|Curtis is toasted at the top of Sierra Road. Photo by Midland.|
On Sunday's ride with LanceOldStrong and Midland, we determined that all bicycle ride reports should start with a list of excuses. We are, after all, cyclists. Therefore:
LanceOldStrong — Rode the Death Valley Double last weekend and is still in recovery mode.
MidLand — Had to stop a lot to take a natural
Curtis — Suffering badly from a serious cold and had no business being out at all.
With all of us in excuse agreement we headed out from the Crank2 bike shop in Pleasanton to ride a "lollipop," (At least that''s what Oldstrong calls an out-and-back with a loop at the end) and introduce me to the stunningly steep Sierra Road.
I'd feared this road. As you can see, it has double digit climbs (see chart below) with no let-up for 3.5 miles. My goal was to get up it alive. Preferably without stopping, but that was optional. I just wanted to get through it. After a cool but delightful ride up — and down — Calavaras Road we got to flat San Jose, then turned left into a flippin' wall. Midland and Oldstrong quickly rolled away from me as I tried to contain my heart rate. I was glad I'd just installed a cassette with a lower gear as some sections made me worry I'd just not be able to get the pedals around one more time.
After about 2.5 miles I realized I was doing OK and was going to finish, I thought "What the heck" and just went all out. All out, as in crazy-high heart beat, drooling snot and screaming legs. Amazingly I caught my partners and even passed them for a moment. We finished pretty much together, or as Oldstrong said "A team NorCal podium sweep!" even though there was no one else around to claim victory over. For the record, my time was 40:31, not that I'm keeping track or anything.
My cold pretty much kicked in after that and I was toast for the rest of the ride. Coming down the hill Oldstrong had warned us several times not to miss the turn at "the wall" onto Calavaras. I managed to anyway, and did something I haven't done in over 20 years. I'm blaming the cold and Sierra Road. I turned slowly, pushing 52x11 and executed the perfect no-speed, Fred-alicous, tip-over idiot maneuver. Sadly, my compatriots were able to observe it as it happened, so I couldn't even make up a heroic tale about saving the life of a child or something.
We rolled back to the car ... the car that I'd safely locked my keys inside of. Fortunately, I am an AAA member, and while we waited ate pizza, AAA arrived and popped the door. All was good again, and Sierra Road is checked off my bucket list.