing in and Rick and Nicole weren’t there yet so I went up also. I turned around after 5 minutes though when I hadn’t seen him and when I got back, there he was – turned out he hadn’t taken the rock down from last week (we have to get a new system). And he had his new, fully functional Atlantis bike so we talked about that for a while until the Explorer made its appearance at 8:15.

And we all finally started up about 8:30. We started slowly to keep Nicole involved, and we talked about JB’s new bike and about Adam’s wedding last night. And then things ramped up a notch. At the Bump they ramped up another notch. Quite a few riders on the Mountain today – lots of folks who looked like Death Riders, Team in Training groups, clubs, weekend warriors, has-beens, wanna-bes, and triathletes.

Around 2 miles to go, Rick and I gradually rode away from JB (whose legs still aren’t back to pre-snakecrash form). Rick pulled for quite a while and I stayed on his wheel but it was a lot of work. Then I led for a while and just a little bit faster to see if Rick had been holding back but he held on too. Then around Big Shady Oak there was this Clydesdale taking the middle of the lane around a right-hand switchback. Rick went around him inside to the right and I went outside to the left and shifted up at the same time. I thought it was too early to make a move and Rick hadn’t shown any weakness but suddenly I had a gap and he wasn’t trying to close it. I kept expecting him to catch up and I didn’t really max out until about a half mile to go when I knew I could stay ahead to the line. Junction time: 42m15s, Rick’s was about 20 seconds slower and JB came in about 2 minutes after that. Rick shook my hand and accepted defeat like a good sportsman.

I insisted that all new bikes must make their maiden voyage a Summit run and JB agreed and Rick was up for it so we started up Summit Road. It was a bit cooler at the higher elevations but still very nice riding weather. At the bottom of the Blue Oak Speedway JB dropped his chain on a downshift to the 24?tooth (yes, his low gear is a 24x28). We must have had a tailwind because we sailed though here and past Juniper, but around Muir picnic area I started to run out of gas and lost contact with my gruppetto. No troubles but my speed dropped a little and I got to the top of the Summit Wall at 82 minutes.

The wind dictated a cautious descent and handling was a bit tricky around some of the turns but it was another great day on Mt. Diablo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Diablo Junction 16 miles

I was expecting it to be really hot this afternoon, maybe even near 100°. It’s been in the 90’s for the last couple days and it was hot all last night so I brought my insulated Polar water bottle with Cytomax and ice, wore my 15 year old sleeveless baggy Nike jersey, and drank lots of water before the ride. It was warm, but not nearly as hot as I thought it was going to be.

Moss (of Moss Landing fame) Nicole, Amanda, Robin, Tiffany, and I all met up at the bottom but when the Diablo Cyclist pack (with JB too) rode by I decided to ride with them. I had to sprint for a couple minutes to catch them but I joined up near the Double Dips and prepared myself for a fast ride. The group started to splinter well before the Bump and I stayed near the front. At this point, one of the regular riders, Ron, drove by in his new convertible and everyone got excited. Ron’s been unemployed for a long time so he must have gotten a new job.

Seven riders became five riders, then just three including me. One of the other two guys was the beefy guy from a few weeks ago; I think his name is Tom, he had a Cadex bike and shaved legs. I think I heard the other guy’s name was Don, he had a double century jersey, shaved legs, and an XT rear derailleur on his GIANT TCR1 with about a 34t cog in his cassette (Death Ride special). They didn’t say anything to me but didn’t seem to mind that I was there either.

I stayed with these two guys past the top of the Bump, which we took a little slower than I usually do, but before the Upper Washout I pulled to the front expecting them to stay with me while I made the pace for a while. They didn’t come though so I rode a bit faster and did my own ride at my own pace. I had some good split times and passed a few other riders (one guy in an older but very nice Klein Quantum II that I’ve seen a lot recently). With one mile to go though, Tom and Don caught back up to me so I tried to stay with them but they slowly pulled away. The double century guy finished about 10 seconds before the beefy guy, and I finished another 10 seconds later with a very good time of 38m30s. Somewhere along the way, my max heart rate reached 182. I’m starting to think my idea of sprinting at the start isn’t so smart because my fastest times recently have been from moderate starts with harder pushes at the end. It was by no means a real competition today, but I definitely earned quite a few Diablo Rating Points with that ride (I just made that up, but I like it).

Most of the rest of the riders rolled in over the next ten minutes or so. JB hung on for a low 40’s time (his Atlantis MIGHT be ready for Saturday), Tiffany did a high 40’s, and Moss just broke 50. When Moss came across the line I said “All right, you got that out of the way for another year!” The Diablo Cyclists went down South Gate Road and JB turned around to go home before Robin, Nicole, and Amanda finished.

