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Yesterday was supposed to be our recovery day, but with repeated attacks over and over and over, and then the relentless climb up Geyser Ridge it was anything but a rest day. Today’s ride was supposed to have the most climbing, but it is really how those miles are executed that make the difference.

After a poor night sleep, and a hearty breakfast I went back to the hotel room and lied down on the bed instead of getting ready. I was downright tired. I thought I was tired yesterday! The thought of skipping the day and staying in bed crossed my mind. For some reason I thought everyone would understand that and leave me alone, but I know that would never happen. Well, this is why I am here, so I got ready and headed down for the start. The pre-ride brief mentioned short cuts, and those sounded tempting too, but I knew that wasn’t really an option. Then Kevin presented the black jersey winners for yesterday’s feats, and I was awarded one for racing foolishly, not following the rules for my solo break by announcing “I am Thor, God of Thunder – All Mortal Men Weep in My Presence!” which is supposedly how I secured my fate to doing extra climbing and not coming anywhere close to KOM points or a stage win. I thought he was joking, but I just looked back at the rules, and he is right, it’s in the rules. Not that it matters anyway. There is no questioning Kevin because all judgments are arbitrary and final… and arbitrary.

With much hesitation I decided I would just hang back with Jeff who had just finished an Ironman on Saturday, and I would not attack or worry about anything that resembled competition. I’m not sure what I was thinking because even when I tried to take it easy I would end up near the front, or on the front. Our first climb up Mount St. Helena began just 10 miles into the ride. I wasn’t warmed up yet, and was gasping for air as I started the climb. “Why am I up front again?” Well, the group broke up quickly and I realized I was riding with the same guys again: Mike Armbruster, Mark, Mike Brown, Tommy, and Andrew. Uggghhh… I didn’t want to hang out with these guys anymore. Well, I also didn’t feel like drifting back down the hill to the next group. Oh yeah, Bobo was there too. He apparently found his legs today. Next thing I knew Kevin bridged up to us, and I chose to just sit back and relax. There came a point in the climb where there was a small dip and as the group started to ascend they slowed. I had generated enough momentum that I wanted to stick with it and surged past the group. Yes, of course it was interpreted as an attack that I would have to pay for later, but if I had allowed my wheels to slow before climbing again I risked being gapped.

I ended up finishing the climb with Andrew, who noted a 15% grade at one point. Overall I liked this climb much better than the climbs we did the last two days because I maintained some decent momentum through it. I earned 4th on the climb, but since KOM points only go to the top 3, 4th is essentially last.

An awesome descent into St. Helena and we met the van where Matty Matt had a box of awesome pastries. Donuts around cyclist are a dangerous thing. Imagine a piece of hamburger tossed into a pool full of starving piranhas. In fact we waited there so long, enjoying refined sugar and everything non-Paleo that everyone that did the climb rejoined us. It was a nice rollout from that van stop, but the single file pace line gradually became faster as we circled around a small lake. Gradually people started falling off. This was more what I was looking for today. There were no attacks, just a nice steady tempo pace, staying out of the red zone.

The next van stop was a nice casual stop. That’s right. I didn’t attack in the feed zone. Instead I enjoyed the break in Pope Valley, a rundown 4 corners town with a general store a market and a garage. There were a lot of tow trucks, tractor parts, and old tires. Our group at this point consisted of myself, Scott, Jeff, Andrew, Tommy, Mark, Bobo, Mike and Mike. We finally rolled on and our next climb was soon after. It was a long winding narrow road that went on and on, but I enjoy climbs like this. Although we weren’t near the KOM points, Jeff and I killed the awesome descent. We soft pedaled for quite a while before Mike, Mike, Tommy, and Bobo joined us. I wasn’t sure where Andrew and Scott were, but we were moving again. When we arrived in Calistoga we stopped on an earlier agreed upon lunch stop. What a great day! Tempo riding with breaks!

After we were done eating we started to become a little concerned about where Scott and Andrew were, but then they rolled up. Soon after, Kevin and Curt showed up. It was a long break, and then we found the van stop just a mile later. They were wondering where the heck we were. Nobody really thought to notify them, and I’m sure they would have like a sandwich too. Even though we had already eaten, we descended on the van as if we hadn’t eaten or drank anything for hours.

We only had about 30 miles left, but about 20 miles before the official finish since we didn’t want to be racing within Santa Rosa. The pace was swift, and became even swifter when the attacks began. Now we were down to myself, Andrew, Tommy, Mike Brown, Bobo and Jeff. So, yes, I did get to ride with Jeff today, but that was because he was killing it. Who would have thought multiple days of fast centuries would be a good recovery plan after an Ironman? Anyway, I joined in the attacks and tried to put the screws to Tommy. It was all done though when we hit the final climb. Even though it was short, I popped and was done. There was plenty of hard riding with Jeff, but the rest of the group was gone. We saw Mike Brown a little ahead with a flat, so we finished 4th and 5th. It was a great day, and I felt good enough after to get a short run in.

My ride here on Strava.



