Months of non-preparation.
Weeks of denial.
A couple of hours driving.
A twenty-year-old bike in need of a tuneup...
Last year was a terrific year for me as a weekend cyclist. 25 lbs. off the waist, 100+ miles a week, lots of climbing. By October, I had pair of centuries already in the legs and lots of motivation. We hit the first-ever Levi Leipheimer GranFondo in great shape. Ready. To. Go.
And it was a blast. That was 2009.
Now 2010 was a blast too, but it was a little different. This year somehow the weekend motivation to ride has been swamped by sloth, carpooling kids to athletics and work. Lots of work. And the mid-week rides that were a staple last year have never materialized. Embarrassing doesn't begin to explain it. Sure, I've had some weekend rides of note -- up the Del Valle grade a few times. A few 40s out and back on Calaveras road.
Arriving in Santa Rosa on Friday night, all sins were absolved. The pre-ride dinner at the Olive Garden (yep, we go in style, people) was a great laugh with our cycling groupetto from southern California. Interesting to think in the few years I've known some of these friends, we've spent many more hours on two wheels than off. As Helene aptly put it, "because we can." Or at least, because we could.
Cycling adventures are wonderful in part because packing is so simple. Gear for riding and a few bits of casual wear and you're all set. Ain't no fancy shindigs to worry about and most of the hotels or motels have a free breakfast. Oatmeal is a staple. So we sacked out at the Hampton Inn in Rhonert Park and within what seemed like moments the 5:45am wakeup call had us up and out to grab parking close to the start. With 6,000 participants this year, it was by far the largest group ride I've ever participated in.
At the start we had time to sip coffee and stay warm, get the bikes pulled together and tires topped off. About 30 minutes before the start I went to put on my shoes.
Where the heck are my shoes? Or my helmet for that matter.
Frantically pulling apart every nook and cranny of the well-packed Honda Pilot it soon became clear that neither shoes or helmet were with us in Santa Rosa. DOOM. So while the others went off to stage with the other riders, I was carefully adhering to the posted speed limit all the way down to the Hampton Inn, hoping I'd just left them by the door in my pre-dawn stupor.
Yep, there they were sitting neatly on the bed. Just as I'd left them. Almost insultingly perfect in their cheery placement.
As quickly as the overly "calm" elevator would carry me back down to the foyer I was out the door and back in the Honda, once again carefully proceeding in accordance with all California traffic laws on my way back to the start. It was now about 8:15, and while the ride had officially begun my group still had yet to start as they had positioned themselves in a rather humble position toward the back of the 6,000 carbonistas preparing their assault on King Ridge.
Using my internal compass as a guide...a tour guide for the back roads of Santa Rosa...I managed to get back to our parking spot, shoes on and rolling by about 8:30. Lucky for me, even with all the riders well up the road there were still a few onlookers on the sidewalk to give me a courtesy cheer with a lone cowbell as I went immediately into full Time Trial mode to try and catch on. Nothing better on a cool morning than taking the old cardio system right up to threshold. Thank goodness for the hotel's 'perk me up' dark blend and an ample helping of adrenaline.
13 minutes solo, almost to the second, till I made contact with the back of the pack and found Lynn and Beth. They were slowing down to wait for me, but I was full-bore, in-the-zone and blew right by. But we managed to connect up a little further down the road, say goodbye to Lynn as she was doing the shorter (but still challenging) Piccolo route, and head off in our little two-person paceline to try and catch the main group.
Little talking, just the rhythmic swish of the chain on the big ring and the occasional 'on your left' as we started passing folks.
Back on track...