Saturday, I would have killed for flat ground.
Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. Saturday, I did the Canyon Classic with Mhendricks and one of his friends. They had signed up for the metric century, and by the time we had gone 20 miles I had conned them both into riding the full century with me. What a stupid idea that turned out to be!
I have ridden this ride 3 times, and I've always thought of it as a fun, scenic, and not too terribly difficult ride. This time it was a real nightmare. It started out well enough with clear skies, a light breeze, and a cool morning. By the time we had made the 20 mile shallow climb up Del Puerto Canyon, It was evident that the heat was coming. As the canyon closed in and the breeze got choked off, the air became dead and stifling. Add to that smoke particles from the distant Bonnie Doone wildfire, and it was a bit sticky, as well.
The last couple of miles up Del Puerto are a double-digit incline, and between the still, hot air and the unrelentingly steep climb, I was getting gassed pretty fast. By the time I crested and coasted into the 30 mile rest stop, I was feeling pretty feeble, indeed. It was at this juncture I was thinking maybe I wasn't going to last the day.
After getting refreshed, we started out again, and began making the moderate several mile climb up and over a major ridge-line on Mines Road, and I was crawling. This part of the ride was in full sun, and there were almost no roadside trees to hide under. Even on this moderate climb, I was reduced to riding my triple in short order, and really struggled to gain the summit. I was spurred on by the promise of a nice 25 mile glide down into the Livermore Valley once I made the top of the ridge.
Summiting, I started down in anticipation of a well-deserved respite. Sadly, it was not to be, a strong head wind picked up, and my nice -1/-2% 25 mile glide disappeared. Now I still had to work against a freshening breeze, and was really not having too much fun at all. Finally, I hit a nice pitch downward and set up a nice 30mph roll. As I gathered speed, the road transited a county line and reduced in size to a little over one lane in width. I merrily carved around a blind turn enjoying my rest, and came face to face with a doe standing mid-lane. Fortunately she was 30 yards or so distant, and as I started evasive maneuvers I began hollering at the top of my lungs. She gave me a startled look, and trotted off. Later that day I was to find out that a tandem had broadsided a deer in about the same spot, wrecking the bike and sending the captain to the hospital with a broken wrist and road rash.
By the time I rolled into the 56 mile lunch stop, I was completely spent. Mike and his friend had gone on ahead at my urging, and I caught up with them there. I really, really wanted to SAG, but there was only one climb up and over Corral Hollow between me and truly spectacular descent down to Tracy. So, I rested up, sent my riding buddies on their way, and started off. The Corral Hollow climb isn't really a tough one taken on its' own, but I was in no shape for it. Again, I found myself struggling up the grade in full sun, and not the wind had switched to follow me. This meant that as long as I was moving, I was in dead air. I hopscotched my way up from shade to shade, and after what seemed like an eternity gained the top. After a brief rest to gather my wits, I took off started down.
The top half of the Corral Hollow descent is very steep and very twisty, with decreasing radius turns and a fair bit of traffic. It is a bit technical, and demands all of a rider's concentration. It is, however, exhilarating. After I got through the twisties the road straightened out and continued a shallow, long descent into the town of Tracy. I finally hit the payoff for the ride - several miles of straight ahead coasting at 20-25mph. Fun stuff.
As I spilled out of the canyon onto the valley floor, I was treated to terrific crosswinds. As I made my way into the 75 mile rest stop I was buffeted unmercifully, and was blown off the road once by the wind-wash of a passing semi. By the time I reached the rest stop I was beyond done, and had to face facts - I was going to have to SAG. I just didn't have enough left to go 25 more miles in the heat and the wind.
I don't remember suffering this much on a ride, and I'm very sorry for talking my two riding buddies into going along on the full century. At the post-ride dinner, I learned that Mike had SAG'ed at mile 90, and his friend at mile 80. None of us finished. It sure made me question why the heck I do this. I lost count of how many bottles of water/Cytomax I went through, and I was eating Enduralites like they were Skittles.
Hey - it beats working, and I picked up another 75 miles and ~6,000' of climbing - what the hell. And, I got some nice pictures to share:
The Beginning - starting up Del Puerto Canyon:
Further up, the canyon closes in:
The bull is not impressed:
The last bit of the first climb:
Same climb, same steep:
Climbing Corral Hollow:
Top of Corral Hollow, looking back:
Getting ready for a wicked descent - destination, far side of that last ridge: