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2012 Tour de Cure

Oakland Yellowjackets Bicycling Club

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Home Blog Ride Reports 2012 Tour de Cure

2012 Tour de Cure

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Tour de Cure 2012

The ride was, well, challenging (see below), but, as always, it was a great experience and I'm happy to be a part of such a worthwhile event.

The results (so far..)

Team Bio-Rad (my team) and the Napa Valley Tour de Cure event will likely have another record year this year! Team Bio-Rad just surpassed $65,000 this morning (most ever at this point) and the Tour just over $1.218 million! And the money is still coming in.! The Tour de Cure web site for our tour and Team Bio-Rad will remain open at least until the end of this month.

Bio-Rad Top 15

Bio-Rad had the largest team (191 riders registered) and so far raised the most money of over 200 teams in the event. We also had the largest number of volunteers doing a fantastic job!

Here is the list of my team's top 15 fund raisers. Thanks so much to everyone who donated to the cause!

  1. Lupe Leon - $2,000
  2. Sarah Paul - $1,930
  3. Tim Washburn - $1,425
  4. Dory Willer - $1,415
  5. Vipul Patel - $1,400
  6. Bryan Malone - $1,375
  7. Linda Sanz - $1,341
  8. Regina Goldade - $1,150
  9. Nick Erndt - $1,150
  10. Toni Link - $1,070
  11. Stacey Abidayo - $1.070
  12. Bennett Berke - $1,060
  13. Jeff Willer - $840
  14. Andrew Hecht - $820
  15. Paul Chamberlain - $805

The Ride

The 2012 Tour de Cure was by far the toughest of the four I've done. The heat and the wind beat me relentlessly. I wanted to quit several times along the way, but I persevered and finished the 100 mile ride for the 4th time. Here's how it went down:

I rode up to Napa with Frank from the OYJ. I was psyched to him have along. He's a great guy and, well, a bit heavier than me, so he's got the right sized body to block the wind.

We wanted to hit the route when it opened at 6:45, but we had a late start and the crush of riders made it difficult to check-in. There were 2500 people participating in this event and most of them seemed to be in line ahead of us. Lucky for me, Bio-Rad is the main sponsor, so when this woman came by asking if anyone was on Team Bio-Rad, I said ,"right here" and off we went to check in and get our numbers. We managed to get out on the road around 7:15. Not bad. But not good enough, as it turns out.

The ride starts at the Veterans' Home in Yountville and almost immediately heads north towards Sonoma. Normally the start of the ride is the most enjoyable part. Rolling along the country roads just to the east of Yountville is quite nice. You're passing vineyards, exclusive restaurants, little farms. Very pleasant stuff. Plus it's too early to even conjure up thoughts of the pain and suffering you're going to encounter down the road.

But on Saturday, I knew we were in for a long day when we turned back onto highway 29 and came head-on into a blasting head wind. The valley is notorious for the northerly winds, but they don't usually pick up until later in the day. It wasn't full on the whole way north and there are pockets where the trees arching over the highway protected us from the wind, but it was not going to be the easy cruise up to the climb past Calistoga like it is normally...even with Frank protecting me from the wind.

We latched on to several groups, but the riders were too strong for me, I kept falling off and Frank would have to come back or wait up the road. I was frustrated that I was holding him up and cursing myself for Lake Chabot the day before when I should have been resting up.

We rolled through Oak Grove and St. Helena and, then, finally, Calistoga. The road from Calistoga starts to head upwards, ever so slightly at first, then becomes a steady climb, a mile or so at 5.5% grade. It's really no big deal. Not even close to as hard as Redwood Road.

The tables had turned and now Frank fell a little behind while I motored up the climb and when I got to the top, he was nowhere to be seen. I waited for several minutes while bunches of riders passed and still no Frank, so I went down the hill to look for him. A couple hundred meters down the slope, there was Frank on the side of the fiddling with his chain and derailleur. It all looked pretty messed up to me. The derailleur was bent at unnatural angle. Frank was using brute force to unbend the thing it and return it to it's full upright and locked position. I was dubious, but was determined he'd fix it. When it was bent back to his satisfaction, we finished the climb together.

