Oh man, I am beat! Did my wonderful epic ride today with my friends from B&L Bike and Sport. We rode from Lake Wohlford to the top of Palomar Mountain- the climb, from the base, is 12 miles of non-stop climbing... no resting... no flat sections and no downhills along the way, just pure climbing. It was brutally magnificent!
The day began at lake Wohlford for a 9:00AM roll out. Everybody arrived looking like they had been pretty good on New Year's Eve, though there were a few grumblings to the contrary.
The weather began much warmer than expected- in the high 60's, low 70's maybe- but we all took off with the warm gear on, knowing what would be ahead in the winds and on the mountain.
The winds... were supposed to be gusting up to 30mph, but we got winds in excess of 50! Winds so strong that I had to lean into the wind like I was cornering, just to keep from being blown off the bike! ME! All 210 pounds! The gusts were sending sand, dirt and debris at us with amazing force. Riding through the Rincon Valley area, I gave thought to turning back and heading to the car because the winds were just insanely strong. Once we got to the base of the climb though, it began to get better because of some tree coverage to help block the winds.
Before coming out of the valley, a group of 3 of us rolled off the front- not by intent, but largely by gravity... there was a downhill that worked to my advantage. By the time we made the turn off to the climb, we had a pretty healthy gap. After a few miles of the early, mellow slopes of the climb, one rider dropped off (to wait for the others) and a new one joined on. Now we were three again, with the other two both being buddies and former teammates of mine from when I raced for Excel Sports/ Boulder- Steve Bates and Cliff Clermont. It was like a mini reunion... until they dropped me... just like they did when we were teammates.
I slogged away on the first major section of the climb, alone, through the switchbacks on the wider roads. At the halfway point, where the road split in two directions, I had to stop and wait for a few minutes (maybe 5) because I didn't know which way I was supposed to go- it has been at least 3- 4 years since I've done the climb. Two other riders rolled up and I went with them. One of the two happened to be Brent Prenzlow, who is one of the top elite cross racers in the US. He pretty much rules the Southern California cross scene and raced for the Alan factory team this year. Needless to say, I was once again outclassed. I rolled with Brent and the other rider, Mark, for a few more miles before they finally dropped me at about 3000 feet.
Again, solo, I slogged along... mostly in my 39x23 and 39x26... slowly. Just at 4000', I rounded a bend onto the exposed face of the mountain road and into the howling wind again. This punch in the gut from the wind was incredibly demoralizing! It wasn't long after that turn that I began to consider turning back and going down the mountain. It was that bad. The switchbacks of the climb just kept getting steeper and the wind just howled. It was excruciating. The summit road is located around 5500' (roughly).
There was a slight bit of snow still left on the ground- mostly dirty snow in the shady areas. But it was snow, darn it! I know, I know... it ain't much snow... but it's what we get around here and the kids were happy to be playing in it, as they climbed out of family cars.
The reward for the climb was a piping hot bowl of the best vegetarian chili around! Along with some hot coffee and a Coke.
The other reward was a screaming 12 mile long descent! I rode the first few turns at the top really poorly. I was not riding the usual way I do on a descent. Not sure if I had something on the rims or just dirty pads from the ride up... but my braking wasn't too predictable and I was far "looser" on those first few switchbacks than I like and I was "timid" getting started. Later though, when the road opened up a little bit, I uncorked some of my speed! Elliot and Anthony (I think... sorry) got way up the road from me early on the descent, but just before the final turn off at the bottom, I caught them! It was awesome! It was such a fun chase.
At the bottom, another rider who joined us, Hubert, had parked his truck and I caught a ride to the starting point with him. My back was in spasm from the climbing and then the descent... and I was just plain beat! I admit it. So my ride today was around 50 miles, I'd guess. But it was awesome.
Thanks again to the guys from B&L, especially Jeff- who invited me on the ride for the third year in a row. It's the fifth time they've done this New Year's Day ride and I hope to be on it every year I'm in town. It was much fun. I climbed far better than I thought I would, even with the near-total meltdown near the top. I was amazed that I didn't get caught... I'm no Pantani. That's for sure!
I hope all of you got to get out for a ride or some other form of fun for the beginning of the new year. Here's to many, many more epic rides!