April Fool's Day was the ideal irony for the 11th annual Nifty Ten Fifty, a notoriously hellish 54-mile, 10,000-feet-of-climbing course up and down Berkeley and Oakland's steepest roads. If you look at the route on Strava, it seems ridiculous. On the bike, it still kind of seems ridiculous, until you finish and then it's just cool.
To anyone familiar, it's not surprising that it was Bruce Carroll's idea to do the Nifty this year. I was convinced by the encouragement that this would "be a great training ride for the Triple Crown Stage Race!" Guess so…
We showed up at the starting point in El Cerrito, at the corner of Moser and Pomona, around 8:15 for a pre-ride meeting before the 8:30 start. It was a chilly morning—Roubaix bib knickers, long sleeve base layer, jersey, vest, double gloves for me, but then I dress like I'm in the Arctic most of the time.
The Nifty route has 10 climbs, but some are actually two, so it seems like more. Joy!
- Marin from the fountain
- El Toyanal/Lomas Cantadas
- Canon/South Park
- Broadway Terrace
I'd been on most of these before, though had never done Marin from the fountain and hadn't done Hiller from the Tunnel side. We warmed up pretty fast climbing Moser, which sports grades of up to 20%, but is really more in the 15% range. Everyone re-grouped at the top and followed our leader, Bill Oldham (riding with a fractured wrist!), down streets I don't remember and then up the second climb, Terrace. Everyone in the group stayed together, all the while mentally planning for the day's most daunting climb, Marin.
The steepest half-mile of paved road in California is forgiving only in that it has little side streets that you can bail on when you feel like you just might topple. The first few blocks are not bad, really, but I'd done the last three blocks once before with OYJers Reese, Myra, Scott, Joan and Bruce, so I knew they were gut-busters. Once at the top, we got a little ego boost from a car spinning its tires trying to make the summit.
With Marin done, we re-grouped again and pedaled over to Inspiration Point, before heading down Wildcat and over to Toyonal. At the top, the B group split up, with the front half deciding to go ahead to Centennial. By now it had turned into a gorgeous day and all along Skyline the views of the City were stunning.