Argonaut Death Ride Redux, October 25th, 2008

| October 26, 2008 2:09 pm

by Mark Pryor

Team Alameda-ites and ACTC Argonauteers:

Truly an EPIC, EPIC day…as much total climbing in a “hard” century in half the miles, and with three very uncharacteristic climbs with steep, steep pitches that I would holler “Assassins” if an organizer put any one of Bohlman, Montebello, or Sanborn in a century! (You are an excellent student of Tour de France history if you know that reference).

Yesterday’s route was the reverse of this spring’s Argonaut Death Ride that I cooked up, and I was glad Bohlman came first. Equal numbers of ACTCers and Team Alameda-ites started–18 in all. The last time I climbed Bohlman was on this spring’s version of this ride–I had managed to avoid Bohlman during my Argonaut after-work rides all season with well-placed business trips, and for this trip I had my VDO MC1.0 which gives an every-five-second readout of the percent grade. The real nasty stuff (20 – 21% grades) are liberally spinkled throughout the first 3 miles of the climb, and now I am wondering if the left turn to On Orbit (a very consistent 15 – 18% grade) is easier than the “all Bohlman” option with 21% pitches for decent stretches before On Orbit hooks back up again. Anyway, I was glad we did that MoFo with fresh legs, and the last 1.3 miles of rollers along the ridgeline have you arrive at the road end in pretty perkie fashion. Glad to see Melne (Team Alameda) setting the pace for Brian (TA) and me up Bohlman–she has really come on after her unfortunate accident–but more on her later.

And you begin to appreciate the steepness of the climb when you descend Bohlman–“for Christ’s sake, I just climbed this?!?!? No way!” Two ACTCers peeled off for home at the bottom of Bohlman, and, after watering up at the cemetary at the bottom of the hill, we tackled Highway 9. Highway 9 is an absolutely magnificent descent–one of the best in the Bay Area–but on weekends the climb gets quite choked with motorcycle and car clubs using it as the main conduit out of the San Jose area out to the coast. And, without catalytic converters, motorcycles stink, and when groups of 20 – 30 pass you when you are seriously climbing (Hwy 9 is 7+ miles with very consistent 6 – 8% gradient), you take in quite a bit of that crapola in to your lungs. On weeknights, Hwy 9 is quiet and makes for a nice climb–weekends is a different story. BUT, and here is the big but, the traffic is all going out of Saratoga, so a bicyclist can pretty much have the road alone to pop off a magnificent descent…which I did. Of course, offering to lead the descent so I could make sure everyone made the turn on to Sanborn, I had a wonderfully swift, car free descent to Sanborn–about 5 miles of descending bliss, with only a brief touch of the brakes at the top few switchbacks. Everyone came down pretty much in a group, but once everyone started up Sanborn, I hadn’t seen Melne or John (TA), so I waited, and waited, and waited. I was starting to get worried (and with no signal on my cell phone in the remote hills) when they came down to the intersection and we three started up Sanborn. Turns out John got cross-chained so bad as he started the descent, he had to pull his rear wheel off to get the chain freed up.

Sanborn has two very steep pitches, but they are short and have nice “flat” zones to recover from each effort, and I told EVERYONE to turn right at the 1 mile point up Sanborn and go up to the hostel, where my lovely wife Janet had offered to bring up water and food for a nice snack break. We were all gathered round the Hostel parking lot when Lais said, “Hey, where is Stan? ..and Brian? … and Death Ride Dan?” Well, Sanborn Road continues straight from the hostel turn off and climbs a bit more to Sanborn County Park, then dead ends, so I figured the boys would realize their mistake eventually, remember something about “hostel” and follow the signs back to us. Lais, feeling peppier than I was at that point, rode down the hill and found our lost sheep and brought them up to our rest stop. Ice cold water, bananas, and ClifBars were most welcome, and we all rested in the deep shade of the redwood forest surrounding us. Luckily, as the day was warming up, most of our climbing was in the deep shade and mostly nice and cool for a day that topped out in the mid-80s.

A couple more ACTCers peeled off at that point, so the remaining group descended back to Hwy 9, then popped over Mt Eden/Pierce to get over to Montebello. Stan (TA) took an early left and got lost for a little bit, so he and I carried a six minute handicap as we started climbing that final beast. Knowing that he’s a much stronger climber, I told Stan to “go ahead, take off” and all I got was “I can’t–I’m tired” so we both struggled up the 5.3 mile climb together. Just past halfway, after a short respite of relatively flat terrain past the Montebello School, I got a rousing cramp in my left quad, so I stopped and worked that bad boy out. Yup, it was one of those days–once we got to the top, I heard many stories of leg cramps, so I know the group had a good, tough workout–I had done my job as a ride leader! I usually climb Montebello in 45 – 50 minutes, but 62-plus minutes was the best I could do. And Stan was my constant companion, sqeaky chain and all. So, the remaining riders posed for a shot from John’s camera phone, and imagine my surprise when I heard that Melne was one of the first batch to hit the top. As we were talking about this ride, Mel originally said that “she’d give a couple of climbs a go, but she’d probably bail after that,” but there she was, proudly standing at the summit of Montebello, beaming, fully recovered from her nasty crash and BACK ON THE STREETS AGAIN.

Definitely my “Comeback Player of the Year!”

We busted off a fine descent and stopped at the rider memorial on Stevens Canyon Road before heading in to the flats of Cupertino and Saratoga back to the Argonaut Center. What a day–everyone was spent, but happy, and my legs, despite heavy doses of Endurolytes, are still pretty stiff from all that nasty climbing. Great Day; Great Weather; Great Riding; and Great Company from TWO GREAT CYCLING CLUBS!

My Polar Stats: 50.4 miles, 7520 feet of climbing (ouch!), a little over 5 hours saddle time, 9.9 mph average speed.

Team Alameda Five Pass Finishers!
Brian Aldrich
Death Ride Dan Debard
Warren Elliott (aren’t you glad you didn’t have to work today?!?)
Kirk Rivera
Melne Murphy
Lais (sorry, I don’t know your last name)
Stan Layson
John Williams
Ride Captain Mark Pryor

ACTC Five Pass Finishers!
Brian Birkeland (having two Brians on the ride is confusing!)
Patrice Courtier
Argonaut Ride Leader Mark Pryor (so nice I had to say it twice)
John Pugliese
Bill Young
Ehud (Udi) Yuhjtman

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