At the top, we stopped because it was obvious that Frank's bike was really messed up. He went back to the bending and fiddling and then tried to ride it again, which turned out to be a mistake. Within seconds I could hear of sounds of shit breaking, Ping! Ping! Bing! as his derailleur disintegrated and parts went flying off in all directions. The bike was done. And Frank was pretty much done too.

Frank took off the chain and put it in his jersey pocket. We hunted down all the derailleur pieces from the road and the bushes. We tried to figure out what to do. Of course, I wanted to continue riding and finish. Even if we managed to get the next rest stop, I doubt the mechanic would have the parts to get Frank up and rolling again. He needed to go to a bike shop.

However, we were at the top of the climb and the descent into Alexander Valley is so spectacular, I didn't want Frank to miss it. This was his first Tour de Cure after all. So we mounted up and flew down the hill. Other than finishing the event, the descent on 128 from the county line is the highlight of the entire ride. Smooth pavement, little traffic, trees covering the street at the top and then along vineyards and farms at the bottom.

When the road flattened out at the bottom, I tried to push Frank, but we weren't getting anywhere. I flagged down a CHP motorcyclist, he called the SAG for Frank and we parted ways. We'd gone about 30 miles, so the rest of the ride was going to be long and lonely.

I stopped briefly at the 2nd Rest Stop at the Fieldstone Winery to fuel up and top off my water bottles. I probably should have waited for a group of strong riders or any riders, but I was anxious to get going. I road out slowly thinking surely a group would pass before Jimtown, but none did.

I did see a bunch of serious time trialists training along that stretch of road. I could hear the "whoosh!" "whoosh" "whoosh" sound of carbon fiber wheels behind me and then I would get passed by some dude in an aero helmet on top of a $10,000 TT bike going 35+ mph. I was lucky to be crawling along at half that speed. This stretch of road is on our Sonoma ride. We head in the opposite direction towards Chalk Hill. So if you've done that ride, you'll how nice this stretch of road is. It's nothing but twisty rollers and vineyards as far as the eye can see.

From there, the road takes a 90 degree turn and heads towards Healdsburg. It goes over the Russian River and makes a loop around the Healdsburg Municipal Airport. This is typically where I've gotten a second wind aided by hanging at the back of a long group of riders and enjoying a holiday from the wind while I rest up for the return leg. But other than a small group of team riders with whom I was only able to stay for about a mile or so, I was on my own around the whole loop.

It was lonely out there. Around the 45th mile, my left hamstring started twitching and I began to think "what the hell am I doing out here", but I kept going, climbing up past the airport, out the most northernmost point on the route and started the long haul back to Yountville.

But I was struggling. I got passed by this Ukranian kid I met on a ride a few weekend's back in Marin. Then I got passed by a teammate from Bio-Rad (also named Andrew). I struggled back to the Alexander Valley Rd, back over the Russian River, where I put in a huge effort, caught Andrew in a desperate attempt to get in his slipstream, only to be dropped seconds later.

My hammys were screaming at me and I knew I wouldn't make the rest stop at Field Stone, so I pulled over at the Jimtown Store, sat my ass down on the green bench and tried to stretch the pain out of my legs. Felt great to off the bike and take a breather.

10-15 minutes later, I was feeling a hell of lot better. Amazing what a little rest will do to your psyche. I got and did the last stretch to Fieldstone where I scarfed down some salmon and cream cheese wraps, slathered on some sun block and got hydrated. I really wanted a Coke, but they were out when I got there so I just had water, which was probably for the best anyway.

Andrew was still at the rest stop, so I plopped my weary body next to him. I thought I was foolish for going out on a 40-miler the day before. Andrew had ridden the Tour of the Unkown Coast (http://www.tuccycle.org/), a notoriously hard century ride up in Ferndale up near the Oregon border. He was telling me about he'd struggle up this 20% 1-mile climb called, fittingly enough, “The Wall", but descending was even harder because the roads are all chewed up. After struggling up the climbs, there was no joy of descending. Clearly not a ride for me.

