A little backstory first. Yesterday was my Saturday ride which I elected to take solo. It turned cold here this week. Last week we saw the last days of Double Secret Indian Summer, Monday and Tuesday were beautiful with highs in the '70's. By Friday, it was cold out, and Saturday was almost freezing in the early morning. But sunny. It hurts Flash to get up at 6:30am to ride at 8am when the outside feels like the inside of a meatlocker. So I waited until 10am, bundled up and set out for Berkeley. Once there I stopped for a cappuccino at Strada Cafe alongside the UC campus. I just like to stop there so I do. Then across campus, and up the hill, around Tilden Park, down to Orinda. There I parked at Peet's coffee and sat on the bench in the warming sun and ate half my turkey sandwich I had lugged along.
You might recall that a few weeks ago when I did this same ride, I ended up with a neck ache and headache, and I've concluded that skipping lunch had a lot to do with that. So I brought a sandwich, a Clif bar, and a 2x Turbo gel, which I did not use because I already had that java in Berkeley. I met a gorgeous Irish Setter dog there who I think was coveting my sandwich, then I remounted and rode to Moraga, through the forest over Pinehurst and up Redwood. That was a 40 mile ride, and I felt good at the end, although me legs did get sore later in the day.
I'll add that my Lemond-V is running exceptionally smooth and quiet. The KCNC pulleys are working great as is the SRAM PC-991 hollow pin chain I installed to go with it. (swapped off Lemond-R) Its just a pleasure to ride.
So today I joined the Team Alameda group ride partially, out to Berkeley again. There were around 16 of us, and once over the bridge into Oakland, things got interesting. Anthony "TAKE THE LANE!" DiSalvo showed up on an electric bike, a heavy looking commuter type thing, wearing ordinary clothes. His wife was demoing this vehicle, and AD was on his way to the farmer's market and decided to join us. I immediately thought "hey... I could get velopaced by this thing!". So on the Embarcadero, which is long and flat alongside the freeway, I looked ahead to the point of our peloton and there he was, taking the lead and gaping the nearest rider to him, so without even thinking about it, I reacted and sprinted up to him and got on his wheel. He asked me to read out the speed as he gained momentum, the e-motor whining away. "17...18..19...21...22!" He was pedaling like a dervish trying to reach max speed, and 22 was it. As he was sitting bolt upright, he really split the wind in front of me, so I was having an easy time sitting in at this speed. The group was way back there, with 3 people trying to bridge up, one of them made it easily.
Alameda's answer to Germany's Jan Ullrich is our own Ralph Bruni aka "Captain Eurotrash". Ralph is also German and has his unique signature Euro style when he rides: fully color coordinated outfits and slammed low bike setups with aerobars for maximum aerodynamics. Herr Bruni rode up alongside side us at 22mph and said something about our slow pace, tucked into his aerobars, and pulled away from us! Mein Gott! That was a lot of fun, and yes, we did take the full lane through the construction zone. I surprised myself at this output of energy so early into the ride, but hey, I do what I have to do when its the time to do it.
In Berkeley, the TA group continued onto Point Richmond, a 45 mile flat ride, and I turned at University Ave. towards the hills. I meandered over to Tunnel Road, enjoying some quiet residential streets and a beautiful morning. Its uphill all the way from the Bay if you didn't know already, not steep, but you do feel it, and it does steepen around the Claremont Hotel, where the hill starts rising as a hill should. Then its up the 4 mile climb to Grizzly Peak. I guess I'm saying it can feel like a looong grind from the bay.
So about a third of the way up the hill, I spy in my micro mirror what appears to be a stage of the Tour De France closing in behind me. Guys in these funny (to me) white kits with blue dots all over. I instinctively sped up a little, at the same time knowing they were going to pass me, which they did rather slowly. They were going maybe 2mph faster than me, but knowing the power of being pulled by a group, I latched onto the back of this group of 20 for about a mile and rode 2mph faster. Then came the steeper grade just past the old tunnel monument, and at the top of this I decided I was working a little too hard. Maybe if I was fresh, if it was Saturday, I could hang with them, but it wasn't so I didn't. I resumed my earlier pace and enjoyed the rest of the climb then made my way to Sibley rest stop.
At Sibley, the Metromints were gathered also taking a leisurely break. Did I mention a lot of these guys race? I pulled in to no acknowledgment, as it should be in these cases, sat down and refueled. I pulled out the Turbo gel and sucked that down along with half a Clif bar and some water. I didn't feel all that tired, but rather sought a boost for the remainder of the ride. I left before the Metros and turned south on Skyline. It got COLD fast, and I had to stop to pull on my vest and fingers. As I resumed, two women came riding up behind me, one in all black and the other in black shorts, white tank top, and orange construction worker safety vest, which looked ridiculous and cold to boot. But looks aside, they could ride their bikes and they dogged me up the hill, chatting all the way. I did manage to put some road between us, and glancing behind to see where they were, my mirror was filled with a distant wave of white and blue dotted minty-fresh cyclists approaching my six.
I resolved this time to buckle down and keep them off me as long as possible. I was in the slight downhill trough by Piedmont Pines, between two small hills, so I got into the drops and then stood up and powered over the small rise at the Pines. The next half a mile is difficult because it appears flat but it is slightly uphill thus it feels like I should be riding faster. The trick is to go hard here because it doesn't last too long time-wise then there is a slight downgrade respite before the road rises. Looking back, the two women had been absorbed then spit off the back somewhere. They must have found that exciting! The Metros were about 50 yards back.
Now I passed my workplace, Chabot Space Center, and I was on very familiar ground as I know every crack and pothole in this road. I kept in the drops and pushed for the "sprint" hill at Robert's Park, thinking they were going to contest this, but no, they stayed in a formation and I crested the top maybe 10 yards in front of them, not a lot of distance and now I had to worry about them overtaking me on the downhill. But I know the fastest lines on this road, so stayed ahead until the 180' turn, and they were right on my wheel, but I went through it fast and they didn't pass me. Then I turned left on Joaquin Miller, they did too, but they didn't attempt to pass me on the long downhill to Redwood Road. Curiously restrained group for some reason. More likely that FlashFast is just a tad quicker than their training pace. I turned down Redwood and they continued straight on Skyline towards the zoo. This group added some real spice to my ride which caused me to ride with much more vigor than I would have solo. You never know what you will encounter out there!
I attribute my extra output to the Turbo gel, catching a rest at Sibley, my fine-tuned bike, familiarity with the road, and my overall fitness by which I seldom use full power, so when I do its a thrill and a revelation to push hard for that length of time. I'll most likely feel wooden on Tuesday, but right now I feel fit as a fiddle, and just damned grateful that I can ride the way I want to, when I want to. This is why I ride and blog about it, and try to spread the word. You can't buy this feeling and its worth more than gold anyway.