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Old 10-29-09, 07:16 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: SoCal
Posts: 5,194

Bikes: 2008 Scott CR1 Pro; 2006 Schwinn Fastback Pro and 1996 Colnago Decor Super C96; 2003 Univega Alpina 700; 2000 Schwinn Super Sport

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Thanks for the compliments, everyone! I really appreciate it. I'd submit this paean to some kind of publication, but I dunno who to send it to or how. I'll check into it, though.

Stage I - Canyon Country to California City

Here is the route for Stage I:

Here is the start line:

From the beginning, everything went according to plan … I was the last person to leave the staging area.

Immediately, the racers separated into a lead group and a following group, with a significant gap. Sheesh. We were warned that although we would have a police escort, if we fell too far behind the lead group, we may have to stop for a stoplight.

Pacing myself is one thing, but sitting out a series of stoplights while the rest of the pack moved on was too much, even for a tortoise. I decided to make up the gap and place myself at the back of the lead group. That was no challenge at all, but it was a challenge to do that while still keeping my heart rate down.

We got rockstar treatment in Santa Clarita. The police went off in front of us, closing streets so we didn’t have to stop. At this time of the morning, there weren’t many autos that had to wait for us. And, there wasn’t much of a wait, since we were a small group. But I couldn’t help wondering what those drivers would think if they knew how far we were all going.

“San Francisquito Canyon Road”

We lose our police escort, and the ascent begins. I’ve ridden up this road only twice before. The first time, in a 20 MPH gusty head wind with blowing sand and dust. It was a grunt. The second time was on the 2006 Furnace Creek 508. I was surprised how quickly the climb went without the wind. I passed a lot of riders and surprised my crew when I appeared at the top so early.

But that time, I was riding in a two person relay team. This time, I was riding it all myself. It was tempting to stand up and fly right up the hill.

“Don’t.” I said to myself. “Easy.”

With all the thinking and confabulating I did worrying about the winds, one thing I didn’t expect was a headwind going up this canyon. But there it was. It wasn’t strong, and it was cool. But it was there, and it was unexpected. Other than that, things were going well.

Now and again, a rider would stop to take a leak. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of passing going on here. I didn’t pass many riders, nor did I get passed. The truly fast riders were long gone already.

It happened in an instant, and was over before I could do anything except scream.


A lone red crotch rocket screamed by me, going at least 60 MPH and missing me by perhaps 6 inches. He was going so fast, I saw him only for an instant in my rear view mirror before he passed, and only because I constantly check my mirror. I didn’t have a chance to react at all.

What’s the reason for the close call? There was no good reason. I was all the way on the right shoulder, about 3 inches to the right of the fog line. The road was clear ... wide open. There was no reason for him to pass that close to me. No reason at all.

I have ridden well over 100,000 miles in my lifetime, and I can tell you that most motorists are quite courteous. They pass with plenty of room ... at least the legally required three feet. I mean ... after all, is there anything easier to pass than a bicycle?

Some are even downright friendly, giving you a thumbs up or other encouragement. You’d be surprised at how often that happens.

But then, there are the buttholes. They are on a machine that ways several times what you are, and they use that difference to bully you. Just like on a schoolyard. I don’t hate many things, but I do hate bullies.

I wonder if this guy realizes that there are reasons why the law requires safe passing distance. What need to swerve to avoid a rock? What if there is a wind gust? A flat tire? What if I sneeze? He hits me, and I’m seriously injured or killed. Why the hell would anyone want to do that? How would he feel, if driving my car, I passed him with a 50MPH differential, missing him by a mere 6 inches? I wonder if he realizes that doing what he did amounts to assault with a deadly weapon?

Usually, I blow that kind of idiocy off, but this one was very close and very stupid.

At once, my mind wavered from the 508 to the realm of noses and fists. I’m here to tell you that if I did happen to encounter this guy ... let’s say at a 7-Eleven further up the road ... I would have got off the bike and popped his stupid ass ... no words, no statements, no questions. I wouldn’t give him any more warning or any more of a chance than he gave me. And it would be worth it.

