Friday, May 18, 2012

A fun way to end the day

I had an offsite meeting late yesterday afternoon so I used that as an excuse to get home early and go for a ride.  The meeting ended right on time so I buzz home, change and get ready to roll.  Looking at the clock on my way out the door I see it’s 5:30, and not my usual 6:40, so I have plenty of time.

I start to work out a plan as I roll down the driveway.  Since I don’t have any big rides coming up I don’t have a training plan from Coach Tim that tells me what to do.  I am truly free to ride however I want.  As I start to pedal away I think through my options.  How about hill repeats?  Probably not a good idea since Saturday’s club ride features over 3,000 feet of climbing in 40 miles.  I could do speed intervals.  That sounds too much like work.  How about we just ride and play on the bike until it’s time to go home. Ding, ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!!!

I decide to go play out in Oakmont since it has very little traffic.  Normally, I would time trial my way down a very busy road that is the most direct route there.  Yesterday, I cut through Spring Lake Park.  I don’t normally do that because of all the foot traffic but yesterday I did it because of the foot traffic.  It was so much fun.

I rode nice and slow saying hi to people, waving at kids on bikes, and just really trying to be a good ambassador for cycling.  Spring Lake Park has a large dike around it and I encouraged one young girl as she rode for the top.  Finally, I decide to leave the park on the entrance road, which has a small but steep hill.  Actually, I attacked the hill.  Not for the training but because it seemed like the fun thing to do.

After Spring Lake Park, I followed the road that is the main entrance into Annadel State Park.  Annadel is a phenomenal park that is great for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking and I saw folks getting ready for all three sports.  I guess I’m not the only one who knows a fun way to end the day.

At the end of the pavement, there is a 100 yard section of gravel fire road that drops you into Oakmont.  As I hit the gravel road I notice a woman standing about half way down the road.   Oakmont residents claim, incorrectly, that we can’t use this path and I was afraid I was about to get a lecture that might otherwise ruin a great ride.

I am happy to say it wasn’t like that at all.  Instead, she was pointing further up the road where two small skunks were playing.  So, we stood there chatting for a while, as I kept creeping the bike a little closer, until they finally headed off into the forests.  After bidding my skunk watching companion a good day, I was once again rolling along enjoying the warm weather and my carefree attitude.

Once I finally reached Oakmont, I only did the 5 mile loop once before heading home.  The coolest thing about this part of the ride was that nothing really happened.  I just rolled along enjoying the view of Mt. Hood, watching people play golf, and saying hi to the residents.  Finally, it was time to head home for dinner and some serious TV time spent watching the time trial stage of the Tour of California.

So there you have it.  A perfect evening ride on the bike just playing around.  What did learn from this fun little adventure?  I learned that I definitely need to book more late afternoon off site meetings.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All Things Cycling

Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California has now come and gone.  However, before the team buses headed out Sunday night on their way to San Francisco for Stage 2, I was able to make the most of this weekend.  In my last post, Countdown to the Tour of California, I shared the first part of my adventures.  Now, here’s the rest of the story.

Friday was another opportunity to hit the road on my bike and stalk, I mean watch for, the pro teams.  Since it work so well on Thursday, I opted to head out a little later and see if I could catch the teams returning from their rides.  It worked.  As I was heading out to Occidental I got to roll past three very young riders from Bontrager Livestrong Cycling Team, as well as the Optum Pro Cycling and Orica-GreenEdge Cycling Team.  It was another great day on the bike made even better knowing I was riding the same roads, at the same time, as some of the best cyclists in the world.

Friday night I attended the Santa Rosa SoirĂ©e, which was the official kick-off gala and team presentations.  The event was held at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery and was another incredibly awesome experience.  I was there with seven cycling friends drinking wine, eating great food, and talking about each team as they were presented on stage by Phil Leggitt and Paul Sherwen.

IMG_3766On Saturday, it was time for our club ride.    The organizers created a very cool Stage 1 route.  The race started with a 35 mile loop to Windsor, and then returned to downtown Santa Rosa before heading to the coast and back.  To keep things nice and social we selected the first 35-mile loop of Stage 1.  At 8:30 more than 30 club members and friends all descended on to the local Peets coffee in downtown Santa Rosa and then headed out.  As we rode along you frequently heard statements like, “can you believe we are riding the same roads the pros will race on in just 24 hours?”

IMG_3775Sunday was race day and my plan was to be downtown all day.  Since we live very close to centre ville, Sherry and I rode our bikes down to the Flying Goat to start our morning with pastries and coffees.  After checking our bikes with the bike valet (thank you Sonoma County Bike Coalition) we headed to the Livestyle Festival and eventually made our way over the team buses as they started to arrive.   We then positioned ourselves between the buses and start line and watched as all the riders slowly made their way past us to officially sign in. 

Finally, all announcements were complete and the riders were off!  The race started with two neutral laps around downtown and we got some excellent views of all 128 riders.  We continued to hang out at the Lifestyle Festival, got a bunch of free swag and goofed off until they riders came back through town about an hour later.

As the riders were heading to the coast, Sherry headed home for a bit while I stayed downtown with her brother, Michael.  We continued our search for free swag but eventually gave up the ghost and headed to a newly opened pub, Sprenger’s Tap Room.  We drank Belgian beer and ate American Buffalo wings as we watched the race unfold on TV.  As the riders got close, we found a great viewing spot about 200 meters from the finish line where Sherry rejoined us for the finale.  The speed they were generating as they made their final surge for the win is indescribable.  Lastly, we watched the podium presentations and finally called it a day.

