Due to work, I had only one day to ride this weekend, so I was going to go over to SF and ride into Marin. The weather has been unseasonably hot, and I had hoped it would hold through Sunday, but alas, it did not, and the Headlands were socked in with fog this morning. (I check the Golden Gate bridge webcam before I go over there, just to be sure). Not wanting to ride into the cold gray, I went to Plan B, a ride with Team Alameda, whatever that was. Today it was a short ride through the Mountain View cemetary in Oakland, which is always nice (and steep), followed by a steep short ascent of Broadway Terrace up to Lake Temescal. The cemetary ride is an up and back, worth about 400 vertical feet, and Broadway Terrace gains about 500' from the bottom of the cemetary, so about 900' of low gear climbing, and only to the lake. It was here that I broke away at the top of the Terrace and crossed over to Lake Temescal, where from there starts another 4 mile, 1000' climb to the summit of Tunnel Road.
I was feeling good, there were lots of roadies out and about, everyone was enjoying this cool, crisp day, perfect for climbing. After making the turn up Tunnel, I looked behind me and saw a gruppeto of mountain bikers below me, wearing red kit and moving at a good pace. They were out road riding in their little peloton, which is very unusual in itself, usually they stay well off the pavement unless it is necessary to get from one section of trail to another.
So after a half mile or so, I could see them overtaking me in my mirror. I glanced at my speedo and it read 9.1mph, which for me is a good training pace for the lower part of the climb. As they passed me, I marveled at their large looking, bulky machines and noticed most of these guys were teenagers. I mean, 16 or 17 years old, with 3 older guys, maybe in their 30's mixed in. I decided to sit in with their group, as I found them very curious, and I wanted to see if they could keep up their 10.7mph pace for long. This was about 15% faster than I was going solo, but not a problem.
So I rode along in Tail End Charlie position, not sucking wheel. I asked one of the older dudes who was fallling back, which team this was, and he said the Berkeley High Mountain bike racing club. Hmmm. He fell off and I kept contact with the group. I felt strong so I kept at it. There is a magnetic attraction in a group like this that seems to powerfully attract me, to pull from me a greater effort that I didn't realize was there. I did a check of my heartrate and it showed 160bpm, kind of alarming. Hmmm, normally I try to limit myself to 140-150. My calculated max is around 165, but I think it is more like low 170's, but I have not pushed that in years.
Cutting to the chase, so to speak, we are now nearing the top of the climb, and the group is stretching into a line. Now, this was a racing team, so I considered my options, as nothing was off the table really and all manner of challenge could arise. I wondered if they would sprint for the finish. I consider this sprint rather traditional for this climb, and have done it many times. Last time this happened, John Nideker, my riding partner, seemed to be breathing very hard near the top, so I concluded he was suffering somewhat, when I wasn't, so it would be bad form for me to take advantage of that. While I was mulling this over, he stood up, shifted into his big ring, and blew my doors off and took the podium. I have since learned that the "heavy breathing" is a turbo oxygenation routine he uses to build for sprints. Man, was I flamboozeled!
BHS MTB Team (from the web)
So as we approached the top, vowing not to let that happen again, and as I kept reminding myself of Rule #5, I pulled off left of the line and started accelerating towards the front. I was near max effort and breathing pretty hard myself, but quickly overtaking everyone and soon I was wheel to wheel with the leading rider. Just then, the number 2 rider pulled out left and started accelerating and passed his buddy, he was going for it! I shifted into my big chainring, stood up, pulled the triggers, and used whatever anaerobic fuel I had stored up. I was "In the V" (Five) as they say.
I was grinding for all I was worth, but this kid on a mountain bike had leg snap like no tomorrow. His knobby tires were thrumming "VRUM VRUM VRUM VRUM" and he got a full bike length ahead of me and seeing I was beat, I pulled the plug on it, he just kept going strong. I waved him a virtual high five at the crossroads of Grizzly Peak, and coasted down to Sibley, where I proceeded to drink too much water. I was feeling weirdly queasy, and worried that perhaps I had pushed it too far, but a 10 minute sit down calmed me down and I felt fine again. As I rolled out they were all under the shade tree by the entrance, one of the older guys, probably the coach, thanked me "for the lead out". I grinned and told them they were awesome.
I had mixed feelings, one was guilt that I was on a nice road bike and they weren't so I had an advantage. But then I thought, dude, these kids have 40 years of youth on me. Who has the advantage?? I had to smile at myself, I'm an idiot sometimes. I went on to ride a Pinehurst loop, which had so many riders going up it it looked like Somebody's Gran Fondo. Nobody going clockwise but me. Pretty cool. I think I slowed considerably on the next climb, the pace up Tunnel had taken some toll on me.
I got home after 35 miles, considered the ride, which featured lots of steep climbing plus climbing at a high effort, and a 40mph non-stop downhill from the top of Redwood Road to MacArthur. I thought my average speed must be considerably faster than normal. But my computer showed my average to be SLOWER than usual, by 3 tenths of a mph. I can't explain it. Subjective, objective, projective, all that can't be trusted. The computer does not lie, but in my mind and body I had one of my most interesting, challenging, fastest hill days in a long time! Still in love with the Ride.
Get Out and Ride, Then Ride On and On My Friends,
Newly Minted Velominati, Keeper of The Ride
Newly Minted Velominati, Keeper of The Ride