Ooops. There’s my speed. I’m going too fast. I wonder why.

Still fuming, I arrived at the little town of Green Valley. A sweet little burg on San Francisquito Canyon Road, and a place where, for all the world, it looks like their biggest problem is keeping traffic to slow down to 30 MPH when passing through. No problem for me … I’m going uphill.

Some residents were there to greet us and cheer us on. Yay!

The summit isn’t far from here, and the road steepens as you approach it.

I began to pass a gent. I know that this is a race, but I like to chat with riders on the way up. What’s the alternative? Pregnant silence as I pass? Screw that.

We got to chatting about what was on my mind, of course (this is all about me, of course). The motorcyclist? Nope. The wind. I mentioned our prognosis. He responded.

“Well, nothing could be worse than 2004. I told myself that if I can make it through that, I can make it though anything.”

“That bad?”

“It was amazing. I barely finished. Ooops ... I have to slow down ... my heart rate is going too high.”

I’ve never used a heart rate monitor. They’re good for making sure you pace yourself, but I’ve always just tried to listen to my body. I dunno. Maybe I should try one.

I was feeling OK with the speed we were going, so I went on, bidding him good luck. I would see him again.

Finally, the summit. On the other side was a short descent and a left turn. And there, my crew would be waiting for me. From this point on, I would have crew support. No more a$$holes on motorcycles.

There were marshals all over the course, making sure we came to a stop at each and every stop sign. Ordinarily, that is not a problem. But this last stop sign was at the top of a steep hill. I was able to downshift a few gears, but was still a grunt getting started. You can tell from the picture.

I passed my crew, waiting by the side of the road.


From now on, any communication with my crew would be bursty yell sessions.


The 508 has a great many rules. One of them is that until 6PM, my crew was obliged to follow me “leapfrog style.” That meant they would pass me, pull over onto the shoulder, and we would handoff food or water. My job was to toss them my water bottle, and theirs was to hand me a full one.

At the pre-ride meeting, they gave us some good advice about how to do this. Apparently, I forgot some of it. The first thing I forgot is that my crew would be looking to give me water before my water bottle was empty. No problem, I thought. I’ll just toss the half empty bottle to them.

Except one thing. A half empty bottle weighs a LOT more than an empty bottle. Here is the result.

Oops. From that point on, I was a little more careful about where I tossed the bottle.

The 508 is a race. So all the other riders and road crews are technically your competition. But invariably, as the race gets started, competition turns to comaraderie. Since support crews were leapfrogging the riders, that meant that I was repeatedly passed by support crews for other riders in the vicinity. And all of them clapped and yelled encouragement to each of us as we passed.

To be honest with you, this is the best part of the 508. The sweet comeraderie that can only be had in the company of others who enjoy suffering endured for no good reason.

Ah, the second climb of the ride. Into the windmills west of Mojave. This really isn’t a difficult climb ... when the wind is not in your face. Trouble is, those windmills are there for good reason, and the wind usually IS at least partially in your face. This morning, the wind was coming almost directly from the west, and I was treated to a quartering headwind. And the wind was intensifying.

I wanted like anything to just stand up and climb this thing, but I stuck to my plan. I downshifted and spun.

I’ve done the 508 and other long races like this before. And in doing those rides, I’ve learned what my strengths and weaknesses are. One thing I have discovered is that I am a strong climber. Oh, there are many ... very many who are better climbers than I. But among people who are about as fast as I on a long course, I typically pass people on the ascents, get passed on the descents, and almost hold my own on the flats. That pattern held true on this 508, even when I stuck to my plan to just spin up the hills.

So, on this second climb, I found myself leaving my leapfrogging partners behind. I finally reached the turn off back to Mojave and headed both downhill and with the wind.

Boy, did I fly. Before the ride, Bill had loaned me his wheels, and they included an 11-28 cassette. That 11 tooth top gear came in handy here, as it allowed me to keep pedaling when others could not. Downhill and with a strengthening wind at my back, I was flying along at over 30 MPH. Mojave came way too fast.

Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

Last edited by Biker395; 10-29-09 at 07:34 AM.
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