It was an incredible four days of all things cycling for me and I was loving every minute of it.  Now, I’ll keep following the race everyday and hope that next year Santa Rosa is once again selected to be a host city.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Countdown to the Tour of California

The Amgen Tour of California starts this Sunday in Santa Rosa.  As you can imagine, all of us cyclists are already giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Part of the reason is that since the race starts here all of the teams have to arrive early.  Most of the 16 teams had all arrived by Wednesday so there are pro cyclists all over Sonoma County’s roads.  There are also many “meet and greet” opportunities as local bike shops hosts events.

So, what’s a weekend warrior cyclist like me supposed to do when faced with all this pro cycling awesomeness?  You guessed it.  I took a couple of days off just so I could make some of the events and in general act like a groupie.  Here is just a sampling of some of the cool things that have happened so far.

RivieraOn Wednesday, I got the call I’d been expecting from my friends at Riviera Ristorante.  I’ve mentioned what a cycling mecca they’ve become so I assumed one or more teams would eat dinner there one night.  Sure enough, on Wednesday, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQS) team was in the house so Sherry and I, along with my newest cycling buddy John and his wife Cheryl, all ate in the presence of some of the world’s greatest cyclists.

IMG_3752The plan for Thursday was to hit the road, on bike of course, and see if I could get lucky.  My plan?  I watched Facebook activity and it looked like some of the teams were heading north.  I did the same.  Except I waited for a couple of hours to see if I could catch them as they headed back into town.  It worked as I was rewarded with passing a few OPQS riders, including the sprinting sensation Tom Boonen, the entire Argos-Shimano team, and few riders from Team Rabobank.

Thursday night it was time to meet a few of these riders up close and personal and there was definitely no shortages of opportunity.  Here’s a short list of the events I knew about that were happening around Sonoma County.

IMG_3762I choose to head over to NorCal Bike Sport to meet the riders from OPQS since this is the current team of local cycling hero Levi Leipheimer.  It is also the team of Tom Boonen.  There are two other important reasons for my selection.  First, NorCal Bike Sport is a sponsor of my cycling club so I want to support them.  But, more importantly, Sherry has wanted to meet Tom Boonen ever since she first starting following the wonderful world of cycling.  As you can tell from the photo, she got her opportunity.

What’s in store for today?  More riding the back roads of Sonoma County with one hand on the handle bars and the other holding a camera.  Then it’s off to the Santa Rosa Soiree tonight, which is the official team presentation gala.  Tomorrow will be a team ride on the first 30-mile loop of Stage 1 followed by some time watching the Junior National crits to check out the up and coming talent.  Sunday will be all about hanging downtown on race day.

So, stayed tuned next week to hear how this all turned out.

In the meantime, I have to get ready for my ride.


Monday, May 7, 2012

The US Cycling Hall of Fame Fondo

A few years ago, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame was relocated to Davis, California.  Since Davis is only a 2-hour drive away, I’ve been looking for an excuse to check it out.  So, when an add popped up on Facebook for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame Legends Gran Fondo, I immediately sent Coach Tim a text we both registered for the ride.

In addition to checking out the Hall of Fame, the Legends Gran Fondo also provided the opportunity to ride a few of the legends in U.S. cycling.  With us on the start line was Nelson Vails, Ruthie Matthes, Mike McCarthy, George Mount and Jacquie Phelan to name a few.  Coach Tim grew up on cycling during the Greg LeMond era and knew who all of these people were. 

As the ride got closer, I did the math on what time the ride started and what time we would have to leave to get there.  It wasn’t good.  Realistically, to get there early enough to park, get our race packets, and then be on the start line for the 7:00 a.m. call up meant leaving Santa Rosa by 4:30 a.m.  After a few clicks of the computer I found a hotel 2-blocks away for $100. 

IMG_3750We get to Davis Saturday night and check in to the hotel.  Then, it was down to get our packets and off to an Irish pub for dinner.  Back at the hotel we settled into our pre-ride routine of pinning our number to our jersey, putting the timing chip on the bike, charging the Garmins, filling water bottles, and other assorted activities. 

It was beautiful and warm we we headed out for coffee Sunday morning with only one issue.  The wind was already howling and it would play a big role in how the day went.  After coffee and croissants, we get to the start line, listen as each legend is introduced and then we’re off.

We turned left out the starting area and were immediately buffeted with strong cross winds.  As we made our way out of town, we tried to hide from the wind inside the group.  However, after 7 miles of 18+ mph with major cross winds, I knew I couldn’t hang and had to drop back.  Of course, now I’m fighting the wind alone.  So I just kept pedaling and rode as best I could knowing that eventually we would make a left turn that offered a kick-ass tail wind.

Let me share a few stats about the wind .  The almanac for yesterday measured sustained winds of 13 – 20 mph with gusts up to 30.  Just before the left turn I was pushing a 42x21 with a cadence of 80, a heart rate of 156 and going 10 mph.  Once I turned and picked up the tailwind my gear went to 52x12, my heart rate came down to 135 and my speed went up 28 mph.

Coach Tim with Nelson VailsThis was pretty much the rest of the ride.  We only got about 10 miles of tailwind in the entire 63 mile route so the majority of the day was spent with the wind as our constant companion.  It didn’t ruin the ride by any means but I was completely flogged by the end.  Perhaps the highlight of the day was when Tim got into a train with some of the legends before the first rest stop.  At one point, he was pulling up front and couldn’t believe the names of the people riding his wheel.

Would I ride it again?  I don’t think so.  It wasn’t a bad ride but there was only one 15 mile stretch in the middle that was very scenic and the rest was all farmland and orchards.  Will I keep looking for new rides to try?  Hell yeah!  Because even if the ride doesn’t go well, as Coach Tim always likes to say, “now you have a story my friend.”