He took off, but I needed to rest up more and it's not like I'd be able to hang with him anyway. At this point, we're about 55 miles in. It's not even noon yet, but it's starting to get hot. I heard it was over 95, but I'm not sure. It was warmish. The 45 miles left consist of the climb back over 29 to Napa, a long 22-mile southbound stretch on the Silverado Trail, and the 3 mile wind-tunnel that is Solano Avenue. If I could just get over the climb, I told myself, I'd be good. Despite the wind, the heat and the solo riding, I'd even make it under 6 hours (of riding time) if everything went well.

Back on the bike after a nice long break, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm passing slower riders up the climb. I'm not breaking any records, but I'm making steady progress and feeling good about. When I hit the summit at the county line, I'm thrilled. I shift up, crank hard on the pedals and wind it up all the way to Calistoga.

At the next rest stop, it's more of the same. Eating pretzels, drinking water and putting on the sunblock. I even had a Diet RC Cola. I hate diet cola, but I needed some caffeine and it seemed like the best way to get it. I also took a couple of Advil, which really helped. After stretching out the hamstrings, it was back on the bike for the long reach down Silverado.

Having faced into the headwind most of the way so far, I was looking forward to getting the typical push down Silverado, but it just wasn't happening. There was a little wind, but not really what I was looking for. But it was better than a headwind any day. My spirits were lifted as I blasted down the trail as fast as my body and the wind would take me.

I hit the 80 miles at the 4:46 mark. At this point I started doing the mental calculus to see how I was going to make it in under 6 hours. The way I figured it, the more miles I can log in the next 14 minutes, the fewer I'll have to do in the final hour. I'm motivated now. I'm rolling as fast as I can and the miles are ticking over. 81. 82. 83. 84. Only 17.57 miles per hour, but that included most of the steep rollers on Silverado. At this point we're sharing the road with the people doing the 80 and 50 mile ride ( and pretty soon the 25 miles ride too) and I'm zipping by people. Riders are melting. They are sitting by the side of the road in the shade just as I'm, finally, getting my second wind.

So at the 5 hour mark, I know I've only got to do 15.9 miles in the next hour, so I think I'm good, but I have the 3 mile wind tunnel to think of, so I'm not taking any chances. Silverado Trail flattens out and I'm flying down the road. I put on almost 10 miles in the next 30 minutes (19.5mph) before I have to turn onto Oak Knoll to cross the valley. Because of the huge effort, I felt like I could just take it the rest of the way. I should have been flooring it down Oak Knoll and taking advantage of the light crosswind. Instead I was feeling content and pleased with myself. The end was near.

I crossed over the railroad tracks on Highway 29, made the right turn onto Solano and came face to face with a wall of wind. I don't know how fast it was going, but it was completely demoralizing, 3 miles of pure torture. As bad as I felt, I can only image what those poor people on their mountain bikes and beach cruisers were feeling. For them, this is the one time of the year they get their bikes out of the garage and onto the road to support the American Diabetes Association. They didn't bargain for this.

I watched helplessly as my average speed for the 6th hour plummeted from 19mph to 18 to 17. I still thought I was going to make it, but it would be close. Constantly doing the calculations in my head was the one thing that kept my mind off the pain. I'd give in and drop below 11 mph and realize I had to pick it up and get out of the saddle for a few seconds to get the pace back up to 15mph. It sucked. Pure and simple.

After the 3 miles of this sufferfest, we have to face up the final test, the sadistic one mile climb up to the finish line. It's not a steep climb at all, but when the mercury is hovering around three digits and you've just endured the Solano Ave wind tunnel, only to have to the climb the 99th mile of a century, it's pretty tough sledding.

At the top, I crossed the finish line, looked down at my computer and it said 5:57. I had made it. Just barely. But not in time for the team picture which happened only minutes before I arrived.


You can see all the ride stats on Strava:

They stats are a little skewed because I forgot to stop the Garmin when I finished. After the ride, I leaned the bike against a tree right near the finish line and it “auto-paused", but as soon as I was rolling down to the car when I was heading home, I realized the computer was still running. So the time on Strava says 05:59:41, but it was really 5:57 and change. Oops.

Thanks for reading!

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