I picked up David at 3:44 and off we went to Davis, requisite Leonard Cohen on the radio. We arrived at 4:44, parked, checked in, picked up maps and route sheets, used and re-used the facilities, and by 5:15 were ready to roll from the corner of 15th and W. Covell where we were to meet raging tandems and hangers on. I went with short-fingered gloves and no knee warmers, opting for short-term discomfort in exchange for less pocket cargo once it warmed up.
Alas, the tandems' group was absent, so we decided to roll on. Another tandem passed us just as we made a left onto W. Covell, and we sprinted past a group of UC Davis-clad riders and others onto the tandem's rear wheel. The tandem zipped through Davis and in no time we were north of city limits, riding through farmlands, sun rising through whispy clouds on our right. I looked back and was surprised to discover that only David and I grabbed the tandem's wheel. For a while, it was going to be just us three.
Elaine, the tandem's stoker, wore a 1999 Paris-Brest-Paris jersey, so I struck up a conversation with her about long distance riding. Jeff, the captain, was too far forward for meaningful communication. The road was completely flat as we marched through 90-degree farmland turns: left turn, right, left, right, left, right.... We passed the Jason/Ken/Mike, et al. fixed gear double paceline. They looked comfortable and well organized. David and I were comfortable too, riding 22-23 mph and barely breaking a sweat. Occasionally, I poked out of the draft to check the wind. It seemed we had a 10 mph wind from the west, which boded well for the return leg.
Davis Double has three parts: a flat 55 miles, followed by very hilly 65, then 70 flat and slightly downhill to the finish. We spent the entire first phase behind Jeff and Elaine. Rest stops were eschewed because of long bathroom lines; trees, a ditch and other natural facilities along Highway 20 outside of Winters required no delay and our paceline of five bikes and six riders was back on the road. Luckily, Elaine did not need to stop. We stopped again on top of the dam at southeastern corner of Lake Beryessa, then descended and began the climb up Cardiac Hill. We rode with Jeff and Elaine, but they began to slow down and David and I rode went ahead. The road pitched and rolled a bit and we were chasing gamely after single riders. One guy wearing an Alta Alpina 8 jersey was riding quite strongly. We (David) chased and chased and finally latched onto his wheel. He pulled for a while, then I told him there were four of us (we had dragged another rider with us) and we were willing to take pulls. Soon, I took a pull, but thereafter, the AA8 guy went ahead and stayed in front. We scooped up riders as we went along. At one point the AA8 guy turned around and was quite surprised when he saw at least a half-dozen people on his wheel, but he didn't seem to mind the fan club. He pulled us for good 8-10 miles and quite soon we arrived at Moscowite Corner rest stop, the same place where Brian, Mike, Floyd, and I stopped on our way back from Calistoga two years ago.
The rest stop was completely swamped, so David and I refilled our bottles, grabbed a very quick bite, and went off in search of uncrowded bathroom facilities. We found them at the back wall of an abandoned and boarded up convenience store a quarter mile up the road. A fast looking tall guy in Webcor kit rode past and I thought it would be nice to draft him, but we had no chance to catch him, as we were, well, with our pants down. We finished our business and set off alone for the first time on this ride.
Roads got lumpy at this point. There were medium length and grade climbs and descents and long stretches along flats through valleys. With the tandem gone and the AA8 guy nowhere in sight I could finally take advantage of my aero bars and they were great. One guys passed us, we passed a few and after a while we rode with a couple of random cyclists who were going at our pace. Just after we crested a longish uphill, the AA8 guy caught up to us much to our expressed delight (he'd spent more time at the rest stop), at which he laughed good-naturedly. Back on his wheel we went and he pulled for better part of 30-40 minutes into Middletown rest stop.
Fluids out, fluids in. A quick bite of watermelon, potato chips, fig newtons, grapes, and a frappucchino (don't you love cycling event diets?), ice sock/neck tie made its first appearance, and we were back on the road to tackle Cobb Mountain. Cobb Mountain is the highest peak in Napa County at 4,400'. Mercifully, Highway 175, the road over the mountain merely skirts its shoulder, peaking at 2,910' after a four-mile climb averaging 8%. Many parts of the climb were exposed and windless and by now, at 11:45 a.m., the sun made its presence felt in earnest, with temperature in the low 80s. The climb bucks and eases off as it goes. David and I climbed at our own pace, with me pulling ahead somewhat. As the road steepened, I shifted into my low gear of 34x25, but the derailleur balked. I jiggled the shifter, shifting back and forth and easing up on the pedals, pulled the cable with my hand, and cursed and cajoled in equal measures. Pulling the cable finally worked. Just then, the road flattened somewhat and I had a choice -- shift up now and struggle with trying to get back into the 25 or remain in 25 and crawl on the flat, losing time. I compromised, remaining in the 25, I shifted into the big ring, committing the cardinal sin of cross-chaining. The drive train protested loudly. I relented and shifted back into the small ring, just as well since the road pitched up again for another quarter mile to the top, where I stopped to wait for David. He appeared soon and I remounted for the descent.