Tight legs, tight back. What the hell? Let’s go for it, or as something Kevin Childre would say “do something heroic”.

I suppose I’ve finally adjusted to the time zone change, or I am just tired enough to actually sleep. After a solid 8.5 hours of shut eye I was up and ready for breakfast. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I knew I was headed back to Omelet Express. After a solid meal it was time to prep for the ride. Today and yesterday when I brought my bike out I realized it was overcast and rather cold. But both days the sun started to come out and I knew I wouldn’t need my jacket or arm warmers. Not the case for most of the other riders. It was cool at the beginning, but I prefer to stay a little chilled.

After a neutral rollout the pace stayed casual until Mark from San Clemente made the first move. I almost went with him, but realized my legs were not warmed up enough for an attack yet so I settled in at the front of the peloton with Tommy. Andrew said “I’ll get him” and took off after him. Actually there was Tod off the front too, but he wasn’t really enticing a chase. Our pace started to pick up when Tommy decided to start closing the gap, and I started to feel warmed up. As soon as the gap was closed I saw the opportunity to attack. There was a series of attacks, over and over and over. Myself, Mark, Mike Armbruster, and Scott Duncan were leading all the attacks for about an hour, and then Scott Waterman jumped in the mix. When I saw him I was surprised because I hadn’t been riding with Scott and I didn’t recognize him. I was wondering who the hell it was at first, but then I saw the black jersey he had just been awarded.

The pace was swift enough that we only had eight with us. I heard Tommy and Andrew talking about Tommy’s brother, Mike, having a flat and Kenny was back with him. I also heard them talk about blocking to allow Mike and Kenny get back to the group. I was slightly amused because every time Andrew or Tommy moved to the front I surged right past them. None of their blocking worked. I figured if I couldn’t race smart, I could race stupid and burn the few matches I had in reserve. I knew I was not match against anyone in this group on the climb ahead, but certainly not against Tommy, Mike or Kenny.

As we were rolling up to the van stop around mile 40, near the start of our big climb for the day, Andrew was pulling me back by grabbing my jersey and asking me to stop at the van. Again, I was currently tied for first with Tommy for the KOM title, I am no match head to head against Tommy on a climb. I had to resort to other tactics. I chose to forgo food and water (but in all fairness announced to all that I was going for it).

The climb up Geyser Ridge started off awesome. It had some rollers that provided my legs enough rest to create some momentum and charge up the next section of the climb. I knew their break would be short, and I didn’t have much time to get to the top. I saw a fenced off area at one crest and I actually hoped that was the top. As I would soon learn, it wasn’t even near the top. My legs started to lose all their oomph, and I was out of water. I began to hear some talking before me and I was hoping I was hallucinating rather than being wrapped up. I knew what was coming, but I was still motivated and kept pushing. I wasn’t going to give it up. I kept hearing “don’t race to lose” in my head. It wasn’t much longer when Tommy and Scott Duncan flew by me as if they were charging downhill instead of climbing. Geeshh. It was time to go after third place since there are KOM points awarded three deep.

I wasn’t hallucinating, but not thinking clearly when I came upon a T intersection that wasn’t on the route sheet. Of course it would have made sense that the climb was probably where the road when UP. Maybe I was hoping the climb was over. Anyway, the sign said Geyser 2 miles left and Healdsburg 9 miles right. Well, I think we are riding to Geyser. I started the descent and my Garmin started beeping “Off Route”. Uggghhh. I don’t want to climb up when I am finally going down. I actually went all the way to the bottom where the road ended at a gate with a large truck at it. Crap! I had to turn and start climbing back to where I was. When I got back on track I saw Andrew and Jerry Logan up ahead of me. I had no steam left though, and I decided I was just going to cruise in. Little did I realize this was no cruise. The climb was steep enough that I was having front wheel lift off. My 39X25 gearing wasn’t helping the situation. It may have only been a ½ mile further, I don’t really know. It felt like many miles. As I was trudging along with a cadence of about 40, Kenny flew by me. Ok, so that is what a hill climber looks like. Kenny just won the Mt Baldy climb for 50+ a couple weeks ago.

The summit was awesome (they usually are) and the view of Sonoma Valley below was incredible. I thought about stopping to take some pictures, but really just wanted to move on and minimize the gap between myself and the ten riders ahead of me (I discovered later that Mike Brown had passed me too when I was on my wrong turn). The descent was awesome, even though there were gravel sections and washed out sections that kept it interesting. At the bottom was the final van stop. It was my first stop of the day, 72 miles in, and I needed it. I downed two Cokes, ate some cookies, and filled my water bottles. Twenty five miles to go, and I was just going to relax and enjoy them, unlike yesterday which was team time trial turned solo time trial.

Nine miles from the finish I rolled up on a couple cop cars, and all but the first two riders (Tommy and Scott) were on the side of the road. I wasn’t sure if I should join them if they were in trouble for something, but it ended up being an accident involving Kenny. The info I have is third hand, so I’ll let him tell you the story if he wants.

We chose to end the ride there, and slow roll into the hotel. Besides the accident it was a great day.

