Normally I wouldn’t consider a day like today to be incomplete in any way. I got to ride 25 miles over dirt and pavement through an absolutely beautiful area while hanging out with my friends. But after the way I built up the idea of this ride in my head, it’s hard to avoid feeling unfulfilled at how my first Grasshopper went down.
The day started at 5:45 for me, when my “secondary” alarm on the iPhone woke me up. It turns out that I set my primary alarm for 5:30pm. That, along with a nagging sore throat, were omens that this day wasn’t going to go quite as I expected. Michigan Mat graciously drove John and I up to Occidental, and we arrived with enough time to absorb yet more pastries and coffee drinks before the big ride to ensue. I figured I’d be out for four or five hours (using the Slonie Rule: Take the Fast Guys’ time and multiply by two). And, since Derrick had warned me of how badly he and others had bonked last year, I came loaded for bear on the provisions. Extra tubes, Full Camelbak bladder, two bottles, and more Clif bars/bloks/roks than I’ve ever carried. (Of course, those Fast Guys were likely carrying one bottle and a couple of Gu’s)
After registering and performing some brake adjustments in the parking lot, we all rolled to the start…
And we were underway…
The mass of riders looked a whole lot like Levi’s Gran Fondo (right down to Levi at the front, not that I saw him), but unlike the GranFondo, the whole pack took off in quite a hurry. Before I knew it, I was working decently hard just to stay on, and even John had moved up the road on me. I was keeping to a casual pace though, because I knew the hard part was yet to come. Once we turned left on Duncan, the pain train did indeed arrive, smashing us with a 20% grade at the outset, mellowing out to just mostly sucky further up the road. I truly appreciated the mountain cassette fitted to the Axis (of Evil) as I worked my way up the hill.
As a side note, while we stopped and regrouped there, at the top of the climb, in the video, Kabush and company hauled ass right through there and straight into the descent. Surprising nobody, I was quite a bit slower on the descent than in the video. There were also several more fallen trees across the road, including one that required a full dismount to get over. Then, right before a sharp upkick in the road that even the pros had to dismount for, the path turned down steeply, into a series of rutted, slick bumps. Not being able to stop for it even if I wanted to , I rolled right through the sketchy part with only minor drama, then climbed up the other side and stopped to wait for John.
While I was waiting, I met three dudes, two of whom were waiting for the third, who was engaged in tried-and-true methods of fixing an untrue wheel, trailside. For those that don’t know, that means smacking it against the ground if it’s too far gone for spoke adjustment.
Before it had totally dawned on me that the taco’d wheel was due to a crash, John came barreling down the hill, cleared the first part of the sketchy section, then passed behind some trees. And didn’t come out the other side. At this point I started to feel really bad for yelling “Ride it!” just moments before he endo’d. (turns out he couldn’t hear me, so even “careful!” wouldn’t have helped).
So John was down. And rather badly too, or so it seemed at first. But nothing was broken… As our newly-assembled group of “People who crashed, and those that ride with them” tended to John and his bike, I considered taking a photo of him down at the site of the impact. But I thought it seemed crass. Later, John was extremely disappointed that I didn’t get that shot, so I told him I’d definitely get it next time. He said he preferred that there wouldn’t be a next time…
So there we were. We had a nice little slow-moving group of five. Call it “People who crashed, and their friends that ride with them.” Or if you prefer, “The Brotherhood of Failure”
Before we got moving again, John posed with the section of doom. Thanks to the magic of photography, it doesn’t look steep or tricky at all.
So, back on the road, we had one crippled rider, and one rider with no front brake due to his taco’d wheel. Fantastic. We hobbled back to town, with navigation “helpfully” provided by my new Edge 705. It kept telling us to get off the highway and head back into the hills. I guess I should disable the “avoid highways” setting when riding in areas where there are no actual freeways. But it wasn’t very far back to Occidental, and at least the Edge gave me the Distance to Objective indicator that’s been sorely missing from from my non-videogame life.
I should quit it with making everyday occurrences sound more dramatic than they are, so here we go: I flatted on the way back. Then I punctured two tubes trying to wrestle the damn Vittoria Cross XG back onto the rim with a tire lever (yeah, I know). I can’t even write anything clever about that level of failure, but it delayed us further. And hey, Dan got a photo!
After we got underway, the skies opened up on us. There are no photos of that because my camera isn’t waterproof. Suffice to say, the rainfall was enough to check off that checkbox for the ride. And of course, my rain jacket was in my backpack, so I didn’t want to put it on unless the rain got really bad. As soon as I decided to, I announced my intention to the group. Not more than ten seconds later, an oncoming car sped through a giant puddle, sending a huge wave of water into the group, and soaking me pretty thoroughly. Not my favorite moment, but all I could do was laugh (after yelling something unprintable). At least it made for a good story!
In the end, our group rolled back into Occidental with 1:44 of riding time on my clock, and 1:46 of waiting time. Naturally, this means most people had already finished their actual rides. But hey, we had still ridden 25 miles, though missing the best (and toughest) bits of the course. And I had come out of it with some new friends, which isn’t something to scoff at. But I was pretty wrecked.
Food and stories with my friends and teammates went a long way towards bringing me back to life, but at the same time left me feeling sad that I missed out on the “best day on the bike” that seemingly everybody experienced (except maybe Xton, glad you’re okay!). We missed the most beautiful (and toughest?) parts of the course, so the total distance (50% of the real thing) doesn’t really tell the story.
Who’s up for a make-up/rematch ride? We can even wait till the weather gets better!
Addendum: You know, I got to “Ride with Levi” just as much as at his GranFondo, and it cost a LOT less. Score!
Also Krishna came in 4th, behind Levi, a Bissell dude, and… Wait holy shit, did I just say that? Hell yeah, Krishna!