Wildlife Encounter A raccoon hoping for a handout at the Junction, and a coyote on the shoulder on the way down.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

North Gate Road, Summit Road, South Gate Road, Danville Blvd

JB, Rick, and me this morning. We started right on time, JB is still on his Trek touring bike with panniers but is feeling much better. As we approached Moss Landing I pulled away from the other two by slowly pedaling a big gear as if just for fun to see how far I could get in my 15-tooth. When I looked back, I had a pretty good gap so I opened it up a little farther to see how much I could get away with before the chase started. By the top of the Bump, I had probably three minutes on them and then I really let it loose, pushing hard all the way to the Junction. I could see Rick gaining time on me for the last couple of miles but as I rounded Chainbuster I was pretty sure I had him and I did finish about one and a half minutes before he did.

JB wanted to go to some Danville bike shops to look for a small part he needed to complete his Atlantis build, but the California Pedaler didn’t open until 10 o’clock so we decided to go part way up the Summit Road before going down South Gate Road. On the way up, we ran into Peter coming down and he turned around to climb with us. At the bottom of the Speed Trap we stopped to turn around but I talked with Peter for a while so JB and Rick were out of sight when I finally started down. So I’m descending alone, thinking they’ll meet me near the bottom of South Gate Road and my mind starts wandering and I suddenly realize I missed the turn and I’m on North Gate Road (!) down by Son of Chainbuster. I quickly turned around and hammered back up to the Junction and straight on through to SGR.

Near Stagecoach this guy descended past me pretty quickly and I decided he was someone I didn’t want to ride near so I let him get pretty far ahead before I increased my speed. By Rock City though he had already slowed down so I had to go around him and he got on my wheel. I slowed down purposefully to let him know I didn’t like that and he came around me again, saying something unintelligible as he did (I don’t know if it was something rude, or just a comment on the weather). Anyway we both came up on a car descending in front of us and the other rider didn’t even pause before he tried to pass the car around some blind switchbacks and the car didn’t slow down either – both the rider and the driver were clueless and dangerous so I put some extra space between us. Finally the rider got around the car and sped further down the road where I saw he was going to pass a white pickup that I thought might be a ranger truck. I thought, “I hope he tries a move like that on a ranger” and sure enough it WAS a ranger and he did get pulled over and got at least a lecture if not a ticket.

So then Rick calls my cell and asks where I am and I give him the story about the wrong turn and tell him I’ll meet him at Danville Bikes. As I got to Diablo Road though, near the country club, there was a traffic stop and an ambulance. I slowly passed the stopped cars, did a little safety check, saw a car cockeyed on a side road, and the paramedics loading someone into the ambulance. I cautiously proceeded through the gap to the spot where another police officer had stopped traffic from the other direction and he motioned me over and gave me a lecture about how bikes are required to stop at police traffic scenes like that when another rider came through the same way I just had so we both got the same harangue. He told us that the accident was a car vs. a bike and warned us to be careful and then let us go. The other rider told me that he didn’t see the bike but did see a water bottle wedged in the car’s bumper so it must have been a pretty hard hit. I didn’t think the officer really understood effective and safe cycling but as the other rider and I were proceeding toward town a couple of police cars came up right toward us in OUR LANE! They were passing all the stopped cars and didn’t have their sirens on and weren’t making that blast warning sound and if they had been going any faster we could have had a head-on with one of them because it’s wooded and curvy in that area and you can’t see too far ahead. Fortunately it wasn’t even a close call, but it could have been. I haven’t yet seen any report of the accident in the paper or the web, but I’ll keep checking. It appeared as though the car was making a left-hand turn into the country club and hit the cyclist coming down Diablo Road (just as I was doing).

I finally got hooked up with JB and Rick again and we went to three bike shops and none of them had the little rear derailleur pulley bolt that JB needed (although Rick bought some new Carnac shoes on sale at the California Pedaler) so we did some speed work on Danville Blvd back to Walnut Creek where JB turned off to go to Lafayette and Rick and I turned off to Jamba Juice.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Diablo Junction, 20 miles

Interesting group this afternoon. Three of Adam’s racing buddies decided to join us, and so did one of our new interns at work, plus the usual gang minus a few folks, and a big contingent of Diablo Cyclists.

The Diablo Cyclists left just before JB and I did, so we didn’t see much of them until the finish. JB said he can breathe as hard as he wants to now, but still gets some painful ribcage spasms when he pulls on the handlebars or puts too much weight on his hands. He also doesn’t have his #1 bike repaired yet and he’s lost a lot of aerobic capacity since the accident 6 weeks ago, so he rides his Trek 520 touring bike in low gear and stays in the saddle. I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with him but didn’t really feel like a super hard effort so I mashed my big gears at low rpm most of the way. I have no idea if there’s any training benefit to that but it was more interesting than just twiddling along in a low gear, especially since we weren’t going that fast. We did pass a few other riders on the way up, but none of the Diablo Cyclists.