Here is my ride today on Strava.


Today’s stage left and ended in Santa Rosa. See map below.

Overall the total elevation gain does not reflect the difficulty of today’s ride. The elevation chart below shows some steep climbs and descents, where there were several 18% grades. The first climb was steady and warmed up the peleton well. I led the first long descent, and we rolled right past the first van stop at mile 20. Matty Matt took our picture as we flew by, and I’m certain it is going to be a sweet print since I was driving the train. It’s Matt’s birthday, so he deserves that treat.

As we approached the base of King’s Ridge (I was still driving) people started asking where the van stop was and whining that they had to pee. I was good to go. I had driven the train for 10+ miles AND I was the KOM leader, having won both hill climbs yesterday. I know, I don’t look like much of a hill climber, but I was off the front and had stolen the climbs from the climbers. I figured my only chance to get in the top 3 for either of the two climbs that had points for KOM was to push on and make the people that ran out of water or had to pee suffer. I figured even if I pushed on it would be a challenge to get any points, but it would be my only chance. Well, I gave in. The pee break turned into an eating break, and people needing water. World and National Champ Jerry Logan and National Champ Mike Freeman turned and dashed back to town to get water. I thought this is getting ridiculous, so I said “let’s go” and started heading up. It wasn’t long before I realized I was settling in at 8th on the hill. About half way up Mike Freeman came flying by me as if there wasn’t even a hill. I couldn’t believe it, especially since Jerry told me how he was planning on just sitting back and riding with Mike today. Jerry was nowhere in sight. Now in 9th I saw Andrew Lee falling back and pushed to catch him. Every time he looked back I got a little more motivated. At the crest, as he was coasting in for the van stop, I pushed by him for my very small victory of the day. Mike Freeman, Tommy Brown, Mike Brown and Kenny Rodriguez had already left the van and pushed on for the next climb.

To me it was a much tougher day than yesterday. The climbs were brutal, the descent fast and sometimes sketchy, and the flats on the way in turned into super fast pace lines and chasing. I finished the day 5th overall. The Brown brothers and Kenny rolled in first. Andrew and I had been riding together, but I got gapped on a short climb and I never could catch back up. I was time trialling it and could tell that the gap was slowly becoming longer and longer. I was praying that he would miss a turn, or stop to look at his route sheet, but he was on it the whole way in.

After the finish I did a short stop at the pool and spa, then it was Chilli’s for dinner. About an hour after that I went out for pizza and had a pizza. Still hungry when I returned to the hotel I had a King Size peanut M&Ms. I’m spent, and now it’s time to hit the sack to get ready for day 3 of 5.


ToP is an annual 5 day club ride for the Canari-Navy cycling club. It is a race mostly because anytime you get two dozen “has-beens” that still want to prove something to themselves, or to their friends, it turns into a race. There are jerseys awarded, and there are teams, but both are quite arbitrary. Rules? Sure there are rules, but they frequently change depending on who you are talking too.

I did ToP last year for the first time, and it set me up well for my two key races of the year, Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon (3rd Overall), and Superfrog Triathlon (6th Overall). I wasn’t sure what to expect this year, but knew I wanted to do it because it’s a blast, but also because I knew the training camp part of it would pay off when by the time I get closer to my end of season races. Today’s route was from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. It was an awesome route with some sweet climbs with the first being up Mount Tamalpais and then several shorter climbs along the coast line, some with steep grades. The temperature was mostly mild, the highest being 82 degrees when we arrived in Santa Rosa. There were head winds that would rate as less than breezy by Chicago standards (~15 mph). Not a cloud in the sky all day long, and surprisingly mild traffic along the coast.

We started with a slow roll out, and we met at the base of the Golden Gate for a group photo. Then we were off for a leisurely roll across the bridge. The pace was very relaxed. It was going to be a long week. We had a long descent and I was near the back of the pack but even with a casual coast I managed to drift up to the front. Tod Neal and I were riding along, then Tod took a wrong turn. I yelled to him and he turned around, but at that point I looked back and no one was there. Hmmmm…. Where is everyone? Oh well, I started the climb up Mt. Tam, waiting for Tommy Brown to catch me. I kept it smooth, not knowing how my current fitness level would hold up. I summitted alone, and then on the descent I was again very cautious because I haven’t been doing any descents. I kept waiting for the bullet Andrew Lee to fly by, but he didn’t. It wasn’t until mile 45 when I was wrapped up by the Tommy and Mike Brown train, along with Kenny Rodriguez and Andrew. Hmmmm… Go figure. The four guys I went to dinner with. I was more spent than I wanted to be so I sat in, which fired up Andrew, so they punished me. The gap was significant, and it took me pushing 350+ watts for about 5 miles before I settled in. Then I got to hear their lectures about sitting in.

There was more painful climbs, but we ended up soft pedaling in together. Andrew is always up for a win though, so he let the rest of us take a wrong turn as he turned into the hotel parking lot first for the stage win.

Here is the Strava link of my ride. I highly recommend this route.

Tomorrow is more climbing, and steeper grades.

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May 2012
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