Quickly and ruefully, we learned that this was not The descent, but a short downhill off a false summit and we had another mile to climb, but first, a rest stop at Cobb Mountain Elementary School. 104 miles down, 99 to go! Ice for the sock, food for the gut, liquids for the bladder and we were ready go. Incidentally, this ride was a complete opposite of Solvang, where I was desperately dehydrated. At Davis, all day I couldn't get to the bathroom quickly enough.
We climbed the remaining mile, with me feeling frisky and riding ahead. A nicely paved and fast descent followed, then upon reaching Loch Lomond, we turned onto Highway 29 up a long roller and a plunge down Siegler Canyon toward Clear Lake. I'd never ridden down Siegler Canyon. If I had, perhaps I would have been familiar with the road's occasional potholes, ruts, curves and the grade, but I was blissfully ignorant of its defects and with assistance of aerobars and an 11-tooth cog sped down, down, down. A quick glance at the computer showed current speed of fifty-something. That I found a bit fast and applied the brakes ever so gently. David was close behind. As the road flattened a bit we caught up to a minivan and an SUV, which followed three cyclists who rode two-three abreast, taking up the entire road. The road was curvy and the drivers didn't feel comfortable passing, so we drafted the cars. After a couple of miles of this, we sprinted past the cars to alert the cyclists that there were cars back and went past them. Another five minutes of flats and we were at the lunch stop in Lower Lake, 117 miles into the ride.
Grabbed some protein in addition to carbs, and salt, ice, drink and we're ready to go, only to discover that David has a flat front tire. Better here than on Siegler descent. He fixed the flat and we were off to my least favorite part of the ride -- five warm, rolling and traffic-filled miles of Highway 53. Predictably, it was warm and busy. Suddenly, after a stop sign, 90% of the cars disappeared, they all went to the lake and we continued on quieter roads. A right turn onto Highway 20, a quarter-mile climb, followed by a long descent, and a flat approach to Resurrection, the last climb of the day. I was strong or foolish enough to climb the lower third of Resurrection in the big ring, as I greeted a rider I passed, he said, "looking strong!" I thanked him, then realized that the climb was longer than I remembered and the legs reminded that I was 130 miles into the ride, so down into the small ring I went. I continued to climb reasonably aggressively and reached the top in good shape. So did David. His legs were OK, but ligaments and left foot were not so good. So, off went his shoes and in went Ibuprophen. I encouraged him with: "It's all downhill from here." His looked grim and determined.
Downhills and Flats
Not quite. There was a dip and another hill and off in the distance I saw a group of 6 riders and sped up a bit in pursuit. Then we went downhill, but into a warm headwind. On the way down I was hiding from the wind in the aero bars and pedaling, but just wasn't getting the satisfaction out of this descent. What should have been a nearly 40 mph coast turned into a 27 mph pedal-fest. "It would be nice to hide behind that group," I thought. David and I regrouped at the bottom and I began a calculated chase into a warm 15 mph head wind. There was no point in going all out because I'd just waste myself and wouldn't be able to bring them back. David was tiring gradually and, though he took pulls, I felt that catching the group was mostly my job. The road was crooked and slightly downhill. The turns made it impossible to see into the distance, save for occasional glimpses, but when I looked ahead the group just wasn't there. Oh, at times when the road was really straight I could see them far away, then not see them at all for 5-10 minutes at a time. I continued making excellent use of aero bars, but with what results? Hammer, hammer, hammer, recover for 30 seconds, hammer, hammer, hammer, recover, hammer, hammer, hammer, on and on. Odds were against us: there were two of us chasing six. This went on seemingly for half an hour. Suddenly, there they were, about 60 yards ahead! I did a fist pump, David exclaimed triumphantly, I put my head down. The next time we saw them they were 20 yards ahead, ugh, there's a hill with a turn and who knows how long it is. But they had to climb the hill too and they appeared to have less energy than we (why else would we catch them?). The hill turned out to be short and we made contact just over the top.
Time to exhale, recover, and check out the scenery. We were riding along along a side of a canyon, with Cache Creek flowing full, rapid, and loud at the bottom. Everything was green, the sun was shining, we were coasting and all was well. I recovered quickly enough and realized that this group wasn't riding terribly fast. We were cruising downhill in high teens-low twenties and no one seemed in a particular hurry. David and I sat on the back and I wondered if anyone was going to start riding. I turned to David and made a rude gesture with my fist going up and down, directed at the group. Suddenly, a rider in a red jersey accelerated, went past the entire paceline and got on the front; it looked like things were about to get interesting. But no, he slowed everyone down even more. So, David and I continued to rest back there.