Adam and his friends (Justin, Leif, and Tom) got a late start, passed JB and me around the ranches and kept going. They were starting to break up a bit with Justin really ascending well, Adam trying to hold things together, then Leif (also recovering from an injury, and Tom trying to hang on. Leif got a new Specialized bike with a sloping top tube – a Roubaix I think, but not the carbon fiber one. As JB and I got near the Junction he started to pick up his speed – still no trouble for me to keep up. We even started to catch Tom and then Adam, Leif, and Justin circled back to ride us in. Adam challenged me to outsprint Tom so I did and crossed the line first, but no one else was sprinting! Adam and his subgroup continued on up to the Summit.

At the Junction the Diablo Cyclists folks were all joking that Brian was famous now because he got his picture in the Rivendell Reader with his new Quickbeam.

An interesting bike but I wouldn’t have guessed there’d be much of a market niche for it. Find out more by clicking here: Quickbeam by Rivendell Bicycle Works.

Amanda, our intern, is a senior at Cal and she has a typical Berkeley commute bike – unsprung MTB with slick tires and stickers all over the frame. She’d never done any riding like this and she’d never been on Diablo at all before today. Nicole rode with her and pointed out all the locations that had names our historical significance. JB and I circled back to bring them in but they were quite a ways down. They wound up finishing in 78 minutes, which is pretty slow, but Amanda hung in and seemed to enjoy herself. She’ll certainly do it again, but probably won’t become a regular.

JB should have his Rivendell Atlantis ready by Saturday. He says it looks kind of funny with his lightweight wheels in the frame with clearance for big fat touring tires and fenders. He also got some new rims for his Della Santa so that should be ready before long also.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Diablo Summit 32 miles

I was running late and didn’t get to the Gate until 10 minutes after eight o’clock this morning. JB had tickets to the afternoon A’s game, and he’s not yet fully recovered from his rib rattler so he got an early start. Rick was right on time but chased after JB rather than wait for me. So I rode the whole of North Gate Road solo. Lots of other riders on their way up this morning – regulars and newbies.

Wildlife Encounter #1: A small baby rattlesnake soaking up the sun below the Lower Ranch. Looked like it would get run over if it didn’t move because it was right in the tire zone. I didn’t stop to rescue him.

Quite breezy at the higher elevations… not enough to worry about bike handling but enough to slow me down. I crossed the line at the Junction in 43m30s with enough extra capacity to do whatever Rick decided he wanted to do.

JB went down shortly after I arrived. Rick and I watched a big group of total newbs talk about how difficult but fun the ride so far had been and they were anxious about the rest of the way up Summit Road. One guy said that he hadn’t been out of first gear since the first mile (he had a hybrid with a triple) and that people like “THOSE GUYS” (motioning to me and Rick) had passed him in “fifth gear”. It wasn’t Rick or I who passed him since he came up South Gate, he was lumping all road bike riders with climbing experience into a single group. I said “Hey, I try to be nice when I pass people. You guys are supposed to strive to be like us.” He got a chuckle out of that and then his whole group started up Summit Road.

Then Rick said “What’s next?” and I said that it was his call since last time I got my choice and we did Blackhawk. “Up” was his terse command, so we filled our bottles and pointed our bikes toward the Summit. A little ways up the road we came upon the first-gear-of-his-hybrid guy and as we passed I said (loudly) to Rick, “OK, make sure you’re in at least fifth gear when we pass this guy so he’ll be really impressed.” I don’t even know what fifth gear is on my bike but I figured the guy wouldn’t know a 17-tooth cog from a pie pan and he did seem to appreciate the humor.

It got even windier above 3,000 feet but some of it was a nice tailwind – including most of the Blue Oak Speedway. There was also some kind of footrace on and we saw lots of runners on the Summit Trail. I let Rick go up the Wall first, then I passed three people that I figured would be done when I started. It’s 180 pedal strokes (90 full crank revolutions, starting at the swinging gate) up the Wall in my 39x27 and I always count them so I don’t have to look… I just put my head down and count until I get to 180 and then I’m done. Summit time today was 83 minutes but that was a pretty relaxed tempo. I could have knocked off 10 minutes at a sustainable race pace, and South Gate is a few minutes faster too… the Diablo Challenge may be in my future if I think I can break 70 minutes. That $40 entry fee bugs me though.

Wildlife Encounter #2: A coyote darted across the road into the bushes just in front of Rick on the descent.

Coming down on Summit Road there was some kind of antique or kit car parade of about a dozen of these things coming up:
They were kind of interesting cars but I can't imagine wanting to spend a bunch of money and time building or restoring something like that. The drivers were all older men who probably had a lot of time on their hands and needed a hobby. It struck me later that they looked like Archie Andrews's old jalopy from the comic books.

Lots and lots of small squirrels running all over the road on the way down too. It must be the time of year that they get kicked out of the nest because these guys had NO sense of street safety. I’m sure the turkey vultures will be eating well for the next few weeks.