Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Konocti Challenge

This last Saturday some friends and I rode in the Konocti Challenge. This is one of my favorite charity rides for a lot of reasons. It has a mixture of great scenery, a relaxed pace, and the best post-ride BBQ I've eaten yet. It used to be called Pedal the Puddle since the 65 and 100 routes circumnavigate Clear Lake, which is the largest natural lake in California. This was my third year and it has yet to disappoint.

This year's adventure actually started before the ride as members from our little group, Wine Country Velo, tried to decide if they would ride or not. At one point there were 6 of us heading up but in the week before the ride it had come down to 4. We all decided to ride the 65 mile route this year and the general plan was to "not lift the pace, jump any fast moving trains, or do anything else that keeps us from chatting and enjoying the views of the lake."

So we are excitingly exchanging e-mails and texts about the plan when someone noticed the forecast called for rain. Uh oh! So who really wants to ride in the rain? Now the texts and e-mails take on a whole different attitude. Sarah, the only woman in our group is also the only sensible one who decides to pass (there's got to be a connection there somewhere). Tim, David and I decide to soldier on.

When I check my e-mail one last time late Friday night to ensure no one else has bailed, and to make sure ride is still on, I see I David has sent me something. But he's not bailing. Instead, he sends me a link to this article in our local paper "Smelly carp piling up on shores." Oh that's perfect! As if the rain were not enough to deal with now we have to deal with dead fish!!!

So I'm up at 4:45 on Saturday morning and immediately look outside. It's beautiful. The rain we had Friday night was supposed to linger into Saturday morning but now it looks like it's moved on a little faster. Sarah is going to be sorry she missed a great ride. So I pick up David, then Tim, and off we go. A short 30-minutes later it is pouring! Apparently, Sarah will not be sorry after all.

We arrive at starting point, check-in and head out. There was the definite threat of rain but it was dry when we started. In fact, we rode all the way to the first rest stop at mile 18 without getting wet. It was also warming up nicely. So at the rest stop I drop the base layer. That must have been the signal because not 50 yards after leaving the rest stop it started to rain. Then it started to rain hard. I don't want to dwell on the rain so here's the basics. It probably rained for half the ride. It mostly ruined the descents since none of us wanted to hit the pavement. But in the end, it really wasn't that bad. For me, there is nothing like riding in the rain to make you feel like a kid, or a pro.

As we rode along, chatting and enjoying the views, the paper was right. There were dead fish everywhere. Fortunately, the rain was knocking down the smell so it wasn't too bad. It definitely added an interesting dynamic to our conversations.

So the final part of this report deals with the end of the ride. On one of the small hills, another rider catches us and sits on our wheel. We are not pushing the pace but we are riding in a pace line. So he just sits there for quite a few miles enjoying a free pull as Tim, David and I took turns on the front (he never came to the front). Then after a while he comes around and just rides away from us. Hmmmm! No biggie. We are enjoying the ride and have no desire to gun him down.

However, he never really pulls away. Now, it's about 15 miles left in the ride, it's raining again, and we are pretty much ready for the ride to end. That's when I notice Tim lift the pace just a touch. I knew he was irked when the guy passed us after sucking our wheel for so long. So I think to myself "we're about to reel him in." Sure enough, we ever so slowly start to bring him back. Eventually, we catch up to him and Tim grabs his wheel. For all of 30 seconds! Then the guy sees Tim behind him and pulls off to let us pass and then gets back on our wheel. WTF!!!

I now have no doubt Tim plans to drop this dude. So up goes the pace and we form a line of Tim, David, me and wheel-sucker. With about 5 miles to go I realize that Tim is riding strong but will need a rest before the final push. So I come around David and Tim and take the front lifting the pace again just a little. With 3 miles to go, Tim comes back to the front and is now driving a serious pace. David starts to drop off Tim's wheel (in his defense, he still had to do a 1 hour run later that day) so I come around, still with wheel-sucker in tow, and grab Tim's wheel. And the pace keeps ramping up. Finally, we hit town and now we are flying. Tim is looking into the store windows and sees that wheel-sucker is starting to dangle off the back. One more acceleration and he is officially dropped.

As Tim and I arrive back the car we are talking about how him and I knew exactly what the other person would do without ever speaking. Tim and I have been riding together for 5 years now. He taught me most of what I know about cycling. I knew this guy irked Tim when he passed us and I also knew Tim would drop this guy before the ride was over. I knew when and how I needed to help. That's the cool thing when you have been riding with someone for so long.

At lunch, we were chatting about the end of the ride and dropping Mr. Wheel-sucker. Now don't get me wrong. We will happily tow in any rider who needs a little help. But, if you're strong enough to ride away, you're strong enough to take a pull. So Tim tells me I need to write about this guy (see how well I take instructions) and my reply was "Oh, he is so getting blogged". And he did.

In the end, it was a great day. A little rain, a lot of laughs, 1 dropped wheel-sucker, and a dynamite post-ride BBQ. I can't wait to see what 2009's ride will bring.


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