After a while, we hit the flats and the group began rotating. Riders were taking pulls that were too long, going for a couple of miles, gradually slowing down, until reaching near exhaustion, instead of staying at the front for half a minute of brisk riding and getting the hell out of there. The guy ahead of me sped up to 22, pulled at that speed for a few minutes, then slowed down noticeably before pulling off. Of course when my turn came, the thought of a short pull made me feel guilty and I pulled for the better part of a mile.
An uneventful pull by a nondescript rider followed. David was next and he went at 24. A gap opened in front of the the guy in front of me, he tried to close it and sat up. As I went around him, he said he'd cramped in both legs. Three others who were with him dropped back to wait, two others went ahead. I went up to David and gently told him that when he takes the front to continue at the speed the paceline had been going and, if he must speed up, speed up gradually. He seemed impressed that he cramped a guy at mile 160 and we had a good time discussing that. We reached the Guinda Fire Station rest stop a couple of miles later.
At Guinda they had a tot pool filled with very cold water and chairs set up around it. I sat down and stuck my feet in the pool without taking my shoes off. Oh, that felt nice. Ice sock was well and good for the upper body, but feet appreciated the cooling very much. At the rest stop I talked to one of the guys who'd been in the paceline with us a few miles back and he said that the guy David cramped was their strongman, lending additional prestige to David's achievement. When I told David that, he seemed proud and I was proud of him.
Forty flat miles into a warm headwind remained, so we set off through Capay Valley toward Cache Creek Casino. After a couple of miles the tall Webcor guy sped by, riding on the wheel of another strong rider. I said to David, "that's a big guy, let's jump on that," and David led us to Webcor's wheel. We sped up from 18-19 to 22-23. When Webcor guy took a turn and our speed rose to solid 24-25. His companion looked at us, but we let him go in front because we had neither legs nor motivation to pull. They took a couple more turns with the Webcor guy looking noticeable stronger and the other guy silently imploring us to pull. David was having a hard time hanging in there during Webcor's pulls. I told the other guy I'd take a turn if David could stick with the group, but lucky for me David was about done with riding at 24-25, and we let those guys go.
Since 3:45 in the morning I'd been promising David a tailwind for the return leg, but all we'd had so far was a warm headwind. I kept promising tailwinds, but I began disbelieving myself. Entering Capay Valley, however, we had our Mary Poppins moment, as the wind shifted and our speed went from 18-19 to 22-23. In no time, however, the wind flipped back around and was in our faces again, so back to high teens went our speed. Suddenly, we had to slam on brakes -- a traffic jam. We were in the middle of nowhere on Highway 16 riding in bumper to bumper line of cars, all going at our speed more or less. So, we went the speed of traffic. At one point we drafted a Winnebago at ~25 -- sucked along by Winnebago, to be more accurate. Off in the distance we could see the reason for the slowdown: there were two pacelines about 50 yards apart and cars were careful and reluctant to pass them. After 10 minutes of this, we entered the town of Capay and its red brick-paved shoulder/bike lane. Four blocks later, we were out of town, turning onto Road 85B (?!). Five miles to the next rest stop.
I remember this road well -- I felt lousy here in 2005. I felt much better here this year, but David felt about as well as I did five years ago. We limped to the rest stop, where David immediately took off his shoes and pronounced into his Flip camera: "I feel horrible. I'm gonna kill Vlad. I'm gonna kill Vlad" for dragging him out to this ride. I pretended not to understand his complaints, arguing we had just an hour of sitting on our butts before the finish, but he refused to see the humor and, having been there, I understood
We were mere/imposing (depending on how you felt) 22 miles from the finish, so we resumed the march we'd started early in the morning. Left, right, left, right, left, right. Head wind, side wind, head wind, side wind. We caught up with another rider and rode with him for a while. He and I traded pulls at a decent clip while David gamely hung on. We had to let him go on the outskirts of Davis, then rode into town in a relieved and celebratory mood. Riding time -- 11:01:28. Total time -- I insist under 13 hours, though we didn't check the time and it was close.
We changed, checked in, ate, went back to the car, dodging arriving cyclists, and drove home. It was freezing and foggy in Berkeley with typical Bay Area summer winds blowing from the West. Where was this wind when we needed it on the way back to Davis? I dropped off David and driving home got stuck at a train crossing on Gilman -- a freight train that went forever. I swear, when its caboose finally passed Gilman, its engine must have been at Powell Street in Emeryville.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this ride quite a bit. The course was very scenic, pacing very sensible, I ate and drank very well throughout, and felt quite good the whole day. Most of all, I am incredibly impressed with David's ride. He increased his career long ride by 120% on a warm and windy day. Chapeau!