Monday, May 10, 2010

Wine Country Cols and Pavé – Ride 1

In an ode to the Spring Classics in Belgium, Coach Tim put together his own version of a cols and pavé ride here in Sonoma County.  His original plan called for one monster ride, however he decided not to kill us all at once and has now created a 3-ride series called Wine Country Cols and Pavé.  Last Saturday was the first in the series.

There were indications that this was going to be an epic day long before we got on the bikes.  First of all, Coach Tim can smell dirt so you know this ride will go off-road.  Plus, Sonoma County pavé means riding some of the worse, beat up, pot-holed roads the county has to offer.  This means we all converted our road bikes to cyclocross bikes as much as possible.  For me, that meant riding on my older Mavic Open Pro rims with 28s (versus the 23s on the road) on my steel frame bike.

WCCP 1 Finally, it’s Saturday and we all arrive bright and early at Howard’s Station Cafe in Occidental.  After a lot of coffee and even more laughter we get ready to roll.  We start down Bohemian Hwy, which is a beautiful road.  This lasts less then half a mile before we turn onto some little dump of a “road”.  Of course it’s still downhill and we are all freezing since it’s cold and we are not pedaling.  That changed soon enough.

As we approached the turn for Morelli Lane, which Tim said we were not climbing, I saw him make the turn.  I turned to my friend next to me and said “Find your triple, now!”  About hundred yards later he thanked me.  Morelli is just over 1 mile long and tops out at 18% grade.  It was also the first of 11 climbs we would do that day.

We make our way to the Russian River where we continually turn left or right, go up into the hills and come back down.  None of these climbs were long but they were all very steep in places.  The most memorable was Scenic Drive.  This was a 1 mile climb that maxed out over 20%.  Plus, it was mostly a gravel fire road.  This is were you could really feel the difference from road riding.  You can climb steep pitches on pavement out of the saddle but not gravel.  WCCP 2You need to keep your weight back to avoid spinning out.  You still spun out occasionally and this starts to zap your strength.  

This continued to Guerneville where we keep going after a quick water stop.  The next col was Duncan Road.  After another 0.8 mile climb with WCCP 5two 20% pitches, Coach Tim gave us an option.  Down the road over a bridge and back to the river or through a locked gate onto another fire road.  You know the answer.  After passing through the gate we continued on the “road”, which at times was down to single track.  Well, two flat tires and three bike portages over, or through, downed trees later, we were back on real pavement.

While we were at a coffee stop in Duncan Mills we realized it had taken us 40 minutes of ride time to cover the last five miles.  Welcome to cyclocross.  WCCP 3After refueling it was back on the bikes and out to the coast where our biggest climb of the day was waiting.  Willow Creek.

Willow Creek is a five mile climb with back-to-back 20% pitches near the top.  It is all fire road.  By this time I was feeling the efforts so I just settled into my own pace.  This was my first time and it was simply breath taking.   The climb is long and those two pitches are tough but mostly I was able to find a rhythm and just keep going.  Just as I was starting to loose my strength, I saw a woman pushing a stroller and I knew I was near the top.  After Willow Creek, it’s a fast and smooth ride back down into Occidental where we enjoyed a lunch of burgers, beers and laughter on the patio of the Union Hotel. 

WCCP 4 In the end, it was the hardest 48-mile ride I have ridden.  It was also one of the greatest adventures I’ve had on the bike.   The challenges and camaraderie were awesome as we all rolled along waiting for the next climb. 

This first ride was called River Snake.  The next one is named Calistoga Delight and the third ride is Temple View.  I cannot wait to see what challenges and adventure they have to offer.


2 Comment(s):

dan said...

sounds like you guys had a blast, and the pictures look like some of my better MOUNTAIN bike rides! I'd love to come out on one of these rides with you guys.

amy said...

you guys are crazy!! dave gindy took me out to willow creek road last spring. i was SO glad i had a triple on my bike.